Democrats in Senate District 21 say the choice for a replacement candidate for Amanda Linton has been narrowed to two. A choice could be made as soon as Saturday, and will be finalized by Monday at the latest, according to Tracy Pratt, chair of the Manatee Democratic Party.
Either Anthony Eldon or Jim Flora will be the Democratic nominee for the open seat. But as voters weigh in through primaries across the state, the decision here will be made by a committee of party leaders.
That includes boards for the Manatee and Hillsborough Democratic parties. Tampa Bay area Sens. Darryl Rouson and Janet Cruz will also consult on the choice.
A replacement candidate is needed for Linton, who announced Thursday economic pressures forced her to withdraw from the race and relocate her family out of state. She was the only Democrat to qualify for the race, and state law leaves it to party leaders to choose a replacement. But with a short window after Tuesday primaries to finalize the general election ballot, party leaders must act fast.
Eldon, a local activist who has participated the last couple years in Black Lives Matter protests, said he’s longed recently to run for public office. He actually helps the local party with classes on how to run for office, and thus has come to know figures like Rep. Margaret Good and Manatee County Commissioner Reggie Bellamy well.
“I kept seeing people doing things like me, and then winning nominations or local races or primaries, whether for Congress or City Council,” he said. “I thought man, I know that could have been me.”
The 23-year-old Manatee County native said he actually prayed Wednesday evening for some political opportunity to call to him. The next day, Pratt let him know Linton was dropping out and the party was taking applications. “That was my sign from God,” he said.
His claim to fame online remains a political Instagram account, Blk.thought, with upward of 68,000 followers at last count
As for Flora, the retired executive has roots in the region dating back to 2004, when he started living in Lakewood Ranch part time. He and his wife moved to Bradenton full time more recently, and he reured from the Midwestern pet food company in 2017.
Current events sparked him to apply for the position.
“The pandemic has put enormous stress on individuals, families, businesses, and our state and local governments,” he said.
“The inevitable strain on public revenues will have an immense impact on statewide policies and budgetary battles will get much worse. I passionately believe a moderate and businesslike approach to tackle these challenges is essential so that all our citizens have a strong advocate. The new normal requires thoughtful assessment of options in how we allocate limited resources to address the opportunities that we face. The time for radical right policies is over. We need new collaborative thinking, new blood, and new energy to lead us forward.”
Locally, Flora has been involved in the Guardian Ad Litem program and other Manatee County community affairs. He has volunteered for years at Goodwill helping job applicants and in 2015 completed the Leadership Manatee program.
The nominee will face the winner of the Tuesday Republican primary, either former Rep. Jim Boyd or civility advocate John ‘Mr. Manners’ Houman.