TALLAHASSEE - Rep. Paul Renner emerged Friday as the Republican choice for House speaker following the 2022 elections, giving Northeast Florida a much-desired spot for the first time in two decades.
Renner, R-Palm Coast, was supported by fellow members of his "class" - lawmakers elected to their first full term this past November - with 16 votes, two more than he needed for the win, according to the Florida Times-Union.
He defeated Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa; Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach; and Rep. Byron Donald, R-Naples. Grant, who like Renner was elected to a partial term in a special election before last year's general election, was seen as Renner's main competitor.
If Republicans hold onto control of the House through the 2022 election and Renner maintains his seat, he is almost certain to become speaker. Renner would follow current Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes; Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes; and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.
The election was the first one following new rules aimed at getting rid of the front-loaded process in the House, which often involved candidates campaigning for the position before they had officially won their House seats. The new rules, backed by Corcoran, barred lawmakers from trying to round up support until after a class had gone through its first session together.
After the vote, Corcoran tweeted his congratulations to his eventual successor.
"Congratulations to @Paul_Renner. & 2 @JamesGrantFL , @ByronDonalds & @ErinGrall respect for entering the arena. U r all a credit 2 the House," the speaker wrote.
Renner's opponents in the race also quickly closed ranks behind their new leader.
"I am confident he will do an outstanding job in the role, and I look forward to working with him. ... Now that this election is behind us, let's look forward to working together to put conservative policies in place that will create jobs and a brighter future for all Floridians," Donalds said in a statement issued after the vote.
Grant also tweeted his congratulations. "I look forward to working with the class for the people of Florida!" he wrote.
Renner also fulfills a longtime ambition for Northeast Florida, where local leaders have long hoped to have a presiding officer from their area. The last House speaker to come from the Jacksonville area was John Thrasher, who served after the 1998 elections.
The last regional leader of either legislative chamber was the late Jim King, who was Senate president after the 2002 elections.