OCALA, Fla. – Marion County Republicans went to the polls Tuesday for a special primary election for Florida House District 24, the seat vacated by State Rep. Joe Harding who is under federal indictment for COVID-19 business loan fraud.
The election was held on Tuesday, March 7, and the supervisor of elections announced Tuesday evening after the unofficial results came in that Ryan Chamberlin won the nomination.
Five Republicans ran in the election to replace Harding, a Republican who resigned from his seat last year after he was indicted on federal fraud charges related to COVID-19 small business loans, including wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements.
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Harding became a high-profile lawmaker after he sponsored the Parental Rights in Education law in 2022, known to critics as the Don’t Say Gay law.
The five Republican candidates were:
- Justin Albright: Real estate agent who chaired the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District and brother to current Marion County Tax Collector George Albright.
- Ryan Chamberlin: Co-founder of a conservative social media platform called True Patriot Network and former congressional candidate.
- Jose Juarez: A marketing businessman from Ocala.
- Stephen Pyles: A pain management physician in Ocala.
- Charlie Stone: A former state representative and a former Marion County commissioner.
The winner will face a write-in candidate, Robert “Foxy” Fox, in May. There are no candidates from any other political party, and no candidates unaffiliated with a party.
Fox, a bail bondsman and private investigator, told News 6 that he got into the race to make sure only Republicans could vote in the March 7 primary.
If Fox hadn’t qualified in the race, the March primary would have become what is called a universal primary, open to all voters. Fox, a Republican himself, told News 6 he wanted to make sure only Republicans could vote in the March 7 primary.
Fox says he will decide whether to stay in the race after he says who the winner of the March 7 primary is.
Should Fox agree to stay in the race, that would mean the Florida House District 24 seat, which includes the city of Ocala, would be vacant throughout the 60-day annual legislative session in Tallahassee, which also begins March 7.
As of 8:32 p.m. on Tuesday, the county’s supervisor of elections office reported that all precincts had reported, and unofficial results showed Chamberlin was in the lead with 3,985 votes (35.97% of total votes).
Results will remain unofficial until the final canvassing board meets and certifies the election, the office said.
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