A Democrat who led protests during the black bear hunting season last year has filed to run for Senate District 11 seat according to Florida Division of Elections records.
Real estate investor and former League of Women Voters Vice President Chuck O’Neal filed to run for the seat Jan. 8, just two months after announcing he would run for the Florida House District 29 seat held by Longwood Republican Rep. Scott Plakon.
The Senate District lines used in the last two election cycles put the Apopka Democrat in Republican Sen. Alan Hays’ seat, though O’Neal’s home would fall inside the district currently held by Orlando Democratic Sen. Geraldine Thompson under the maps approved by courts at the end of 2015.
Thompson is running for Republican Rep. Daniel Webster’s seat in congress, which will leave her SD12 seat open six years before she was due to term out.
If all works out, district wise, the pivot will likely save O’Neal some heartache. Former Democratic Rep. Mike Clelland was able to win a tight race in HD29 in 2012, but took a 14-point drubbing at the hands of Plakon in 2014. O’Neal likely would have faced a similar fate.
His path isn’t completely clear, though. Democratic Rep. Randolph Bracy is rumored to be considering a run for the seat, and attorney Jeremiah Jaspon, also a Democrat, publicly acknowledged he was interested in running last week. Jaspon ran for Senate 10 years ago, losing to former Republican Sen. Lee Constantine by 20 points on Election Day.
O’Neal announced his House campaign in November at a memorial for the 300 black bears killed during a controversial two-day hunt green-lighted by the Florida Wildlife Commission. In that announcement, O’Neal said he wanted to “get into the Legislature and bring it back to reality.”
“You can classify me as a person that believes in good governance,” he said. “We need to respect what the people of Florida want and not minimize them. My allegiance is to the state.”