Kenneth Davenport takes another shot at HD 35

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He challenged Fred Hawkins in 2022. With the seat opening up again, the Republican is making another run.

The presence of a sitting lawmaker in House District 35 didn’t stop Orlando Republican Kenneth Davenport from running in 2020. And as the seat opens again early, he’s decided to run again.

Davenport, a real estate agent and flight attendant, has filed again for the contest, where a Special Election is expected to take place in coming months.

“I’m not a politician,” he said. “I’m just a citizen trying to stand up to make a change.”

Davenport faced state Rep. Fred Hawkins, a St. Cloud Republican, in a GOP Primary last year. Hawkins, running in a newly drawn district in a redistricting year, won the nomination and later the General Election.

But Davenport notably came within 1,200 votes of unseating the lawmaker — he refuses to call Hawkins the incumbent in a race where he’d only represented 15% of voters previously — and was prepared to run for the seat again in 2024.

“I’m proud of the 33% of the vote I won,” Davenport said.

The seat will open sooner than expected. Hawkins just accepted a job as President of South Florida State College, which will soon require his resignation.

Davenport, a former probation officer, is the fourth Republican to file for the seat since news broke of Hawkins’ imminent departure. He said that, looking at the field, he simply has something different to offer.

Having worked the campaign trail less than a year ago, Davenport believes he understands the needs of voters. He wants to run a campaign on nuts-and-bolts issues like stopping the continued rise of property insurance rates. He said to date, he’s seen no positive or negative effect from fixes approved by the Legislature in multiple Special Sessions.

Davenport hopes to build on the organic growth in support he saw over months of campaigning last year. He will bring lessons from that experience, most notably the significance of personal interaction with voters.

Some big hitters already have filed for the seat on the Republican side. That includes two former congressional candidates. Demetries Grimes ran last year in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, losing to now-U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee in the Republican Primary. Scotty Moore last year challenged U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, and performed better than expected in the General Election.

But Davenport isn’t impressed by those who chased bigger prizes.

“I don’t have aspirations to move on and become a Congressman or anything like that. I just want to try and do eight years in this job,” he said.

Meanwhile, Osceola County School Board member Erika Booth is running with the support of House Speaker-designate Daniel Perez and the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee.

But Davenport isn’t swayed by that either. He has always run as a political outsider.

“They (House Republicans) never talked to me. I get that. I’m not part of the in-group,” he said. “If they talked to me, maybe they would feel differently, but I’m not here to make them look bad. They make the decisions that are right for them. But this is politics. If I’m the one who wins, I’m their best friend the next day.”

The district is notably a swing seat, one where Hawkins and Gov. Ron DeSantis won handily in 2022 but where voters in 2020 favored Democrat Joe Biden over Republican Donald Trump in the Presidential Election. Democrats Rishi Bagga and Thomas Keen have both filed for the seat as well.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


One comment

  • Lucy Morales

    June 21, 2023 at 8:31 pm

    We deserve the best to represent us in The State Capital and in Washington. We have been watching the individuals that run for office in Osceola County. I started watching who was running for office, in 2020. The Republican that won the primary back then was seriously unprepaired to represent us. In 2020 the candidates were mostly the same and were not much better. Its very strange how anyone that promoted themself as the savior of all our concerns, surrounded by Republicans up and down ballot from Governor DeSantis, SEN Rubio, Attorney General Moody, CFO Patronis, and Rep Hawkins, who won their races solidly, can lose as badly as Scotty Moore. He managed to lose by more than 15,000 votes…People went out of their way to not vote for him,
    As he has zero business, gov’t, military, or real executive or employment experience whatsoever, I always found him as almost childish. As did, the almost every Republican PAC and support network. Except for a few Evangelical organizations. People like Moore who make it into gov’t are exactly why we are facing the issues we face right now.
    I am saying something now because i dont want us to go backwards. With Moore we would i feel be doing just that. There are several other candidates in that race to replace Fred Hawkins who I hope and our friends hope to see and hear more from. As for Booth ( we have not made a decision either way regarding her). House elections and Speaker Perez will soon learn the people of House District 35, not some guys in Tallahassee or Miami, pick their candidate for Representative. We definitely feel it should not be Mr. Moore.

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