The race to be Lakeland’s newest state Senator has seemed a lopsided one. Despite Senate District 12 being among the most closely divided by voter registration, state Rep. Colleen Burton, a Lakeland Republican, has dominated fundraising. But could Democrat Veysel Dokur still pull an upset?
The candidates were the only members of their respective parties to file to succeed term-limited state Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Republican.
Burton Chaired the Health & Human Services Committee in the House in the past Legislature, a culmination of eight years of service in the lower chamber. In that capacity, she oversaw investment in numerous health care and community initiatives.
She now looks toward a promotion to the Senate. Burton quickly lined up the support of leadership in the upper chamber, and she has Stargel’s support.
“The voters of Polk and Lake Counties can rest assured, I will protect our family values, stand up for law and order, and help bring opportunity and prosperity to our region,” Burton said after landing those endorsements.
Before serving in office, Burton had developed a lengthy résumé as part of the nonprofit sector in Polk County. She served as executive director of Big Brother Big Sisters, the Imperial Symphony Orchestra and Polk Vision for various stints.
She’s largely run a quiet campaign from a position of strength. She raised over $405,000 for the run in her candidate account, and poured in nearly $20,000 in advertising with Strategic Digital Services.
Meanwhile, Dokur, a Turkish immigrant and area engineer, raised just under $20,000 since filing in June. He has used that to focus on nuts-and-bolts issues like affordable housing and economic development. But he’s also hit Burton for her vote in favor of a 15-week abortion ban.
“I am running because our Freedom & Constitutional rights are under attack,” Dokur said in a flyer distributed to voters. “Our lives are not getting any better under the current Florida Legislature.”
He has also promised to support Florida’s disabled community, vowed to find a way to insure 800,000 Floridians without coverage now — including 24,000 on a waiting list for state services and 35,000 limited by their diagnosis to qualify for benefits.
As of book closing for the Nov. 8 election, SD 12 was home to 121,488 Republicans, 116,226 Democrats and 102,160 voters with no party affiliation. But voter performance more distinctly favors Republicans. About 53.95% supported Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election, and 44.81% backed Democrat Joe Biden.