Former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle took a step closer to returning to Tallahassee Tuesday, winning the Republican primary in a special election for an open Florida House seat.
With early votes counted and 29 of 32 precincts in, Eisanugle beat out educator Vicki Bell in the Republican primary with 84 percent. Bell took 16 percent.
First elected to the Florida House in 2008, Eisnaugle was gearing up to run for a third term in 2012 until his plans were changed by redistricting. Eisnaugle landed in the same district with fellow Republican Rep. Steve Precourt who was running for his fourth and final term in the House. Despite bowing out in 2012, Eisnaugle simply changed his focus to 2014 when Precourt would face term limits. With Precourt resigning to take a position with the Orlando-Orange County Expressway, Eisnaugle shifted his efforts to run in the special election.
Eisnaugle is already planning a future House leadership bid, hoping to become speaker after the 2020 elections. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and the Republican leadership in Tallahassee were clearly behind him. Weatherford went to bat for Eisnaugle on Tuesday, taking to Twitter to help his former colleague.
Best of luck to my good friend Eric Eisnaugle today, Weatherford wrote. We need him back in the Florida House!
The GOP leadership in Tallahassee cheered the news Tuesday night as the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) showcased the new nominee.
"The Republican Party of Florida congratulates Eric Eisnaugle on his victory tonight," said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry. "Eric will certainly serve as a great representative for Orlando families and we look forward to helping him secure victory on April 8th."
Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, also praised his former colleague.
"Eric's background and experience will allow him to hit the ground running and be a strong advocate for Orange County residents, Crisafulli said. His message of economic prosperity and fiscal discipline will resonate with voters in next month's general election."
Democrat Shaun Raja will take on Eisnaugle in the April 8 special election. The district is very solidly Republican.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.