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5 storylines to watch during federal candidate qualifying week in Florida

Candidate qualifying begins Monday at noon and continues until Friday for candidates in congressional, judicial, state-attorney and public-defender races.

Along with the U.S. Senate race pitting Democrat Bill Nelson against Republican Rick Scott, attention will mostly focus on four U.S. House races to replace Republicans who decided against seeking re-election.

Here are five storylines to watch this week.

1. Does Tom Lee pull the trigger in Florida’s 15th Congressional District? The Hillsborough Republican has ruled out a statewide bid for Chief Financial Officer, leaving him two options should he wish to continue his political career: run for the congressional seat occupied by the retiring Dennis Ross or seek re-election to the state Senate. In the last week, Lee has made some moves, such as shuttering his state political committee, which indicate he will join the crowded primary in CD 15. But does the outspoken former Senate President really want to be one of 435 in Washington, D.C.? Primary challengers Neil Combee and Ross Spano and Democrat Andrew Learned are eager to find out.

2. Is Alan Grayson serious? The former U.S. Rep. told Florida Politics’ Scott Powers he isn’t sure in which Florida district it will be, but he plans to make another run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Grayson’s campaign account raised $192,000 in the first quarter of 2018, fueling speculation he was mounting a political comeback. Due to redistricting, Grayson has represented portions of no fewer than six of Florida’s congressional districts during his two stints in Congress. Perhaps the Democratic firebrand will rely on a dartboard to help him make his decision.

3. Will Mario Diaz-Balart get a free pass? Florida’s 25th Congressional District only went for Donald Trump by a single point in 2016 – a number the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is well aware of. That’s why it has tried, in vain, to recruit someone, anyone (!) to run against Diaz-Balart. POLITICO Florida reported House Minority whip Steny Hoyer tried and failed to persuade former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, who is running in a crowded Democratic primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to take on Diaz-Balart. Annisa Karim, an alumna of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, announced last week that she would challenge Diaz-Balart. Is she the best the Democrats can do in this year of the so-called Blue Wave?

4. What does the final line-up look like in CD 27? Ever since former Clinton administration official Donna Shalala entered the race to succeed Ros-Lehtinen, her Democratic opponents have dropped like flies. Jose Javier Rodriguez and Ken Russell were the first to exit. A third Democrat, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, has told multiple people that nobody else had a chance, and that candidates should make other plans, according to David Smiley of the Miami Herald. State Rep. David Richardson appears committed to running, although Rosen Gonzalez told Richardson he should run for a vacant county commission seat, while some South Florida politicos have suggested that Mary Barzee Flores would be better off running in CD 25 against Diaz-Balart.

5. Will anyone object to the judges? This is an amazing statistic: 251 candidates have filed for circuit judgeships throughout the state — and only three races involving incumbents are being contested. Sure, it’s difficult to dislodge an incumbent judge, but are Florida voters really that happy with the folks in the black robes?

Beyond these five storylines, Florida Politics asked several political consultants working throughout the state if they were hearing anything as we enter this ‘most wonderful time of the year.’ It’s relatively quiet, but…

There is some rumbling about whether Chardo Jerome Richardson will qualify in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, thereby forcing incumbent Stephanie Murphy to run a primary campaign. The rumor that CD 4 incumbent John Rutherford would not seek re-election died off a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, we’re tying to figure out why CD 18 Democratic candidate Pam Keith is NOT listed on the Florida Division of Elections website.

Qualifying for statewide, legislative, and municipal races will take place in June.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Written By

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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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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