Democratic incumbent Bob Henriquez appeared ready to return to a fourth consecutive term in the state House Tuesday after voters handed him an early lead.
Henriquez, 40, a high school football coach, was outpacing Republican James Riis, a 48-year-old political newcomer and high school teacher, by a 2-to-1 ratio in the district that encompasses parts of West Tampa, Town 'N Country and East Tampa.
Henriquez, who lives in Seminole Heights, celebrated with a victory party at the neighborhood restaurant Viva La Frida.
He thanked Riis for challenging him and running a clean campaign.
"I was heartened that Republicans, Democrats and independents alike embraced me and said they felt like I have done a good job in a fair and reasonable way," Henriquez said. "That's what I've always tried to do."
Riis, also of Seminole Heights, has 21 years of experience teaching at Zephyrhills High School in Pasco County. He ran a campaign centered on revamping student testing and redrawing legislative districts. He ran primarily to keep Henriquez from being unopposed in the general election.
Henriquez, an assistant coach at Jefferson High in Tampa, ran on his experience and talked about improving public schools and making affordable health care available to Florida children.