Danny Kushmer, Michael Owen battle for the chance to reclaim HD 59 for Republicans

HD 59
The winner will face Andrew Learned in Nov. for the open seat.

Two Republicans will face each other at the ballot box in hopes of securing their party’s nomination in Florida House District 59 where the winner will have the chance to reclaim a seat for the GOP.

Danny Kushmer and Michael Owen are battling it out in what has become an expensive primary for an open seat.

Rep. Adam Hattersley, a Democrat, won the seat in 2018, replacing Republican Ross Spano who was elected to Congress that year. Just two years later, he’s forgoing a second term to take Spano on in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

It’s a golden opportunity for Republicans to reclaim the seat. The winner will face Democrat Andrew Learned in the Nov. 3 general election.

Owen so far has the money edge, raising nearly $110,000 compared to Kushmer’s more than $75,000. If that lead wasn’t already enough, Owen has pumped another $73,000-plus into his own campaign through personal loans. He had about $29,000 as of the end of July to get him through the primary.

Kushmer had more on hand heading into July with about $35,000 still in the bank.

There hasn’t been much polling in the race so it’s anyone’s guess who has the overall edge, if either. But Kushmer has the edge in endorsements, pulling in support from the Tampa Bay Times and a host of organizations including the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association, the Florida Forestry Association, the Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Florida Cattlemen, and others.

Several would-be colleagues also offered their nods including Reps. Randy Maggard, Jason Shoaf, Rick Roth and Alex Andrade.

Owen has support from the Associated Builders & Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and United Christians of Florida.

The campaign took on a negative tone this summer with Owen bringing to light an injunction for protection Kushmer’s ex-wife filed in the early ’90s when the two were going through a rough patch and considering divorce.

Kushmer responded on his campaign website, posting an image of a letter from his ex-wife, Kimberly Kushmer, saying Kushmer had “never laid a hand” on her.

“Danny and I were married in 1984 and we share three beautiful children. As with many couples, we faced our own challenges and in 1991 we both considered separation and divorce. I reached out to an attorney and under his advice, I filed an injunction for protection,” she wrote.

“Danny was unaware of the filing and did not even have an opportunity to address the court. Now, some 29 years later, I can say without any reservation, Danny never laid a hand on me. This was simply a tactic my attorney suggest I do in case of divorce.”

The couple stayed together another eight years before divorcing, according to the letter.

Whether the issue makes a difference in the election will play out Tuesday, but what is clear is the winner in the GOP primary will head into the general election limping from an expensive primary campaign.

Learned has raised nearly $142,000 for his campaign and retains about $82,000 as of July 31.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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