The Florida Chamber of Commerce on Monday announced 60 endorsements in state legislative races slated for the 2018 ballot.
The chamber said the nods were part of “a larger Florida Chamber effort to help elect pro-jobs, pro-business candidates that support private-sector job creation and economic growth.”
“Electing pro-jobs, free-enterprise focused candidates to office can and does make a difference for Florida’s families and businesses,” said Marian Johnson, Senior Vice President of Political Operations for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber Governmental Affairs VP Frank Walker added: “To secure Florida’s future, we need a legislature that focuses on free enterprise principles and job creation. The Florida Chamber’s thorough endorsement process sends a strong signal that Florida families and small businesses can feel confident in supporting these candidates.”
Though the bulk endorsement covers more than half the 105 incumbents running for re-election in 2018, and more than two-fifths of legislative races overall, the Chamber said its endorsements were merely the “first round” and to expect more in the coming weeks.
Future rounds will focus on non-incumbents. The Chamber said it expects to interview more than 100 non-incumbent candidates in order to identify preferred candidates in each of the 140 — or 141 due to Senate President Joe Negron’s recent retirement announcement — legislative races on the 2018 ballot.
All Republican Senators up for another term got the nod except for Thonotosassa Sen. Tom Lee, who has been unclear on whether he will or will not run for re-election to Senate District 20. Additionally, Republican Reps. Ben Albritton, Manny Diaz Jr. and Joe Gruters were endorsed in their respective campaigns to move up to the Senate.
Former Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper also made the list — he was the only candidate announced Monday who is not currently a member of the Legislature. He is running for Senate District 16 and is likely to face former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the fall. She announced her candidacy on Friday.
The other endorsements went to 45 of 53 Republicans running for re-election to the Florida House, while St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond was the only Democrat included in the Chamber’s list.
Those 45 Republicans make up all but 14 House Republicans who are eligible for another term. Of those 14, six are leaving the House early: Pensacola Rep. Frank White and Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant are running for Attorney General; Sarasota Rep. Julio Gonzalez, Winter Park Rep. Mike Miller and Dover Rep. Ross Spano are running for Congress; and Treasure Island Rep. Kathleen Peters is running for Pinellas County Commission.
The eight Republicans running for re-election who didn’t make the Chamber list: Indialantic Rep. Thad Altman, Neptune Beach Rep. Cord Byrd, Fort Myers Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Vero Beach Rep. Erin Grall, Port Charlotte Rep. Michael Grant, Tampa Rep. Shawn Harrison, Tequesta Rep. MaryLynn Magar and newly elected Polk City Rep. Josie Tomkow.
The Chamber said Floridians can learn more about each candidate endorsed, key election dates and polling locations by visiting www.FloridaWins.org.