The Florida Police Benevolent Association is endorsing Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues.
As Republicans in the state rally around a “law and order” message, the endorsement could play a significant role in the race.
“We are proud to endorse Ray Rodrigues for Florida Senate District 27,” reads a letter from Matt Puckett, executive director of the state PBA.
“He has demonstrated a strong commitment to the men and women of law enforcement and corrections. We know he has our back.”
Rodrigues faces a primary challenge from fellow state lawmaker Heather Fitzenhagen.
Rodrigues through his eight years in the Florida House has often sided with law enforcement on high-profile issues, sharing an opposition to legalizing marijuana for recreational use, for example.
The endorsement adds to a long list of institutional and individual endorsements that he has tallied since entering the Senate race last year. That includes the endorsement of all lawmakers representing the district except for Fitzenhagen. Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno serves on a host committee for an upcoming fundraiser.
Touting the endorsement comes as protests criticizing police break out nationwide.
Notably, the winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Rachel Brown, a community organizer who has been involved in thus-far peaceful Black Lives Matters protests in Fort Myers.
But in deep red Southwest Florida, boasting the support of police while he’s campaigning will likely be an asset.
Retiring Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto faced no Democratic opposition when she ran in 2016 or 2014. The last time she faced a Democrat was in 2012, when she won in then-District 30 with more than 62% of the vote over Democrat Debbie Jordan.
That makes the contest with Fitzenhagen for the GOP nomination a critical step on the way to the Senate. Fitzenhagen doesn’t boast the same list of endorsements thanks to a last-minute entry into the Senate race.