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Lauren Melo files to succeed Byron Donalds in HD 80

She’s the first to file for the newly open seat.

The first candidate has filed to succeed Rep. Byron Donalds in the Florida House.

Naples Realtor Lauren Melo filed her paperwork Tuesday for Florida House District 80. The Republican said she’s thought about running for office for some time.

“I have been an advocate in my community for most of my life,” Melo told Florida Politics. “Now, I’ve been tapped and asked to consider this.”

Melo, the current president of the Naples Area Board Of Realtors, has served in various leadership positions within the community. Once a Guardian ad Litem, she previously ran her own trucking company and advocated on behalf of drivers in several local issues.

And her work in the real estate industry includes board positions with the Florida Realtors and National Association of Realtors.

That’s given her a strong appreciation for property rights, she said, and she plans to be a voice for that in Tallahassee.

She also has survived breast cancer and wants to be involved in health care discussions in Florida. While she’s just starting to examine issues like Medicaid expansion in detail, she said she knows the challenge of being self-employed and seeking out insurance that pays for the best doctors.

Through her advocacy with various Realtor groups, she’s been a critical point of contact with the current state Rep. Donalds. That meant she heard rumors immediately when Donalds considered running for Congress to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney.

“I had a conversation with Byron, and he reached out to me when he said he was running,” Melo said.

Donalds initially was running without opposition when he was filed for a third term in the statehouse. Now in a different race, the Naples Republican is one of eight GOP candidates in a congressional primary.

Melo remains, at least for now, the only person in the race. She said she’s reached out to many others considering a run, and she’s prepared for the competition.

Melo has had her eye on the seat for years. She was friends with former Rep. Matt Hudson. When Hudson decided to run for Senate instead of House in 2016, Melo considered a run, but the timing wasn’t right.

“My daughter was still young and in school,” Melo said.

Now her daughter is set to graduate in May, and she’s ready to tackle Tallahassee.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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