Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker endorsed Rep. Nick DiCeglie Thursday for Senate District 24, ending months of speculation that he was mulling a bid himself.
“I support Nick for State Senate District 24 because I believe he will carry on the tremendous commitment to our community of my dear friend Sen. Jeff Brandes, while fighting for our shared values in Tallahassee,” Baker said.
Brandes, the incumbent, is leaving office because of term limits. He also offered his endorsement Thursday. The combined endorsements set DiCeglie up well in the GOP Primary, where he faces Timothy Lewis.
“For nearly 10 years, the hardworking people of Pinellas County have trusted me to fight for their families, our economy and our precious natural resources,” Brandes said. “As we look to the next generation of great Tampa Bay leaders, I hope voters will join me in supporting Nick DiCeglie for State Senate District 24. Nick has been a champion for Florida’s taxpayers, small business owners, and our students, and I am proud to endorse him.”
A matchup between DiCeglie and Baker would have made 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 have likely come with stronger name recognition from his time as Mayor and from his failed 2017 bid to reclaim that office.
It would also have potentially set up a race for top-level endorsements, with DiCeglie capturing the eye of now-Florida man Donald Trump and Baker from his longtime ally, former Gov. Jeb Bush. That could have made 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. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis got a major boost in that race when Trump offered his endorsement.
But Baker’s endorsement ends speculation and allows DiCeglie to focus his efforts on the 2022 GOP Primary and November General Election.
“Tampa Bay has been blessed with effective leaders like Sen. Brandes and Mayor Baker, and I am proud to have their support,” DiCeglie said. “Florida is the greatest state in the greatest nation because we do things right, we stick to free-market principles, and we put the health of our people and our economy first.”
DiCeglie, so far, appears to face little opposition for the GOP nod. He has raised more than $91,000 so far in his political committee and has another more than $180,000 available in his political committee, The Economic Freedom Committee. Lewis, meanwhile, hasn’t raised a dime since opening his campaign account in January.
One Democrat has joined the race, University of Florida adjunct professor Eunic Ortiz. She has raised just shy of $40,000 since entering the race in June.
SD 24 covers much of Pinellas County, including parts of St. Petersburg, Seminole, Largo, most Gulf Beaches and parts of southern Clearwater.