A rundown of the real winners and losers from Florida’s primary elections

winners and losers

Yesterday’s slate of primary elections in Florida certainly provided a list of winners and losers, and I’m not just talking about the candidates. Here is my list of the real winners and losers coming out of Tuesday.


Fair Districts — They were a big winner of the night. After years of fighting the state’s political boundaries, it’s fair to say Fair Districts came out on top. They survived a slew of Democratic primaries and picked up an additional African-American in Florida’s congressional delegation with the election of Val Demings in Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

The “nice guys” — We see an election in which mild-mannered, sensible pols — Neal DunnAl LawsonFrancis Rooney — triumph over outrageous or negative opponents — Mary ThomasCorrine BrownDan Bongino. Of course, it helps not to compare reporters to pedophiles, or get tape-recorded delivering a tirade punctuated with profanity. But that’s just us.

The Florida Justice Association — Call it a big night for trial attorneys and their storm troopers Jeff Porter and Kevin Sweeny (or is it, Sweeney?). The Florida Justice Association was involved in two dozen House and Senate races. In the House, the group played a role in helping Cord ByrdErin GrallJason FischerJackie ToledoKamia BrownSean ShawAmy MercadoAlexandra MillerJoe GrutersEmily SlosbergRamon Alexander, and Brad Drake cross the finish line victorious. But their work wasn’t done there. In the Senate, the Florida Justice Association had its hand in the victories of Gary FarmerDoug BroxsonGreg SteubeDebbie MayfieldDwight BullardBobby PowellJeff ClemensRandolph BracyVictor Torres, and Daphne Campbell. Could this be the year the trial attorneys stage a comeback and once again begin asserting their power in the Florida Legislature? We think so.

Anthony Pedicini, Tom Piccolo — See the FJA’s wins in the Florida House? Pedicini and Piccolo played a role in several of those, like Cord Byrd and Erin Grall. Something tells me they helped in House District 60, too.

National Rifle Association – Racks up ‘W’s with Matt GaetzMelissa Nelson, Greg Steube. With Greg Evers and others on the way out, NRA Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer should continue to have friends in the Legislature.

Puerto Rican Democrats — Political pundits throughout the state have said Central Florida’s Puerto Rican population could have a big impact on Florida’s politics. That proved true Tuesday, when Puerto Rican Democrats helped Darren Soto come out on top in Florida’s 9th Congressional District. Victor Torres won his primary to replace Soto in the Florida Senate, while Amy Mercado won her primary to replace Torres, her dad, in the Florida House.

Jeff Brandes — The St. Petersburg state senator’s solar power tax-break amendment far surpassed the 60 percent needed to become part of the state constitution. Does this mean campaign manager Chris Spencer gets to shave now?

David Jolly — The incumbent congressman from Pinellas County beat expectations to regain the nod for his CD 13 seat. Now on to see if he tries to pace Democratic opponent Charlie Crist in a tanning war.

Joe Garcia — Is there an emoji for an upward dildo?

North Florida Neighbors — The super PAC picked the right horses, winning with Matt Gaetz in CD 1 and Neal Dunn in CD 2. And pay no attention to whoever’s behind that curtain!

Conservatives — Look for the Florida Senate to lean a bit more to the right in the coming years. Dennis Baxley, Debbie Mayfield, and Greg Steube were part of a conservative core in the House, and their elections could push the Senate a bit closer to ideology in the House.

Bill Galvano — It was a big night for the future Senate president. He was a big player in the battle between Kathleen Passidomo and Matt Hudson, even trekking down to Naples Tuesday to wave signs and get out the vote for her at polling places. He offered a hand to his friend Lizbeth Benacquisto, helping her win her re-election bid with nearly 70 percent of the ballot. And his absence in Senate District 23 helped secure a victory for Greg Steube. His record has him well placed to help Miguel Diaz de la Portilla secure a win come November.

Daphne Campbell — Despite a mountain’s worth of legal and public relations problems, she’s on her way to the upper chamber.

Paul Renner — Locked in a three-way battle to become House Speaker, the Jacksonville Republican likely picked up some pledges by backing Mel Ponder in HD 4 and Chuck Clemons in HD 21 in competitive GOP primaries.

Pinellas County — For so many years, it was represented by half-Senators — lawmakers who straddled parts of Pinellas and other counties. And while that still may be true on paper, the county will soon send to Tallahassee three Pinellas-first state senators in Brandes, Jack Latvala and Darryl Rouson.

Florida Medical Association — After a slew of endorsements it picked up some winners, but also saw some big losses. In the winners’ column: in Florida’s 1st Congressional District; Neal Dunn in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, Randolph Bracy in Senate District 11; Dennis Baxley in Senate District 12; Greg Steube in Senate District 23; Kathleen Passidomo in Senate District 28; Cord Byrd in House District 11; Jackie Toledo in House District 60; Alex Miller in House District 72; Joe Gruters in House District 73. Over in the losses column: Jonathan Tallman in House District 4 and Brian Hodgers in House District 52. As for Ed Narain in Senate District 19 — we’ll put him in limbo. That’s a recount-close race.

Florida Hospital Association — Kudos to Bruce Rueben and Crystal Stickle for getting in on the ground floor of Kathleen Passidomo. Excellent mail and radio work from Rich Heffley and David Johnson.

Steve Crisafulli — The outgoing House speaker’s political guys, Ryan Smith and Brett Prater, won in CD 1 and CD 2.

Core Message — Cory Tilley‘s Tallahassee-based PR shop handled the work for Amendment 4. Carrie Patrick, who did the lion’s share of the work — no wait, actually all of the work — deserves a raise.

Lenny Curry — The chattering classes told him he couldn’t get County Referendum 1 through without making promises to police and fire unions, the African-American community in Northwest Jax, or the beaches. He proved them wrong. Curry — the former party boss — was able to party like a boss Tuesday night, after a resounding 65 to 35 victory authorized extension of the Better Jacksonville Plan tax. That victory was a result of coalition building: Council Democrats and elder statesmen from the opposing party (including former Sheriff Nat Glover) helped make the pitch. The poll numbers got better for the referendum, and even a seeming misplay like hosting the Donald Trump rally didn’t hurt Curry … in fact, it reassured Republicans that even though it’s One City, One Jacksonville, the mayor is still Capital-R Republican.

Brian Hughes — Or should we say “big, big winner”: The consultant handled Lenny Curry’s pension tax effort, and candidates John RutherfordMelissa NelsonLizbeth Benacquisto. Yeah, he took a ding on Mike Hillbut oh, well. A tip of the hat to Hughes’ running mate, Tim Baker, who also helped in most of these races, plus won with Mel Ponder in HD 4.

Susie Wiles — No, she’s the big, big, big winner of election night! She was integral in the “Yes for Jax” push. She was also integral in helping to introduce Al Lawson to Jacksonville media. Lawson, who couldn’t buy a Democratic endorsement in the 904, got 20 percent in Duval … in part because of a strong TV ad, but also in part because Wiles crossed party lines to help out a friend to Ballard Partners, her firm. Wiles won’t be around as much for the next little while: she’s moving on to an expanded role in the Trump campaign, helping with “battleground communications.” The smartest political operative in Jacksonville history?

Eric Johnson — Patrick Murphy‘s consultant can smoke a cigar. At the beginning of the year, Democratic opponent and Congressman Alan Grayson was up double digits. Tuesday night, he barely avoided third place. Johnson also managed to dull the sharp edges of a barrage of negative press and ads against the man who could be U.S. Senator.

Randy Enwright, Jim Rimes — A solid night for this duo with wins in CD 1 (Matt Gaetz), SD 28 (Kathleen Passidomo), and HD 5 (Brad Drake). Took a hit on Rebecca Negron, but they probably made a nice profit on all the phone work they did for other clients. Two months to Vegas, Jimmy!

Beth Kennedy — Give the Palm Beach-based consultant some props. She worked with Jeff Clemens and Bobby Powell in their tough Senate campaigns and helped lead her candidates to victory. And not just any victory — landslides. Despite being outspent, Clemens defeated Irv Slosberg by nearly 30 points. The same thing happened in Senate District 30, where Powell topped Michael Steinger by 34 points. Kennedy knows a thing or two about Democratic politics. She’s the former district aide to Loranne Ausley, the former executive director of Florida Mainstream Democrats, and served as the political director at 32BJ SEIU in South Florida.

Tom Alte and Meagan Salisbury — Their Blue Ticket Consulting picked up wins in HD 68 (Ben Diamond) and HD 61 (Sean Shaw). Yes, the team lost in SD 19 with Augie Ribeiro, but we’re sure they were well paid there..

Barry Edwards — Assuming Darryl Rouson hangs on to his slim lead, it’s a huge personal win for Rouson’s longtime consigliere.

U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals — Big Sugar was a big winner after Tuesday night. We’ve said it before: Their political teams have an eye for picking champs in both D and R columns. In Washington and in Tallahassee, this talent is paying dividends.

Marc Caputo — POLITICO Florida’s top scribe prognosticated the winners in every congressional race in his Tuesday morning Playbook. And sometimes, all the quarters land heads up.

George Soros — A PAC controlled by the left-leaning billionaire dumped massive amounts of money into the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s race to deep-six incumbent Jeff Ashton for challenger Aramis Ayala. We guess we’ll soon see exactly what George thinks he’ll get from his investment.

Jacob Engels — The Orlando blogger and provocateur can add two scalps to his trophy case this morning: Orange-Osceola State Attorney Ashton and Seminole County Tax Collector Ray Valdes.

Mike Prendergast — Rick Scott‘s former Veterans Affairs Secretary handily won the GOP primary for Citrus County Sheriff, proving there is life after Scottworld.

Mixed bag

Club for Growth — The conservative organization saw some wins, and some losses, Tuesday. It scored big with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who won his primary with 61 percent of the vote. It also heralded Sen. Marco Rubio’s big win in his Senate primary. But Mary Thomas — the Club for Growth’s candidate in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District — couldn’t eke out a win. She fell short, coming in second behind Neal Dunn, with 39 percent of the vote. Dunn received 41 percent.

Rick Scott — In state Senate contests, he threw his weight behind Doug Broxson and Kathleen Passidomo and won. He backed Ritch Workman and lost. Will anyone remember? Or care? Probably not.

Florida Chamber of Commerce — Invested big this election cycle, to mostly mixed results. The Chamber’s record in the House races wasn’t great. They backed Sheri Treadwell in House District 11, Rebecca Smith in House District 60, Chuck Clemons in House District 21, and Lange Sykes in House District 54. Their only winner? Clemons. Over in the Senate, they invested big in Doug Holder in Senate District 23, where Holder lost to Greg Steube. In Senate District 17, it backed Ritch Workman over Debbie Mayfield, the ultimate winner. It wasn’t all bad news, though. They did see victories in Senate Districts 1, 28 and 30.

Associated Industries of Florida — Basically the same assessment as the Chamber’s as it was on the wrong side of the SD 17, 19 and 23 races. It will take a while to connect the dots on everything Ryan Tyson‘s shop did in House races, so, for now, they’re a mixed bag.

Jack Latvala — The Pinellas state Senator got frisky by playing in House District 54, where he hoped to knock out pledge-taker-backer Thad Altman. He also backed the wrong horse in Wenda Lewis in HD 21. In Pinellas County, many of the candidates who shopped with him — Bill DudleyKen Peluso — also lost. But one of Latvala’s best buds, Jeff Clemens, is coming back to the Senate. At this point, does it matter what elections Latvala wins or loses? He’s the frickin’ chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee!

Debbie Mayfield — Yes, she defeated Ritch Workman in Senate District 17, but at what cost to her reputation? Twenty-two percent of voters picked Mike Thomas, a telling indication that SD 17 Republicans wished for a plague on both houses.

Bascom Communications and Consulting — The firm did comms work for Dunn and Jolly, the winners, but clients Rebecca Negron and Matt Hudson went down in flames. Can’t win ’em all, but Sarah Bascom DOES. NOT. LIKE. TO LOSE.

Workers’ compensation interest groups — Call it a split decision for groups gearing up for debate. The National Federation of Independent Business Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce saw several of the candidates it backed win decisive victories, including Kathleen Passidomo, in the Florida Senate. In other races — like Gary Farmer, a trial attorney, winning in Senate District 34 — it could make for a complicated negotiation process once session rolls around.


The Family Grayson — It’s a like a bad version of the “Newlywed Game”: Husband Alan washes out in his U.S. Senate campaign, will leave his U.S. House seat; wife Dena fails in her attempt to succeed him in Congress. Now what? Is there a political version of “Big Brother” they can sign up for?

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office — Released some election results before polls closed. Did we mention that’s a third-degree felony? More proof that if you want to f-ck up an election, look at South Florida

Joe Negron — His wife Rebecca lost her bid for Congress. He was last reported to be singing Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” in a Stuart watering hole.

Dan Bongino — No, we don’t know why you moved to Florida. Certainly, it wasn’t to finish third in yet another losing effort. Go away.

Matt Hudson — Decent man. Hardworking legislator. But Kathleen Passidomo whooped him. Here’s hoping he stays active on Twitter.

Andrew Korge — We don’t care who his dad is, you just don’t conduct yourself on the campaign trail the way he did. Was his candidacy ever about anyone other than himself?

Irv Slosberg — He didn’t have to run for the Florida Senate, nor did he have to sink in millions of dollars of his own money. A fool and his money are soon parted. But at least Irv still has that stupid hat.

The Van Zant clan — The northeast Florida Republicans had a no good, very bad night. Katherine Van Zant was hoping to replace her husband, Charlie, in the state House, but her bid to Bobby Payne. She wasn’t the only loser in the Van Zant family. Charlie Van Zant Jr., the Clay County superintendent, lost his re-election bid, following accusation of plagiarism in grad school.

“NowOrNeverGlades” supporters — Candidates who signed the petition to buy land from Florida sugar-cane growers, coincidentally or not, caught toes on the hurdle and fell on their faces. Chief among them was Bernie Sanders acolyte Tim Canova, who beat the drum to blame Big Sugar. Others were Chauncey GossMark FreemanAnnette TaddeoJason MaughanAugie RibeiroJason PizzoAndrew Watt and Tinu Pena.

Melissa Sellers Stone — Rick Scott‘s former campaign manager and chief of staff turned Carlos Beruff adviser learned the hard way how difficult it is to win a statewide election without $70 million at your disposal.

David Bishop — Sorry friend, you took it on the chin in SD 17 with Ritch Workman and your good guy client, Ken Sukhia, finished third in CD 2.

John Konkus — His wife, Mary Thomas, ran a decidedly negative campaign against good guy Neal Dunn. But the reason Konkus is on this list is the firm he works at, Jamestown Associates, raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars from Thomas’ campaign with most of that money coming from D.C. special interests. Was Konkus running a campaign or a family business?

The Villages — The folks who run one of America’s largest retirement communities made bets in CD 11 (Justin Grabelle lost to Dan Webster) and SD 12 (Marlene O’Toole lost to Dennis Baxley). With Gary Morse passing, have they become less influential?

Sore Losers

There’re lots of reasons people don’t like politics, and this is one of them. Tim Canova refused to concede his congressional bid, telling reporters he would only “concede Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a corporate stooge.” Grayson called Murphy a Republican. And after Rubio trounced Carlos Beruff in the GOP primary, Beruff released an Op-Ed that blasted Rubio. “With regard to young Mr. Rubio, in my judgment, he made a life mistake. A man’s word is the most important thing he has. Mr. Rubio must live with that decision,” he wrote. “Sadly, he could have learned a lot about America and about himself by leaving politics and spending some time in the real world.” Stay classy, fellas.


Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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