Major early moves continue in the Senate District 4 primary, where three sitting state legislators seek to replace Sen. Aaron Bean.
The current and incoming Senate presidents sided with Rep. Clay Yarborough, endorsing the third-term legislator from Jacksonville’s Arlington area over Reps. Cord Byrd and Jason Fischer.
Integrity and a sense of fighting government overreach drove the endorsements from Senate President Wilton Simpson and incoming President Kathleen Passidomo.
“Northeast Florida deserves a champion in Tallahassee who will continue to fight for a stronger economy, our shared conservative values, and the health and safety of our communities,” Simpson said. “I’m proud to endorse Clay Yarborough because I know he will serve the hardworking families of Senate District 4 with honor and integrity.”
“Clay Yarborough is a proven leader who understands firsthand how government overreach can impact our lives and our livelihoods,” Passidomo added. “I am excited to join business leaders from across Northeast Florida in supporting Clay Yarborough for Senate District 4.”
The endorsements are timely for Yarborough, who found himself repudiated by police union leaders earlier this week for what were claimed to be moves toward “defunding the police.” In some cases, these unions, reacting to votes over a decade old, had endorsed Yarborough as recently as last year.
“President Simpson and Sen. Passidomo are spearheading a common-sense revolution in the Florida Senate that puts our families first, and I am incredibly humbled to have their support,” Yarborough said. “Northeast Florida is a special place, and if given the opportunity to serve in the Florida Senate, I will continue the fight to ensure our schools and communities are safe, businesses are free to strengthen and grow our economy, and that freedom is always the prevailing wisdom.”
In the race to succeed Bean in Senate District 4, Rep. Fischer maintains a cash-on-hand lead. Fischer, who represents House District 16 in the Mandarin area, has roughly $966,000 to deploy.
POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon reported that Fischer’s lead consultant, Tim Baker, is now off the campaign. Baker has worked with Fischer since his 2016 bid for the House. Baker also works as a consultant for Simpson.
“Leadership made their pick,” Baker said, confirming his exit.
Yarborough has nearly $88,000 in hard money. His political committee, Floridians for Conservative Values, has just over $335,000 on hand. A third candidate, HD 11 incumbent Rep. Cord Byrd, has roughly $113,000 on hand between his campaign account and his political committee.
The endorsement has implications in the nascent 2024-26 Senate President race, where Wauchula Republican Sen. Ben Albritton and Miami Republican Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. are seen as the top contenders. Yarborough would support Albritton in the leadership race.
SD 4 is drawn with a strong Republican advantage. Though redistricting may change the map somewhat, there is no reason to believe this district will be more competitive after that process.
Those familiar with the thinking of Senate President Simpson have said he would prefer not to have a competitive primary for a safe seat. However, they may have expected his thumb to go on the scale for a different candidate.