Berny Jacques takes Republican nomination for HD 59

The three candidates were running to replace state Rep. Nick DiCeglie as he vacates his seat to run for Senate.

Former prosecutor Berny Jacques will become the Republican nominee for state House District 59 after besting opponents lawyer Jennifer Wilson and Navy physician Dipak Dinanath Nadkarni Tuesday.

Jacques won the nomination with 51% of the vote, followed by Wilson, who collected 35%. Nadkarni came in third with 14% of the vote.

Now, the nominee will face Dawn Douglas in the November General Election. But the Republican will likely win the seat, as the district leans red. In 2020, 55% of voters within HD 59 voted for Republican Donald Trump, while only 44% went with Democrat Joe Biden.

The three candidates were running to replace state Rep. Nick DiCeglie who vacated his seat to run for Senate.

The newly drawn HD 59 is located in Pinellas County and includes Largo, Seminole, parts of Pinellas Park and some unincorporated areas of the county.

The race was a competitive one, with large fundraising hauls, prominent endorsers and even a defamation suit.

Jacques, who is also a former conservative analyst for Bay News 9, is enmeshed in a lawsuit against political operatives who sent mailers he claims are racist, false and defamatory. The suit alleges operatives affiliated with Wilson sent out the attack mailers using a fake YouTube rap music playlist.

The ad was paid for by a political committee named Keeping Florida Great, which is Chaired by Michael Millner, who leads many committees associated with Republican politicians.

Jacques also dominated the fundraising field throughout the race, amassing $248,840 between his campaign and affiliated political committee, Florida Values Coalition.

Wilson followed Jacques in fundraising, having raised $149,580, as well as providing $102,175 in self-funding, bringing her total to $251,755. Nadkarni is third in the fundraising game, having collected $13,715 from contributors and provided $50,000 in self-funding, giving him $63,715 total to work with.

While Jacques has racked up a slew of endorsements — including from U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, the Seminole Professional Firefighters Association, the state’s Fraternal Order of Police, Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters and former state Rep. Larry Ahern — Wilson was named as DiCeglie’s preferred successor. Wilson has also been endorsed by Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

The race also saw several candidates who were not on the ballot.

Seminole City Council member Chris Burke withdrew from the HD 59 race just a few days after announcing his campaign back in April. And he wasn’t the first Republican to drop out of the race. Former candidate Alen Tomczak announced in early March that he ended his campaign after being called to active duty with the Florida National Guard. Tomczak was DiCeglie’s original pick as his successor.