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Florida House rejects elections returns for District 64

Residents of Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor won't have a representative in the Florida House -- for now, at least.

State lawmakers voted Tuesday to throw out the results of the House District 64 election, creating a vacancy in that district.  

Gov. Rick Scott is expected to call a special election.

State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, had already raised questions about the integrity of the Nov. 4 contest, which he won comfortably. Earlier this month, he pointed out that an appellate judge deemed the election unconstitutional.

"You can't send a candidate to Tallahassee to office on the back of an election that was deemed unconstitutional," he told the Herald/Times.

The race became mired in a legal challenge when Michael Steinberg -- the husband of Republican candidate Miriam Steinberg -- filed a lawsuit alleging write-in candidate Daniel John Matthews did not live in the district.

State law requires write-in candidates to live in their districts at the time of qualifying.

A circuit court judge in Leon County withdrew Matthews from the election, and scheduled an open primary between Steinberg and Grant on Nov. 4. But an appellate court reversed the decision, saying the residency requirement for write-in candidates violates the state constitution.

The Nov. 4 primary went forward without Matthews, largely because the ballots had already been printed. Grant captured more than 59 percent of the vote.

Michael Steinberg has appealed the latest ruling to the state Supreme Court. But he experts the high court to rule on a similar case involving a Broward County Commission seat first -- and for that opinion to apply to House District 64.

Even though his wife lost the Nov. 4 election, Steinberg said he was disappointed by the House's decision to invalidate the results.

"I live in District 64," he said. "I want a representative. I don' want our community to be shortchanged."

Steinberg said his wife had not yet decided on whether she would run in a special election.

"The goal is not to waste taxpayer money," Steinberg said, noting that a special election could cost Tampa Bay a half-million dollars. "She'll have to think long and hard about it."

Grant said he was ready to move forward.

"We're back to the starting line," he said Tuesday. "We're letting people know that we are going to try to win this thing at the ballot box."

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