State Rep. Daniel Perez, the House Speaker-designate, is backing Ed Montanari in his bid for the Pinellas County-based House District 60.
Montanari is running to unseat incumbent Democrat Lindsay Cross, who succeeded former Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond in the blue-leaning swing district.
“There is no better candidate for HD 60 than Ed Montanari, and I am pleased to announce that he has the full endorsement and backing of the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee,” Perez said. “Ed’s track record as a proven leader at the local level, his unwavering dedication to our country while serving in the military, and his commitment to loyally helping his community in St. Petersburg makes him the right choice for this seat. I’m privileged to endorse Ed and throw our support behind him.”
The St. Pete Republican is likely an ideal candidate in the battleground district where Democrats carry a slight voter registration advantage with just under 41,000 voters compared to just over 36,000 Republican voters, according to the most recent voter registration data from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.
Montanari is known for his calm demeanor, quiet disposition, thoughtful consideration of policy, and moderate approach to governance. He is the only Republican currently serving on the St. Petersburg City Council, though seats are technically nonpartisan. He won election to his District 3 seat twice, most recently defeating a Democrat in the race who attempted to paint Montanari as a Donald Trump acolyte. At the time, Republicans had about 1,500 more registered voters than Democrats, a voter registration advantage that still exists in the district.
Cross won’t be an easy incumbent to defeat. She won her seat in the House by 8 percentage points over GOP candidate Audrey Henson in a year where Republicans were overwhelmingly successful in Florida, leading to supermajorities in both legislative chambers. And like Montanari, Henson was a moderate Republican.
Cross has served as a likable lawmaker who, even in disagreements, has maintained good relationships with Republican colleagues.
She also has a strong résumé to run on, including work as an environmental scientist that plays well in a state particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.
And while Montanari will undoubtedly catch up through a deep well of GOP donors, Cross also has a healthy head start on fundraising, with nearly $108,000 banked since mid-December. Of that, Cross maintains about $94,000. She has approximately $27,000 on hand in an affiliated political committee, Moving Pinellas Forward.
Montanari officially entered the race on Oct. 13 and has not yet posted any fundraising data. He’s proven himself an effective fundraiser, with more than $150,000 banked in his 2019 City Council campaign, a considerable sum for a local race.
Perez’s endorsements add to a growing slate of support, including Rep. Linda Chaney, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas School Board member Stephanie Meyer and former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker.