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House Primaries

Geraldine Thompson, Bruno Portigliatti advance in HD 44 contest

HD 44 is strongly coveted by both parties, and it’s purple.

Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson and Republican challenger Bruno Portigliatti cruised through mild primary challenges Tuesday to set up their battle for House District 44.

Thompson easily dispatched Democratic challenger Andy Farrell by a spread of 81-19 in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Portigliatti defeated Republican opponent Frank Blanco 74-26 in the Republican primary.

The state parties poured tens of thousands of dollars into Thompson’s and Portigliatti’s campaigns to make sure they won their primaries. That central party investment is likely to continue into the fall as both parties want the district and its rich base of theme parks and attractions, hotels and resorts, accounting for the one of the world’s most robust tourism corridors.

Thompson, an old pro of Orange County politics, is a Democrat with deep commitments to the party’s values, but also a long record of service to the southwestern region of the county, which includes not just the tourism corridor but a wide swath of neighborhoods, both affluent and poor.

Portigliatti is a lawyer and businessman with several businesses, including a private Christian college in Orange County, and a deep belief in Christian conservatism and business politics.

This is a seat that Thompson took away from longtime Republican control in 2018. And it’s a seat Portigliatti almost grabbed the year before, when he ran in a special election that featured a short, wild, free-for-all between several well-financed Republicans. The district once was a Republican stronghold but now the GOP’s voter registration advantage is only about 1 point.

On Tuesday, Thompson dispatched Farrell, an engineer and former Republican who switched parties and entered the contest just days before the filing deadline. He ran little of a campaign.

Blanco is an Orlando lawyer who was hoping for, but did not receive, much support from the hospitality industry for his limited run.

The Republican Party of Florida already has poured more than $36,000 into Portigliatti’s campaign. The Florida Democratic Party put $25,000 into Thompson’s campaign before the primary.

Now they face off in the Nov. 3 General Election.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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