Cory Mills wins contentious CD 7 Republican Primary

NO SANTOS Election-Day---Mills-vs-Sabatini-vs-Duke-v-Edwards-v-Roberts
Mills emerges as heavy favorite to flip CD 7 to Republicans in November election.

In a Republican Primary Election likely to pick the next Representative of Florida’s 7th Congressional District, Cory Mills has won the nomination, ending what had been a heated, eight-candidate battle.

With partial returns, Mills had solid leads over the other candidates, swamping the field in Volusia County and leading second-place Rep. Anthony Sabatini in Seminole County. With the win Tuesday, Mills has secured a relatively easy path to Capitol Hill in a fairly moderate, suburban-Orlando district that had elected Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy the past three terms.

The Democratic nominee is likely to be Karen Green, who was leading a four-way contest in the Democratic Primary Election. But the Democrats are not investing heavily in CD 7.

Since Murphy — a centrist widely supported by business and business groups — announced last December that she would not seek another term, the purple district became ripe for a red flip. And when the Legislature redrew the Seminole County-based CD 7 to trade liberal parts of Orange County for conservative parts of Volusia County, it became a red-purple district.

Mills, an Army veteran and conservative TV darling, led the Republican field ahead of Sabatini, Christian missionary Brady Duke, and lone-wolf conservative state Rep. Sabatini. Further back in the Republican pack were former DeBary City Commissioner Erika Benfield; former Orange County Commissioner Ted EdwardsRusty RobertsAl Santos; and Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill.

Mills finished with 38%, Sabatini had 24% and Brady Duke had 15%. The others all finished below 6%.

Green, a Florida Democratic Party Vice Chair, finished with 45%, easily defeating Aleck PastranaTatiana Fernandez and former congressional candidate Al Krulick, who finished second with 21%.

Compared with the Republicans’ big-money, high-visibility campaigns, the Democrats were limited to modest campaigns of public appearances, a few yard signs and very limited advertising.

In many ways, the Republican battle for Florida’s 7th Congressional District’s open seat had boiled down to Mills, Duke, and Sabatini, three relative newcomers to the area who’ve established robust campaigns, plus several more local candidates hoping to stop them with lower-level campaigns.

After those paths were blazed, a crowd of more local, more establishment Republicans jumped in, though perhaps too late.

And when the Democrats wound up with four little-known candidates, all without any significant campaign prowess, Tuesday’s Republican Primary Election began looking like decision time for the district.

Mills had largely self-funded a campaign that featured a long-running, widely seen TV commercial of him wearing combat gear, toting a rifle and sounding as if he’s having fun scaring liberals and the media. His America First platform, his personal financial ability to give his campaign big spending power, and his frequent appearances on conservative talk shows provided him with high visibility.

Sabatini’s shoot-at-anyone — except former President Donald Trump — style of rhetoric in the Legislature made him plenty of enemies in the GOP establishment.

It also made him attractive to the Republican Party’s angry voters’ wing. He mixed his provocative rhetoric with a campaign strategy invested heavily in canvassing, to build a base that could give the state Legislature’s least-popular lawmaker a path into Congress.

Duke’s campaign caught many observers off-guard by putting together an impressive, national, social conservatives fundraising operation that drew the kind of money most congressional incumbents would envy, with close to $2 million heading into the Primary.

He also put together the kind of social conservatism platform that has historically played well with Seminole and Volusia counties’ large fundamentalist Christian populations. Still, Duke failed to broaden his appeal to the 20% threshold in polling that would have made him a front-runner.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


5 comments

  • Danny Rodriguez

    August 23, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    A recount is in order here. I live in Volusia and there is absolutely NO way these results are accurate. Sabatini signs and people were EVERYWHERE, and Mills is known as a Virginia interloper who never voted once in Florida (just arrived) and tried to deceive voters into believing he had Trump’s endorsement. FRAUD!

  • Eddie

    August 24, 2022 at 5:22 am

    Accept the results. It is what it is remember? The other was not right for us if you did your research you would know this! ✌

  • Jeff Brown

    August 24, 2022 at 8:15 am

    Yes! so glad it wasn’t sleazy Sabatini.

  • Fernando Martinez Martinez

    August 24, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    I can’t believe Mills won.

  • Andrea L Chillemi

    August 25, 2022 at 7:37 pm

    I met Cory Mills several times.
    He is an honest, true patriot and veteran.
    Someone who is desperately needed to lead Florida and our country if you want to keep it FREE!!

Comments are closed.


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