Dozens of state legislators earned new terms in office as Florida’s qualifying period for the 2014 election ended Friday.
With qualifying week over, here are 11 takeaways for this fall’s elections:
1. Eight state senators — or nearly one-quarter of the Florida Senate — were re-elected without opposition. Nearly one-third of the members in the Florida House also earned new two-year terms since no one qualified to run against them. In other words, millions of Floridians are apparently content — or just bored — with their state lawmakers.
2. Sens. Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson were re-elected without opposition. Galvano is all but the Senate President Designate for 2018-19, while Simpson would like to be SPD for 2020-21, but has to first win the post away from Tom Lee. Look to see a lot of Galvano and Simpson in SD 22 (Jeff Brandes vs. Judithanne McLauchlan) and SD 34 (likely Ellyn Bogdanoff vs. Maria Sachs) as they look to firm up support for their Senate President bids.
3. Some smart folks in Tallahassee tell me that there is some concern about Republican incumbent Thad Altman and whether he can hold off primary challenger Monique Miller. I keep hearing how Miller, a party activist from Brevard, is positioned “to Cantor” Altman. I won’t pretend to know that much about this race, but there certainly was a buzz about it when I was in the capital last week.
4. If qualifying week proved one thing, it’s that House Democrats make up the Caucus That Can’t Shoot Straight. Minority Leader-to-be Mark Pafford had some sort of difficulty with his qualifying because of an issue with a campaign check. Rep. Mia Jones waited until the last minute to turn in her paperwork. And, most embarrassing, Rep. Reggie Fullwood did not properly turn in his qualifying paperwork. This will require the state to set a new qualifying period for the seat.
4a. I regret not being in Tallahassee on Friday afternoon because if I had been and I knew about Fullwood’s screw-up, I would have jumped into the race and, after he did not qualify, walked into two years of being a state legislator. Memo to self: The day before qualifying week 2016, open up a bank account labeled “Peter Schorsch for State House,” have all of the qualifying paperwork filled-out and wait to see if a legislator fails to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
5. How did it happen that none of the consultants working for the candidates in House District 31 found a write-in candidate to close the GOP primary? Now, the five Republicans running to replace term-limited Bryan Nelson will have to compete for Democrat and independent votes. It’s not clear which candidate this situation will benefit the most, but HD 31 — which was already a must-watch — is now the most interesting legislative primary.
6. If the consultants in HD 31 are guilty of malpractice for not working to close that primary, all the credit in the world goes to Rep. James Grant’s team for coming up with write-in Daniel John Matthews to close the HD 64 primary. Miriam Steinberg, the wife of Grant’s Democratic opponent in 2012, reportedly had some diabolic plan to steal this race by running in an open primary versus Grant and winning with Democratic votes.
7. Tampa Bay was already the epicenter of this year’s legislative campaign cycle before qualifying week and last week’s developments only made it more so. There are no less than six races — HD 63, HD 65, HD 66, HD 67, HD 68, and HD 69 — where both parties have fielded capable candidates. There are, at best, 13 competitive state House seats up for grabs this cycle and Tampa Bay is home to half of them.
8. Because of his arrest earlier this year for DUI, Rep. Dane Eagle may have trouble keeping his HD 77 seat. I predict otherwise. Eagle is now running against three other Republicans in a closed primary because a last-minute write-in candidate qualified on Friday.
9. No, former Congressman David Rivera did not jump into the HD 105 race against Carlos Trujillo. On Thursday morning, this blog reported that he was leaning that way, but after the story posted, House leadership dropped the hammer on Rivera, saying they would put in the resources necessary to protect Trujillo. Rivera quickly backed down.
10. For my money, the most interesting House race outside of Tampa Bay may be in HD 112, where well-connected Republican Daniel Diaz Leyva is challenging Democrat incumbent Jose Javier Rodriguez. This is, by far, the most interesting House race in South Florida — one with implications for the race to be Speaker of the House in 2021-22.
11. According to Republican political consultant David Johnson, the top swing performance House District during the 2012 cycle between the presidential result and the legislative race result was HD 120. Maybe that’s why Florida Democrats failed to recruit a candidate for a seat held by their House leader only three years ago.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this column.
Peter Schorsch is a political consultant and new media publisher based in St. Petersburg. Column courtesy of Context Florida.