Rep. Nick DiCeglie is hosting a campaign kickoff in his home district Tuesday night to get the wheels rolling on his Senate bid.
The Pinellas County Republican is running for Senate District 24, a seat currently held by incumbent Sen. Jeff Brandes, who is vacating the seat due to term limits. DiCeglie announced his Senate run on March 1.
DiCeglie, who currently serves as a Representative for House District 66, is hosting his campaign launch May 25 at the Belleair County Club starting at 5:30 p.m.
The host committee includes such figures as U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Reps. Linda Chaney, Traci Koster and Chris Latvala, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Clerk Ken Burke, Pinellas County Tax Collector Charles Thomas, Pinellas Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, St. Petersburg Councilman Ed Montanari, Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters and Councilor Chris Burke, former Reps. Larry Ahern and Seth McKeel, former Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield, former Pinellas GOP Chair Jay Beyrouti, and former Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell.
That’s a guest list sure to drum up a major funding boost. And DiCeglie comes with a legislative record to help propel him through a possible primary against former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, and against an already filed Republican, Timothy Lewis.
In 2019, he led efforts (HB 5) to make it harder for local governments to tax its citizens, a move that should help him in an eventual competitive primary.
This year, DiCeglie co-sponsored legislation to create COVID-19 liability protections for businesses. The approved bill (HB 7) increased the burden of proof on plaintiffs to prove gross negligence for COVID-19-related lawsuits. It’s applied retroactively to already filed legal action, a priority among Republicans.
The match-up with Baker would make for an interesting GOP primary, with DiCeglie bringing with him to the campaign trail the institutional knowledge from serving in the Legislature for four years, while Baker would likely come with stronger name recognition from his time as St. Petersburg Mayor and from his failed 2017 bid to reclaim that office.
It would also potentially set up a race for top-level endorsements, with DiCeglie potentially capturing the eye of now-Florida man Donald Trump and Baker from his longtime ally, former Gov. Jeb Bush. That could make for a redo of sorts of the 2018 gubernatorial election that pit establishment favorite of the Bush wing of the Florida GOP, Adam Putnam, against now-Gov. DeSantis. DeSantis got a major boost in that race when Trump offered his endorsement.
The eventual GOP nominee will likely face a credible challenge from the left in the mid-Pinellas battleground district. Though it has changed numbers over the years through various rounds of redistricting, the area SD 24 encompasses has changed party hands before. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist held the district in the late ’90s as a Republican. Republican Jim Sebesta succeeded him, followed by Democrat Charlie Justice.