neil combee – Florida Politics

Neil Combee makes it official; announces run for Dennis Ross’ seat

Former State Rep. Neil Combee, a Polk City Republican, announced Tuesday that he will seek Florida’s 15th Congressional District seat left open by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Ross, a Republican from Lakeland, announced last week he will not seek re-election to the post he has held since January 2011.

Combee, 58, made his announcement at noon following his resignation as state executive officer for the Gainesville-based Farm Service Agency, a USDA agency serving Florida and the Virgin Islands and notifying his staff.

He resigned as representative for House District 39 in November when he was appointed to the federal post by President Donald Trump.

“I am a loyal supporter of President Trump and the great strides he has made for this country. While I had to think carefully about resigning my post, I can better help him and his programs by being in Congress,” Combee said.

The Combee family name is well-known in Polk County, which makes up 40 percent of the congressional district, with such names as the historic Combee Settlement neighborhood and Combee Road.

Combee is a farmer, rancher and real estate executive and served 16 years as a Polk County Commissioner. Upon leaving in 2004, his fellow commissioners named the new county administration building for him.

He served on the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District from 2005 until 2012 when he was elected to the Florida House.

Combee said CD 15 is a perfect fit since a large portion is rural and suburban and has a great deal of agriculture.

The district includes Polk County which makes up 40 percent while Hillsborough contains about 50 percent with Lake County making up roughly 10 percent of the district.

Pundits had for a long time before Ross’ announcement had said after him, the district likely would be controlled by Hillsborough voters.

“With Polk and Lake counties this is a 50-50 split, but I also have great history with the eastern part of Hillsborough with friends and associates for a long time,” he said.

Six Democrats have already opened campaigns for the seat before Ross’ announcement of his retirement. Democratic officials say that the district is winnable this year for a Democrat because of the controversies surrounding the very president to whom Combee has pledged his strong support.

But the district in some form has been represented by a Republican since then Rep. Andy Ireland of Winter Haven switched to the Republican Party in 1984.

Polk County Republican Party Chair JC Martin said he has no doubt a Polk County Republican will win the primary and the general election.

“Polk County’s favorite son (Commissioner of Agriculture) Adam Putnam will be on the ballot, and that is worth extra turnout from the Polk County side,” Martin said of Putnam’s run for governor.

Among those prominent Republicans also interested in Ross’ seat includes state Rep. Ross Spano of Dover, who is expected to announce he is switching from campaigning for Florida Attorney General to mount a run for CD 15.

Tuesday afternoon, WMNF radio reported Spano is pulling out of the AG race, and intents to enter the race for Congress. He has not yet officially filed.

Spano was behind the resolution in the last Legislative Session that declared pornography a “public health risk.” The measure recognized the health risk caused by explicit material, and recognized a need for “education, prevention, research and policy change to protect citizens of this state.”

Speculation is that state Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon is studying a run.

Also officially in the race: Loretta Leah Lax Miller of Clermont and Curtis Ralph Rogers of Dover.

Another official in the Polk County Republican Party, family counselor Ed Shoemaker of Lakeland, announced last week that he will run for the seat.

Danny Kushmer, Executive Director of International Responsible Farming Council, headquartered in Hillsborough County, also announced Tuesday that he will run for the seat as a Republican. The council is a not-for-profit corporation to tell the American farmer’s story through certification and participation in best management practices to ensure use of the latest food safety protocols.

Former state Rep. Seth McKeel and state Sen. Kelli Stargel, both Lakeland Republicans, are highly rumored as potential candidates but have said they will not run for the post.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano exits AG race, files for CD 15

State Rep. Ross Spano is officially exiting the Attorney General race to run for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which is opening up due to the retirement of U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

The Dover Republican had already said he would run for Congress, and he’s now followed through by retooling his campaign website and filing paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission.

“Anyone who knows me knows my commitment to public service is one I take very seriously. In pursuing this Congressional seat, I look forward to continuing to represent my friends, neighbors and the constituents I have served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives,” Spano said in a press release.

“I am excited to fight for the issues I am passionate about – protecting the Constitution, protecting Conservative values and protecting the vulnerable – as the next Member of Congress from Florida’s 15th District.

“As I take this step, I am humbled by the support I have already received and I look forward to meeting voters and earning their support over the next several months.”

The move sees Spano, currently in his third-term in the Florida House, trade a four-way primary race for a six-way one.

He now faces former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee, International Responsible Farming Council director Danny Kushmer, Loretta Leah Lax Miller and family counselor Ed Shoemaker.

Combee and Kushmer both announced their bids in the fast-expanding Republican Primary earlier this week, and the field could soon grow to seven if speculation that Thonotosassa state Sen. Tom Lee is interested proves true.

The qualifying period for the race runs from April 30 to May 4, so Lee and any other potential candidates have a date-certain deadline to make the call.

State Sen. Kelli Stargel and former state Rep. Seth McKeel, both Lakeland Republicans, were rumored as potential candidates shortly after Ross’ retirement announcement, but have since said they will not run for the post.

By switching races, Spano starts on even footing fundraising wise.

His late announcement for the Attorney General race, combined with the bar on fundraising for state lawmakers during the legislative session, led to him being in a distant fourth place behind former judge Ashley Moody, Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant, and Pensacola state Rep. Frank White, each of whom have raised more than $1 million for their campaigns.

CD 15 covers Lake County, northwestern Polk County and Northeastern Hillsborough County. It’s a safe Republican seat that voted plus-17 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Darren Soto: The future of agriculture lies in Central Florida

Agriculture has continued to be Florida’s second largest industry for many years now. Even so, the industry itself is still a mystery to many who live in Florida’s sprawling suburbia.

Our congressional district proudly boasts the top cattle producing county (Osceola) and usual top citrus producing county (Polk). Just take a short drive out of your neighborhood, and you will be surrounded by cow pastures, citrus groves, rows of berries, tomatoes, greenhouses and maybe even Florida peaches.

I asked to serve on the U.S. House Agricultural Committee specifically to help meet the needs of this critical economic driver in our state, and to protect a way of life for many of our constituents. We currently face many major challenges such as citrus greening, livestock disease, and natural disasters. However, we also have an opportunity to pioneer high-tech agricultural solutions right here in Central Florida.

Our citrus industry is amid a tremendous greening epidemic caused by a tiny Asian citrus psyllid that attacks trees’ roots. It has reduced our production by over 70 percent historically.

In response, we have provided over $166 million in federal funds over the last five years for research, including at the University of Florida’s Extension Services in Lake Alfred. This research has yielded more resistant rootstocks, more effective root nutrient and moisture health strategies, advanced pesticides and more effective, coordinated spraying, intensified greenhouse groves and introduction of natural predators.

In addition, local growers have discovered the importance of trace fertilizer minerals in boosting the trees’ natural immune systems. I also successfully passed an amendment in the recent omnibus spending bill to secure an additional $1 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Pest Program to further assist in these efforts.

I will continue to push for critical policies and funding in the upcoming farm bill. We can solve this crisis with scientific research, grower ingenuity and sufficient resources.

Our cattle ranchers continue to enjoy growing healthy herds but face fluctuating prices in the market. It is critical that we develop a national vaccine bank to protect our livestock from Mad Cow Disease, ticks and other known bovine pests. Last year, the USDA and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services officials stopped a screwworm epidemic among Key deer from spreading to Florida’s livestock through the release of sterile flies. This successful intervention only highlights the vulnerability of America’s livestock, and why I will continue to push for a national vaccine bank in our upcoming farm bill.

Central Florida agriculture is still suffering from major damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Our citrus growers lost 50 percent of their recent crop, cattlemen are experiencing lower calf birthrates, and many row crops were decimated.

I was proud to support the recent disaster relief package in February that approved over $2.3 billion to assist Florida’s citrus growers, cattlemen and other farmers. However, the vast majority of the funds are still in Washington and yet to be disbursed by the Trump administration. It is critical that our USDA leaders, such as Secretary Sonny Perdue and Florida Director Neil Combee, cut the red tape and deliver this relief without further delay.

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio already sent out a bipartisan letter urging these funds be expedited, and I am coordinating a similar, bipartisan Florida delegation letter in the House of Representatives.

Finally, I am working on important language for the farm bill that will further boost development of agriculture technology for Central Florida.

During a recent committee hearing, Secretary Perdue expressed a firm commitment of his interest in developing sensors, automation and other critical advances. The University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, Osceola County and other partners have already entered into a joint venture and created an advanced sensor manufacturing facility (BRIDG) in our district. As a result, we are in a prime position to develop advanced sensors and automated systems to monitor everything from disease, to moisture and nutrients, to ripeness and sugar content, to cattle health, and beyond.

These new technologies could increase yields and quality, provide more high paying jobs for our region and help reduce national hunger. With critical policy, funding and coordinated efforts, our district is well-positioned to be a technology center of excellence for the future of America’s agriculture.

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Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Kissimmee represents Florida’s 9th Congressional District, which includes Osceola County and parts of Orange and Polk counties.

Neil Combee teases big announcement for Tuesday

Former Republican state Rep. Neil Combee said he’ll make a “big announcement” on Tuesday, likely a run for Congress.

“Stay tuned HIGH NOON tomorrow we make a big announcement! I am forever grateful to the folks in my community, this region and most recently this country as a strong supporter of President [Donald] Trump and his agenda for America,” Combee told Florida Politics in a statement.

“Now, if we’re to keep America great, we need leaders who will stand with the President and his vision for restoring the promise of the American dream. I believe there is a more direct way I can help support the President and his vision and I plan on sharing tomorrow at noon.”

Combee’s “more direct way” is almost certainly a run for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which is opening up in the fall due to the retirement of U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Ross is the third Republican member of the Florida delegation to announce his retirement since the 2016 elections. Last year, CD 27 U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced she would retire, and CD 17 U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney made the call in late February.

It’s only been a few months since Combee’s Thanksgiving announcement he would leave the Florida House to take a new job as Florida State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue appointed him to the position.

It’ll be another two weeks before voters decide on his successor, likely Republican Josie Tomkow, in House District 39.

Combee, an Auburndale Republican, hinted at a possible run over the weekend.

“Don’t ever sell your saddle. You never know what tomorrow brings,” he said in a Facebook post. A Republican consultant close to him said that was coded message that he would run for CD 15.

Also on Saturday, Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel took her name out of the running via a tweet announcing she would continue running for re-election in Senate District 22.

Still, Combee could face other primary challengers in for the safe Republican seat, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Lake and Polk counties.

Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee was dead set on a run for Chief Financial Officer earlier this year but has since gone radio silent. He’s up for re-election in the Senate, but given his gripes with the chamber and sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis’ high level of support in the CFO race, CD 15 could be the most appealing option.

There’s also a chance Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano enters the race.

He’s currently at the back of the pack fundraising wise in the four-way primary for Attorney General, and a couple of Republicans have already filed to succeed him in House District 59, and he already endorsed one of them, making a run for re-election to the state House an improbable proposition.

When it comes to name recognition, his odds in CD 15 are much better than in a statewide race for a Cabinet position.

Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin is also in the mix of possible candidates.

Whoever ends up running will need to decide in the next couple weeks — the qualifying period for Congressional seats opens April 30 and ends May 4.

Neil Combee considering bid for Dennis Ross’ seat, Kelli Stargel passes

There’s still a couple weeks left before voters pick Neil Combee’s replacement in the Florida House, but the Auburndale Republican may already be thinking of running for another seat – this time in Congress.

In a cryptic Facebook post, Combee seemed to indicate he’s considering a run to succeed U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Ross said earlier this week he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2018.

“Don’t ever sell your saddle. You never know what tomorrow brings,” he said in the post.

A Republican consultant close to Combee didn’t need a codebreaker to translate that message – he said it means the former lawmaker is close to declaring for the seat.

Florida Politics is told that Combee will have an announcement Tuesday. Whatever he does, Combee is said to be making sure he doesn’t run afoul of The Hatch Act, a 1939 law that seeks to keep government functions nonpartisan.

CD 15 covers Lake County, northwestern Polk County and Northeastern Hillsborough County. It’s a safe Republican seat, and Ross’ exit has already drawn interest from a handful of elected officials within the district.

Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel was one of the first names mentioned after Ross’ announcement, but she ended the speculation with a Saturday tweet.

Stargel’s decision was probably somewhat tied to keeping Senate District 22 in Republican hands. The seat has a Republican lean, it voted plus-7 for Donald Trump, but without an incumbent Democrats could have a strong shot at a flip.

Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee is also possibly considering running for Congress.

Lee is up for re-election in the Senate, but earlier in the year he was clear in saying his sights were on the CFO job. He’s yet to announce his bid for the Cabinet position, leading many to speculate he won’t.

An open Congressional seat could be more appealing anyway, as Lee can avoid what’s sure to be an ugly and expensive Republican Primary against sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis.

Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin is also in the mix of possible candidates.

Whoever ends up running will need to make a decision in the next couple weeks –  the qualifying period for Congressional seats opens April 30 and ends May 4.

Matt Caldwell announces four more backers in agriculture commissioner race

Republican Florida agriculture commission candidate Matt Caldwell announced four more endorsements Tuesday including those of fellow Republican state Reps. Chuck Clemons and Jennifer Sullivan.

In a news release, Caldwell announced that Clemons of Newberry, Sullivan of Mount Dora, and former Republican state Reps. Neil Combee and Dan Raulerson now back his election bid

Caldwell’s campaign also announced it is rolling out a new interactive feature on his campaign website, dubbed “#2LaneTravels,” which allows people to track his travels and endorsements throughout the Sunshine State.

Combee, who left his Polk County-based House seat this winter to become  Florida’s state director at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, declared in the release that “Matt Caldwell has what it takes to be commissioner of agriculture in the 21st Century. With 200 years of heritage, Matt knows Florida agriculture and after 55,000 miles on the trail, there’s no question he’s the hardest working candidate. He’s tackled the tough challenges during his time in the House and he is the best candidate to tackle what lies ahead.”

Caldwell of Lehigh Acres faces state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven, and grower Mike McCalister of Plant City for the Aug. 28 Republican primary nomination to run for agriculture commissioner. Democrats running include Jeffrey Porter, David Walker, and Thomas White.

“I am proud to receive endorsements from my colleagues, both present and former,” Caldwell stated in the news release. “I will continue to work tirelessly as we travel across the Sunshine State and earn support from Floridians who understand the importance of electing a principled conservative as Commissioner of Agriculture to the Florida Cabinet.”

 

Josie Tomkow endorsed by NRA, Unified Sportsmen of Florida

Republican House District 39 candidate Josie Tomkow announced Wednesday that she had picked up endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

“Josie Tomkow is the only candidate in this race we can trust to uphold the constitution rights of law-abiding firearms owners and sportsmen,” former NRA President Marion Hammer said. “We value your honest support of the Second Amendment, self-defense, and anti-crime issues.”

Tomkow embraced the endorsement in a campaign press release, which included a copy of Hammer’s endorsement letter listing the 22-year-old Polk County Republican as having an “A” rating from the NRA and a “Pro-Gun” rating from the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

“I am honored and humbled by this endorsement and will never stop fighting to defend the Second Amendment and gun rights in Florida,” Tomkow said. “As a 7th generation Floridian and 3rd generation Polk County cattle rancher, gun rights are essential to our way of life. Those rights should not stop at the border of a college campus or at the door of your local church.”

Tomkow is one of two Republicans running in the special election to replace former Rep. Neil Combee, who stepped down the day after Thanksgiving in order to take a new job as Florida State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Combee has also endorsed Tomkow as his successor in the seat, which covers Polk County and part of western Osceola County.

Tomkow faces former prosecutor Jennifer Spath in the Republican Primary, slated for Feb. 20. The winner of that contest will move on to a May 1 general election against Democrat Ricky Shirah, a perennial candidate for the Lakeland City Commission who stands little chance of victory in the deep red district.

The most recent campaign finance reports from the three candidates show Tomkow in the lead with over $75,000 raised and $57,800 cash on hand. Spath has about $22,000 cash on hand after a month in the race, with much of her total coming in through loans, while Shirah had $1,340 in his campaign account as of Dec. 28.

The endorsement letter is below.

NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida endorsement letter

Josie Tomkow crosses $75K-raised mark in HD 39 special election

HD 39 candidate Josie Tomkow raised nearly $62,000 last month, building on her strong lead in the race to replace former Rep. Neil Combee in House District 39.

The banner month gives the Polk City Republican a total of $75,155 raised for her campaign account in less than two months, and she has $57,800 of that money on hand.

Tomkow is a third-generation cattle rancher, and a quick scan of her donor roll from last month shows plenty of of individuals and businesses in the agriculture industry chipping in $1,000 a pop – the maximum donation for Florida House campaigns.

Making the list with max checks were Lakeland rancher Suzanne Ellsworth, Wesley Chapel-based Wiregrass Ranch, Dade City seed farmers Chris and Jaclynn Hancock, livestock business Arcadia Stockyard, and many more.

Future Senate President Wilton Simpson, sometimes referred to as the “chicken man” due to his poultry empire, even chipped in through his Jobs for Florida political committee.

Tomkow also spent $17,050 last month, with Jensen Beach-based Strategic Image Management picking up more than $10,000 of that sum for a variety of services, including graphic design, printing, shirts and consulting work. Dade City’s Sunny Acres Lodge got the next biggest chunk, $3,168, for catering a campaign fundraiser.

Standing between Tomkow and a seat in the Florida House are fellow Republican Jennifer Spath, a former prosecutor, and Democrat Ricky Shirah.

Spath’s report showed only $4,000 in contributions, $2,000 of which came from those sharing her surname. The Bartow Republican did, however, pony up a $25,000 loan so she’ll have some money to work with during the truncated campaign cycle.

She entered the new year with about $22,000 in the bank.

Shirah, a perennial candidate for the Lakeland City Commission who stands little chance of victory in deep red District 39, raised $500 and loaned his campaign $1,000. He closed out the reporting period with $1,340 on hand.

House District 39 covers Polk County and part of western Osceola County.

The seat opened up in November after Combee announced that he would leave the House for a new a job as Florida State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Tomkow was the first candidate to file for the seat after the announcement, and she quickly earned Combee’s endorsement. The Auburndale Republican has since reiterated his support of Tomkow, 22, after some reports questioned whether she was too young for the job.

Tomkow qualified for the race via petition signatures ahead of the holidays, as did Shirah, though Spath had to pay the $1,781 qualifying fee in order to force the special Republican Primary.

With the qualifying period over, Tomkow and Spath are set to face off on Feb. 20, with the winner going up against Shirah in a May 1 special general election.

Vacant seats to dot Legislature during Session

More than 1.1 million Florida voters won’t have a representative in one of the legislative chambers when the 2018 Session begins next month.

Resignations and a recent death have created six open seats, with most expected to remain vacant through the 60-day Session because of scheduling requirements for special elections.

The vacancies do little to alter the Republican hold on both chambers, with the GOP up 23-15 in the Senate and 76-40 in the House entering the 2018 Session.

But a vacancy can mean additional work for other lawmakers.

More importantly, Aubrey Jewett, a political-science professor at the University of Central Florida, said people in districts short of full representation could struggle to see local needs and funding advanced.

“Some districts have certain issues that are important which may not be pursued at all or pursued with the same vigor,” Jewett said. “Every district may have specific issues or projects that they would like funded. In the absence of representation, it is likely they will not get their share of the appropriations pie.”

“The system is set up so that most members primarily listen to and try to help their own constituents — under normal circumstances it is considered bad form to work with a constituent who does not live in your district,” Jewett added. “Some years ago, when I was in college, I interned with my state representative. One of the first things that I was taught when being contacted by someone was to get their address and find out if they lived in the district or not. If they did not, I was directed to steer them towards their appropriate elected official.”

However, he noted that district staff members usually remain in place until new lawmakers are seated, which helps with some constituent services.

Jewett also said a lawmaker leaving unexpectedly could affect bills that the lawmaker sponsored or planned to champion.

“If no other member has the passion for one of these issues, then it is likely that the policies will not have an advocate and will have a harder time becoming law or being funded,” Jewett said.

As an example, former Rep. Alex Miller, a Sarasota Republican, resigned in August, pointing to family and work obligations as well as House leadership issues. She had earlier announced plans to pursue new state wildlife laws after videos surfaced of people abusing sharks. Since Miller’s departure, no one has picked up issue.

As another example, Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, a Republican from The Villages who died of cancer Sunday, backed five local projects, including proposals that would provide money to Lake-Sumter State College and make improvements to County Road 466A, which runs through The Villages.

Having co-sponsors could help keep proposals moving after the departure of lawmakers.

Hahnfeldt, for instance, was sponsoring a bill (HB 1029) that calls for raising the legal age for smoking from 18 to 21. Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat who is co-sponsoring the bill, intends to move forward with the proposal.

“I was honored to have worked with him on raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 and will pursue this important issue in his legacy,” Berman tweeted on Tuesday. Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican, also is sponsoring a Senate version of the bill.

Susan MacManus, a political-science professor at the University of South Florida, said the vacancies highlight the importance of coalition building.

“It is never optimal in a representative democracy for vacancies during a Legislative Session,” MacManus said in an email. “But constituents missing a representative or senator have little choice other than to turn to others who share(d) his, her interests whether via a political party or committee assignment or interest group.”

With legislative seats vacant for months after the exits of lawmakers, MacManus said it is important for voters to understand the necessity of special-election timelines. That includes providing time for overseas voters to receive and cast ballots.

“Too many voters see this as an intentional delay rather than as mandated protection of overseas voters’ right to vote,” MacManus said.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson this month rejected arguments by Florida Democratic Party leaders that special elections in two legislative districts should be held more quickly so the seats could be filled for at least part of the Legislative Session.

Dodson described as “unfortunate” the timing of the resignations of former Sen. Jeff Clemens in Palm Beach County’s Senate District 31 and former Rep. Daisy Baez in Miami-Dade County’s House District 114. But he said moving up special election dates set by Gov. Rick Scott could lead to an argument that shorter windows for absentee voting would prevent people from casting ballots.

“I wish I could do something,” Dodson said as he ruled against the party’s request. “But there really isn’t time to do it.”

State law requires 45 days for absentee voting before special and general elections. The party argued the requirement shouldn’t apply to special elections.

Here are details of the seats that will be vacant for all or part of the Session, which starts Jan. 9 and is scheduled to end March 9:

HOUSE DISTRICT 33

— Vacant because of the death of Republican Rep. Hahnfeldt of The Villages.

— Includes Sumter County and parts of Lake and Marion counties.

— Election dates have not been set.

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 140,817.

HOUSE DISTRICT 39

— Vacant because of the resignation of Auburndale Republican Neil Combee.

— Includes parts of Osceola and Polk counties.

— Special primary election: Feb. 20.

— Special general election: May 1.

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 112,258.

HOUSE DISTRICT 72

— Vacant because of the resignation of Sarasota Republican former Rep. Miller.

— Includes part of Sarasota County.

— Special primary election: Was held Dec. 5.

— Special general election: Feb. 13.

— Registered voters: 124,346.

HOUSE DISTRICT 114

— Vacant because of the resignation of Coral Gables Democrat Baez.

— Includes part of Miami-Dade County.

— Special primary election: Feb. 20

— Special general election: May 1

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 96,381

SENATE DISTRICT 16

— Vacant because of the resignation of Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, which will take effect Jan. 5.

— Includes parts of Pasco and Pinellas counties.

— Election dates have not been set.

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 336,940.

SENATE DISTRICT 31

— Vacant because of the resignation of Lake Worth Democrat Clemens.

— Includes part of Palm Beach County.

— Special primary election Jan. 30.

— Special general election: April 10.

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 305,998

Field finalized in race for Neil Combee House seat

Without any last-minute entries, the three-candidate race to replace former Republican Rep. Neil Combee of Auburndale was finalized Thursday.

Republicans Jennifer Spath and Josie Tomkow will square off in a Feb. 20 special primary election, with the winner facing Democrat Ricky Shirah in a May 1 special general election.

The trio qualified for the race Wednesday, and no other candidates qualified before a noon deadline Thursday, according to information on the state Division of Elections website.

Combee left the House District 39 seat last month to take a federal agriculture job.

HD 39 includes parts of Polk and Osceola counties.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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