GOP Hopefuls Stress Business Support in Jacksonville House Race

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 29, 2014 3:55 AM
Jay Fant and Paul Renner

Jay Fant and Paul Renner

The First Coast business community divided this week as two Republicans continue to fight it out to replace Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, in the Florida House. 

JaxBiz, a group with ties to the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, announced on Wednesday it was backing attorney and Republican activist Paul Renner over banker Jay Fant in the primary. Davis is the president and CEO of the Jacksonville Chamber. After being named to his new position, Davis announced he would not run for another term in 2014.
“Paul is the type of visionary leader the business community needs in Tallahassee,” said Mike Hightower, an executive with Florida Blue and the chairman of the JaxBiz board. “Paul’s experience as a military commander and his recent leadership in combat deployment is invaluable. And equally important, he knows what the community needs to grow jobs and improve the quality of life in Northeast Florida. Without a doubt, Paul Renner represents what we need to move the region and Florida forward.”

But Fant struck back on Wednesday by showcasing his support from the business community by launching a “Business Leaders Coalition” arm of his campaign. Fant’s new group includes 30 business leaders including former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton who returned to Gate Petroleum after his eight years in office.

“These leaders share my desire to bring economic opportunity to every corner of our community, and I’m honored to have them officially join my campaign,” said Fant on Wednesday. “Our Business Leaders Coalition will assist me with advocating for conservative policies that will give our small businesses their best chance to succeed, hire more employees, and support the infrastructure we need.”

Both candidates have been busy raising major cash in preparation for the August primary. By the end of April, Fant had raised almost $190,700 and loaned his campaign $186,500. Fant spent around $76,000 of that, leaving him more than $300,000 on hand.

Renner  raised more than $156,550 by the end of April and spent more than $14,000, leaving him around $142,500.

Fant and Renner are the only two candidates running for the seat which represents the Westside of Jacksonville. This is a district where Republicans have a heavy advantage.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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