In front a small intimate gathering (just kidding) Jason Shoaf relished a hard-earned celebration Tuesday after he won the special election to fill the vacant District 7 seat in the Florida House of Representatives.
With his family by his side, Shoaf accepted congratulations from a throng of family, friends and supporters that filled and spilled out of Joe Mama’s Restaurant on Reid Ave. in Shoaf’s hometown of Port St. Joe.
As should be little surprise after Shoaf beat three other challengers, without need of run-off, in the Republican primary, Shoaf dominated the balloting over Ryan Terrell, the lone Democrat to enter the race.
In his home county, Shoaf won 79 percent of the light balloting Tuesday, when just 18.49 percent of the more than 10,000 registered voters cast ballots.
Shoaf earned 1,523 of those votes while Terrell took 405, or 21 percent.
That pretty much reflected voting across the sprawling district, which includes all or parts of 10 counties.
District-wide, Shoaf took 70 percent of the vote, 10,439, to Terrell’s 30 percent, or 4,392.
After securing the win, Shoaf spoke to what he made his mission since entering the race after former Rep. Halsey Beshears was appointed by the governor to lead the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
“Our communities deserve a voice in Tallahassee, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael,” Shoaf said. “I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work to make a positive impact on our area. I guarantee our voice will be heard.
“I’ll make sure they know the devastation and destruction that Hurricane Michael brought to our region and the families and businesses that are still struggling almost one year later.”
Due to the appointment of Beshears, and the special election requirements, the district went without direct representation in the recently-completed legislative session, the first since the hurricane.
And the district includes some of the most hard-hit counties, including Gulf, Calhoun, Liberty and Franklin.
Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton spoke earlier this week concerning local funding needs that likely went unmet due to the lack of direct representation in Tallahassee.
“Hopefully, that will change come Tuesday night,” Norton said the day before the election.
In some ways, Shoaf was an unlikely and something of an underdog candidate, though he immediately announced his candidacy after Beshears was appointed.
A local businessman and former representative to the Port St. Joe Port Authority, Shoaf was appointed last year to the board of Triumph Gulf Coast, legislatively established to disburse $1.5 billion in Deepwater Horizon fine dollars in Northwest Florida.
While on that board he helped nurture several education and vocational training programs for students across the region.
“The best and most important investment we can make is in (the children’s) future,” Shoaf said. “I want to bring more skills and training programs to our high schools so that students can learn the skills they need to find good-paying jobs.”
He entered the race against a Crawfordville man who had been pointing to the 2020 campaign to replace Beshears, who would be term-limited out.
Shoaf immediately spotlighted the need for the district to be represented by somebody who had personally experienced the devastation of Michael and also positioned himself as adhering to the conservative values of the region.
“The right to life, the right to bear arms and the right to pursue the American Dream; these values are not for sale,” Shoaf said.
And by the end of the primary campaign, Shoaf had lined up an impressive series of endorsements and led all candidates in fundraising, including contributions from a host of influential donors.
“None of this would have been possible on my own,” Shoaf said. “The credit goes to the many supporters, both old friends and new friends, who spent their time, their money and their shoe rubber getting out the vote.
“I’m so fortunate to have all of your support. Humbling isn’t the word, it’s unbelievable.”