Matt Willhite says he’s considering run for SD 29

The contest is open after Kevin Rader announced he would forego a second term.

After incumbent Sen. Kevin Rader pulled out of the Senate District 29 contest Tuesday, Rep. Matt Willhite said he’s considering a run for the seat in 2020.

“With Sen. Rader’s announcement that he is not seeking re-election, I have received a number of encouraging calls to run for the state Senate seat,” Willhite said in a statement to Florida Politics.

“I am very excited and eager to continue to serve my community, especially during these trying times and look forward to continued conversations in the next few days on the best path forward.”

Willhite represents House District 86, which overlaps with the northern portion of Rader’s SD 29.

Willhite’s tease adds to a flurry of news Tuesday morning, which began with Rader announcing he would not pursue a second term in the Senate after winning the seat in 2016.

“After a great deal of self-reflection and many serious conversations with my loving wife and partner, Amy, I have decided against seeking another term in office as I turn my full attention toward my family and my business,” Rader said.

“Representing the people of this district has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I’d like to thank the voters for trusting me to look out for their interests in Tallahassee, which I have sought to do every day whether we are in session or not.”

In his statement, Rader also encouraged Rep. Tina Polsky to pursue the seat. Hours later, Polsky confirmed she would run in SD 29 with Rader’s endorsement.

“When I was elected to the State House I promised to fight tooth-and-nail for our Democratic values in Tallahassee and to provide first-rate constituent services to the people of this district,” Polsky said.

“Now, I plan to bring that same commitment to the Florida Senate by continuing the excellent work of Sen. Rader.”

Political newcomer Brian Andrew Norton filed to run in SD 29 as a Republican earlier this year.

The district leans Democrat, however. No other Democrats had declared prior to Rader’s Tuesday decision to step aside. Should Willhite enter the race, that could set up a competitive Democratic primary.

Several other lawmakers in the region would have reason to give the seat a look as well.

Rep. David Silvers represents nearby House District 87.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay represents District 6 on the Commission, which spans portions of SD 29.

Former Sen. Joe Abruzzo, who now works at The Berman Law Group, was Polsky’s predecessor in House District 81 and could also run.

SD 29 runs south into Broward County, covering Parkland and parts of nearby communities. Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz formerly held the House District 97 seat, which neighbors Parkland. Should he seek a return to the Legislature, Moskowitz would make a formidable contender as well.

Qualifying week begins June 8, giving lawmakers just a few weeks to make a decision following Rader’s announcement Tuesday.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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