Katherine Waldron, who serves on the Port of Palm Beach Commission, has become the first Democrat filed in the race to replace Rep. Matt Willhite.
Willhite, a Democrat, announced earlier this month that he would not seek a fourth consecutive term representing House District 86. Instead, Willhite is planning to mount a 2022 run for Palm Beach County Commission.
That leaves an opening in HD 86. Republican candidate Susan Kufdakis Rivera filed to run for the seat in January prior to Willhite announcing he would not seek another term. Now, Waldron is the first Democrat to jump into the contest to decide Willhite’s successor.
In 2020, Waldron secured her second term on the Port of Palm Beach Commission, representing Group 2. Waldron has worked in sales and business for decades, founding multiple companies. Her most recent venture was co-launching Northway Coastal Industries in West Palm Beach. That organization helps produce sustainable seafood via aquaculture leases.
HD 86 covers parts of Palm Beach County including Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and Loxahatchee Groves. It’s still early in the 2022 cycle, meaning more Democrats could emerge to seek the seat.
Kufdakis Rivera ran against Willhite in the General Election last November. Willhite earned nearly 57% of the vote in that contest, topping Kufdakis Rivera by nearly 12,000 votes overall.
That shows the eventual Democratic nominee has a cushion of support to fall back on. Even if Waldron or another Democrat doesn’t match Willhite’s levels of support, the Democratic candidate will likely still be favored heading into the 2022 General Election.
That, of course, also depends on the redistricting effort and how it affects the HD 86 boundaries. As currently drawn, Democrats have a double-digit voter registration advantage in the district. But that could change by Election Day.
Willhite showed bipartisan appeal during his time in the House. But in early April, he announced his decision to leave the state Legislature and launch a bid for the District 6 seat on the Palm Beach County Commission. Willhite will be looking to replace Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who cannot seek another term due to term limits.