Southwest Florida voters returned a number of Republican incumbents to Tallahassee, and added a few new members to its delegation.
A couple of well-known Republicans will arrive with new titles. Rep. Ray Rodrigues won a heated Republican primary in August and then bested Democrat Rachel Brown in Senate District 27. The Estero Republican earned 60.5% of the vote. He succeeds term-limited Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a former Senate Majority Leader from Fort Myers.
And former Rep. Jim Boyd, who rose to Republican leadership over four terms in the House, also won a Senate seat against Democrat Anthony Eldon, taking 61.07%. He will represent Senate District 21, following in the steps of outgoing Senate President Bill Galvano.
Most of the new faces for the region hail from Lee County, where term limits turned over most of the delegation.
Bonita Springs Republican nominee Adam Botana defeated Democratic activist Anselm Weber in House District 72, taking 65.51%, and will succeed Rodrigues in the House. “Thank you!” Botana wrote on Facebook, retweeting an article of him scooting door-to-door into a gated community, an event that created a mini-scandal in the primary.
Cape Coral Republican Mike Giallombardo will head to Tallahassee representing House District 77 after defeating Democrat Joshua Lopez with 64.27%. He follows Dane Eagle, now Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity director.
Fort Myers Republican Jenna Persons beat Democrat Shawn Williams with 57.49% and will follow term-limited Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen in representing House District 78.
“I am humbled, honored and grateful for the support of so many in electing me to be your next State Representative for House District 78!” Persons wrote on Facebook. “I learned so much from listening to the folks of our great community on this journey. I have heard you, I am proud to serve you and I am eager to get to work for you.”
Heading into the evening, the only legislative race considered competitive was in House District 72, where Republican Fiona McFarland fought Democrat Drake Buckman for a purple seat in Democratic control since February 2018. She ended up flipping the seat, winning 54.67%, meaning every legislator living in Southwest Florida will caucus with the GOP in the next Session.
To the south, Naples Republican Lauren Melo won over Democrat Laura Novosad in House District 80 with 64.43%. She will fill the seat vacated by now U.S. Rep.-elect Byron Donalds.
Notably, that means quite a few members of the incoming House Republican caucus will all come from the Southwest Florida region, something that could prove meaningful in upcoming leadership contests.
Every Republican incumbent seeking reelection representing the region in the Legislature also won their races.
Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, fended off a challenge by Democrat Katherine Norman in Senate District 23, winning 57.71% of the vote.
Reps. Michael Grant in District 75,with 64.6%, and Bob Rommel in District 106,with 65.95%, each won a third consecutive term, brushing off respective challenges from David Jones and Sara McFadden.
Rommel wrote on Facebook he was “truly humbled by the overwhelming support from my reelection what an honor to serve you again.”
In Sarasota County, Rep. Will Robinson beat Democrat Andy Mele in House District 71 with 57.89%. Rep. Tommy Gregory defeated Democrat David Fairey with 64.57% in House District 73. Rep. James Buchanan fought off Lisa Stortstrom in House District 74, with 62.1%. In Lee County, Rep. Spencer Roach defeated Danika Fornear in House District 79 with 64.,27%. All won second terms.
“To the voters of House District 79: Thank you!,” Roach wrote on Facebook, sharing pictures of a Lee County Republican victory party. “It was an honor speaking in front of supporters alongside my friends Mike Giallombardo, Adam Botana, and Jenna Persons. The people of Lee County can be sure that their representatives are fighting for them. Thank you again!”