Rep. Nick DiCeglie will move his office to the Florida Senate. The Pinellas County Republican bested Democratic opponent Eunic Ortiz in the race for Senate District 18 Tuesday night with 54% of the vote to Ortiz’s 46%, with 31% of precincts reporting.
DiCeglie will replace Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes in what was Senate District 24 before redistricting.
DiCeglie had an advantage in the race. The district, though under new boundaries, has been in Republican control for more than a decade and, under its new configuration as SD 18, maintained a Republican edge. Nearly 140,000 of the district’s registered voters are Republican, while just over 125,000 are Democrats. Still, it’s a fairly purple district with nearly 113,000 non-partisan voters, according to the most recent L2 voter data.
And while the seat was open, DiCeglie had the advantage of being an experienced legislator, serving as a state Representative and Brandes’ endorsed successor. He also maintained a strong fundraising advantage, with more than $1.4 million raised between his campaign account and affiliated political committee, The Economic Freedom Committee.
In addition to the sizable fundraising gap, Ortiz faced difficult odds in a state that historically favors Republicans and is appearing well-poised for additional GOP gains this cycle.
DiCeglie has represented House District 66 since 2018. Prior to that, he served as Chair of the Pinellas County Republican Party. He also served two terms as Chair of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, as a gubernatorial appointee to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, and as a member of the Indian Rocks Beach Planning and Zoning Board.
The Republican lawmaker has owned Solar Sanitation, a waste management business, since 2001. The company services parts of unincorporated Pinellas County. It was named “Medium Sized Business of the Year” by the Clearwater Chamber. He lives in Indian Rocks Beach with his wife, Erica, and their two children.
DiCeglie currently Chairs the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee in the House and serves on the Commerce and Ways and Means committees, as well as the Local Administration and Veterans Affairs and Justice Appropriations subcommittees.
Ortiz is a Tarpon Springs native who graduated from Tarpon Springs High School and attended St. Petersburg College. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida (UF) and a master’s degree from New York University.
She ran on experience in television news and public affairs and previous served as a spokesperson for the New York City Council. She now teaches ethics and mass communications challenges at UF and worked on the successful campaign to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour under Amendment 2. Ortiz has also worked as a union organizer.
DiCeglie has been a moderating voice in the hyper-conservative lower chamber, though he tends to vote in line with his party.
DiCeglie voted with Republicans on House Bill 1557, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. It limits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
DiCeglie also co-sponsored the state’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest or human trafficking. DiCeglie, however, hasn’t committed to supporting an outright ban on abortion.
DiCeglie also voted in favor of a bill (HB 1197) labor organizers considered a union-busting measure. The bill died in Session this year, but would have allowed unions to be decertified if fewer than half of the employees eligible for the union were not dues-paying members, among other provisions.
DiCeglie supports expanded vocational education programming and protecting funds in the Sadowski trust for their intended use, affordable housing. He has also said he favors home rule, which gives local governments authority to govern themselves.
Support for the candidates fell largely along party lines, with DiCeglie having powerful backing from Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashely Moody and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, among a host of other local Republican officials.
DiCeglie also boasted support from the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association and the Pinellas Realtor Organization.
Ortiz, meanwhile, unsurprisingly ran with backing from numerous union organizations, including the Florida chapter of the Service Employees International Union, the Florida AFL-CIO, the Florida chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Communications Workers of America, the Florida Education Association and the United Faculty of Florida, among others.