Democrat Carrie Pilon announced Monday that she’s filed to run for the Senate District 24 seat currently held by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes.
“I’m running for the State Senate because the legislature in Tallahassee is not working for Florida’s families,” Pilon said in a press release. “As a member of the State Senate, I’ll hold special interests accountable, and stand up to the Legislature’s Trump-style agenda. I’ll invest in our community by ending corporate welfare, fighting for a quality and safe education, affordable healthcare, and protecting our precious natural resources.
“As a small business owner, I know firsthand the challenges of meeting payroll and providing health insurance for our staff and families. We deserve a state legislature focused on helping our small businesses grow, not handing out corporate welfare checks to their friends.”
Pilon is an alumna of Stetson University law school and Florida State University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The St. Pete native is also the daughter-in-law of former Sarasota Republican Rep. Ray Pilon, who was quick to endorse Brandes Monday morning.
“Senator Brandes and I served in the Florida House and were both elected in 2010,” he said. “We worked closely on many issues and that continued when he was elected to the Senate. He is a person of high moral values, of integrity, honesty and fairness.”
Ray Pilon served three terms in the House before running for state Senate in 2016 and losing in the Republican Primary. He is looking to reclaim his old House seat in 2018.
Carrie Pilon’s campaign declined to comment on Ray Pilon endorsing Brandes.
So far, Carrie Pilon is the only challenger to file for SD 24.
Brandes has been in the Senate since 2012, when he was elected to the pre-redistricting SD 22, and had been a member of the Florida House for the two years prior.
He didn’t face a Democratic opponent in the 2012 or 2016 cycles, though in 2014 he was challenged by USF St. Pete Professor Judithanne McLauchlan. He outmatched her in fundraising, bringing in $815,000 to her $307,000, and secured re-election by a 16-point margin on Election Day.
Through the end of February, Brandes had raised $240,000 for his re-election campaign and had about $124,000 of that money in the bank.
That number will likely shoot up now that he’s contested – shortly after Pilon’s announcement, Brandes’ campaign sent out an invite for an April 25 fundraiser. The host committee list featured several high-profile Republicans, including Tampa Sen. Dana Young, St. Petersburg Rep. Chris Sprowls and former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker.
Republicans have a 4-point advantage over Democrats, 37-33, when it comes to voter registrations in the district, though the seat is far from a Republican stronghold.
SD 24 would have gone for Barack Obama by about a point in 2012 and 2.5 points in 2008. In 2016, the district flipped and went plus-7 for Donald Trump.
The invite to Brandes’ fundraiser is below.