After being appointed as state chief financial officer last year by Gov. Rick Scott, Republican Jimmy Patronis on Tuesday won a four-year term in the Cabinet post.
Patronis, whose focus during the final weeks of the campaign was diverted to his hometown of Panama City after Hurricane Michael hit, defeated former state Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Broward County Democrat.
Patronis had received about 52 percent of the vote as of 11 p.m., according to the state Division of Elections.
The contest was noted for acrimony between Patronis and Ring, who never met on stage to debate. Instead, the candidates drew more attention as they sniped over Ring’s resume at the internet company Yahoo!, Patronis’ crash of a state-issued car while driving to a meeting with a political consultant and Patronis’ ties to Scott.
Ring congratulated Patronis in a phone call late Tuesday, with Patronis noting that Ring “wished me well.”
Patronis, 46, is part of a family that operates the half-century-old Captain Anderson’s Restaurant in Panama City, where he held a campaign watch party on Tuesday.
Panama City sustained major damage in Hurricane Michael, which made landfall Oct. 10 in nearby Mexico Beach. Patronis was clearly shaken by the storm and its damage to such things as health-care facilities.
“The way the storm hit, we’re going to have approximately 10 hospitals that are going to have to be evacuated,” Patronis said the day after the hurricane. “Gulf Coast (Regional) Medical Center where my kids were born, Bay Medical Center where I was born, they’re empty, because they can’t support their mission.”.
Patronis outspent Ring $6.8 million to $1.6 million through their campaign accounts and affiliated political committees.
An early supporter of Scott’s first gubernatorial run in 2010, Patronis served eight years in the Florida House and was chairman of the House Economic Affairs Committee. Scott appointed Patronis to the Florida Public Service Commission before choosing him to succeed Jeff Atwater as CFO in 2017 after Atwater resigned to take a job at Florida Atlantic University.
In campaign ads, Patronis highlighted support during this year’s legislative session for a new workers’ compensation insurance law designed to assist first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Patronis said he’d like to work with lawmakers to bring down the state corporate income-tax rate as a response to a federal tax package approved in December.
Ring, 48, spent five years with Yahoo!, coming aboard in 1996 as the company’s first sales chief, four years after he graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in advertising.
Patronis’ political committee Treasure Florida accused Ring in an ad of falsely claiming to be a founder of Yahoo!, but the sources for the claim were three media reports in which the writers affixed the “founder” label.
Ring served in the state Senate from 2006 to 2016, where he focused on issues involving venture capital, insurance and pensions. Widely viewed as a moderate Democrat, he pushed to create the State Office of Technology and helped establish the Florida Growth Fund through a bill that encouraged the State Board of Administration to invest a portion of state retirement money in “high-growth” homegrown tech companies.