With 51 percent of the vote and 100 percent of precincts reporting, Republican Joe Gruters has defeated Steve Vernon in Tuesday’s Republican primary in Florida House District 73. Gruters will go on to face Democrat James Golden, who was unopposed, in the November general election.
“I am incredibly grateful for all the support I have received from my friends and the voters,” Gruters said. “I want to thank Steve Vernon for his efforts and his hard work that he put into the race. He is a great conservative and I appreciate his commitment to the cause. Campaigns are never easy and this was a real battle.”
The votes back up that claim, with Gruters garnering 10,342 votes to Vernon’s 9,958. It would take less than a half-percent margin for an automatic recount. Vernon did not indicate that he would ask for one.
Vernon held a slight edge over Gruters in Manatee County, with 17,234 Republican voters participating. Vernon took 51 percent, or 8,789, to Gruters’ 49 percent, or 8,445. Gruters surged in Sarasota, however, to take the lead by almost 400 votes.
The campaign battle also was an “eye opener” for Gruters, who is now promising to address campaign finance reform if successful in November.
“You read about the dark money involved in politics and you think it is a normal part of the process. However, I was not expecting to be hit with $75,000 worth of negative ads in the final 10 days of the election.”
Gruters will call for an open and transparent system where “there are no clouds of doubt on where the money is coming from,” noting he has no idea where the funding came from to pay for the attack ads.
“In the meantime, I will work as hard as I can on behalf of the entire district to make our area the best possible place to live,” he said.
Vernon thanked his campaign team and all his voters, “who did a great job. Naturally, I will support the winning candidate. I’m a strong Republican and I’m going to vote all the way down the line Republican because they are the best people regardless.”
The District 73 seat is being vacated by Greg Stuebe, who is running for state senate. Stuebe led the other four candidates in the race with 31 percent of the vote.