Jessica Baker enters race for Florida House District 12, setting up challenging primary vs. Lake Ray

Baker's entry moves the HD 12 race from a yawner to a potential barnburner.

A former state legislator now faces a significant primary challenge in his attempt to return to Tallahassee.

Jessica Baker of Jacksonville is the second Republican in the House District 12 primary, having filed Friday.

She launched her campaign with what seems to be a thinly veiled potshot at her opponent, former Rep. Lake Ray, who represented the district from 2008 to 2016.

“Each day it seems another career politician finds a new way to rant about how divided we are as a nation, determined to drive a wedge between all of us and common sense solutions,” she said.

“I’m running for Florida House District 12 because like so many of you, I’m ready to tune out the politically driven outrage and focus on Florida-based outcomes for our families, our businesses and our communities that preserve our God-given freedoms and defend your right to pursue the American Dream.”

Baker currently works as an Assistant State Attorney in Florida’s 7th Judicial Circuit. She previously worked at Ballard Partners and served a stint last decade on the intergovernmental affairs team for Mayor Lenny Curry.

Prior to joining Ballard, the Florida State University law school alumna served as a lobbyist at Sachs Sax Caplan, P.L. in Tallahassee, specializing in education and transportation issues.

Baker has experience in The Process also. She served as a legal intern in the Office of the Florida Senate Deputy Majority Leader, providing research and analysis on proposed legislation for potential conflicts between Senate and House bills.

She was also a legal clerk and research intern for Mike Haridopolos in his campaign for U.S. Senate, working on policy issues such as health care, energy, and taxes.

Jessica’s husband, Tim Baker, has his own connections to Curry World.

His consultant work was indispensable to Curry’s path from first-time candidate with scant name recognition to Jacksonville mayor, then to reelection, with a popular referendum. for pension reform along the way. Controversial in some quarters, Baker has nonetheless won more convincingly in Jacksonville more often than any other consultant of his generation. However, unlike perhaps any other campaign, this has a personal stake for him.

Expect there to be another subtext of consultant wars here, meanwhile, as a Tim Baker rival is on Ray’s side. Bert Ralston, another veteran of campaigns in Northeast Florida and beyond, is consulting for the former representative.

Jessica Baker’s challenge to Lake Ray comes as the current representative from HD 12, political ally Clay Yarborough, preemptively endorsed Ray earlier this month ahead of her filing. Sen. Aaron Bean and State Reps. Chuck BrannanCord Byrd, and Chris Latvala also back Ray, who has rolled out well over a dozen endorsements already.

Ray will stress his ground game. In 2016, during his bid for Congress, Ray notes that he made voter contacts with more than 60% of Republican households. Expect that kind of intensive effort again, along with social media and traditional voter contacts.

However, Ray ultimately lost that race, with John Rutherford prevailing. Here, Ray is the known commodity, but he has never faced a political problem quite like that Jessica Baker poses.

Ray has enjoyed a few months’ head start in the race, with strong and steady fundraising since launching his return bid for the House in March. He has more than $130,000 in his campaign account, an amount boosted by $50,000 in personal loans.

In addition to the hard money, Ray also has a state-level political committee called A Stronger Florida for Us. That committee has roughly $20,000 in it, with Ray not having focused on committee fundraising yet.

HD 12 is a Republican plurality district under its current configuration, with more than 48,000 Republicans outnumbering the more than 38,000 Democrats. There are also more than 28,000 who belong to neither party.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski

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