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.
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.