Jamie Grant doesn’t miss 2014-15 election drama
Rep. Jamie Grant speaks with Associated Industries of Florida's Tom Feeney at the start of session Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida Legislature convened today for its annual 60-day session. (Phil Sears/For SaintPetersBlog)

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This year, Jamie Grant got lucky.

The Hillsborough County Republican qualified for office with no opposition, meaning he’s an automatic walk-on for the 2016-18 term.

But for Grant, who represents Florida House District 64, that’s far from the story two years ago.

He was re-elected, then had the results thrown out after legal challenges put them into question, before finally regaining his seat.

“While it’s hard to imagine a more frustrating campaign than last cycle, I’m a big believer in focusing on what you can control and ignoring the rest,” Grant told FloridaPolitics.com. “The craziness of the last cycle definitely tested that.”

Let’s go back to the beginning: Grant was first elected in 2010, defeating Democrat Michael Steinberg, after prevailing in a five-candidate primary race.

He was re-elected in 2012 without opposition.

But in 2014, the 33-year-old attorney and tech entrepreneur faced a Republican primary challenge from Steinberg’s wife, Miriam Steinberg, a Tampa engineer.

With no other challenger, that would have been an open primary for all voters.

That summer, up popped a write-in candidate for District 64, Daniel Matthews, who had just graduated from Florida State University and wound up never campaigning, raising money or talking to reporters.

Soon, Michael Steinberg, also an attorney, challenged Matthews’ write-in candidacy on several grounds.

He claimed Matthews didn’t live in the district but still resided in Tallahassee. Steinberg also said Matthews had unfairly prevented him and other Democrats and independent voters from casting ballots in an open primary.

A trial judge disqualified Matthews, finding he was living in Tallahassee and not Hillsborough County when he qualified.

Matthews appealed, and the 1st District Court of Appeal reinstated him, saying candidates have to live in their districts only at the time they’re elected.

“Jamie was first elected (in 2010) after entering a five-way primary in a race that was all about strategy, micro-targeting, and focusing on the issues,” said Jen Lux, his campaign manager. “Unfortunately, the operation and strategy of the 2014 campaign centered around keeping up with rulings and trying to guess what that meant for the campaign and the district.”

Steinberg then took the case to the Supreme Court, which paused the proceedings until it decided a similar case in South Florida.

(In February, that court struck down the state law requiring write-in candidates to live in the districts they’re running for when they qualify, finding it conflicted with a constitutional provision that requires candidates to live in their districts “at the time of election.”)

Grant won the November 2014 election but the House of Representatives shortly after that tossed out the results, citing the then-ongoing litigation.

That left Grant’s seat vacant, requiring Gov. Rick Scott to call a special election in April 2015. For almost six months, more than 157,000 people went without representation in the Florida House of Representatives, which Grant called “the most frustrating part of the situation.”

“Despite the challenges, our team of volunteers worked incredibly hard last cycle, but could barely keep straight which election they were working towards at which time,” Lux said. “We just knew that Team Grant had to keep driving turnout, and our supporters had to keep voting to ensure Jamie was re-elected.”

But Miriam Steinberg decided not to run again, and Grant finally crumpled Matthews with about 91 percent of the ballot.

The good news out of that Sturm und Drang? It reset Grant’s term-limit clock, meaning he can serve in the Florida House until 2024. 

“I believe campaigns should be about public policy, about ideas, and should be won on the doorsteps of the district, not in a courtroom,” he said. “Going from that experience to being elected without opposition, I pray it’s safe to say I’ve seen the farthest ends of the campaign spectrum over the last two years.”

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Concerned Democrat

    June 30, 2016 at 9:30 am

    Jamie Grant is a crook and a theif who stole millions of taxpayer dollars in a Hardee County scam and who should be serving time in jail instead of continuing to steal from the voters of Hillsborough County!!!

Comments are closed.


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