With 2 elections unfolding, who’s in Central Florida and who’s in Iowa?

HD 35 sbs
High-stakes contests have lawmakers leaving Tallahassee to held with field operations.

Competing elections have some state Representatives braving the snow in Iowa and others knocking doors in Kissimmee.

A Special Election in House District 35 drew Republican Speaker-designate Daniel Perez and House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell to Central Florida.

At the same time, many loyalists to Gov. Ron DeSantis spent the weekend in Iowa, including state lawmakers who shared images of themselves trekking through the snow. Speaker Paul Renner made the trip to the Hawkeye State, where he and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo will work phones for the presidential campaign ahead of the Iowa caucuses tonight.

Both elections have their own high stakes. In the race for the 2024 Republican nomination, DeSantis has trailed former President Donald Trump, and recent polling shows him fighting for second place in Iowa with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. But DeSantis has voiced confidence he will outperform expectations and soldier on.

Many lawmakers landed in Iowa aiming to ensure that happens.

“-10 degrees below zero but we are sharing Ron DeSantis’ blueprint for America’s revival,” posted state Rep. Spencer Roach, a North Fort Myers Republican.

“We are coming to your door Des Moines! Amazing reception at the doors for Ron DeSantis and at the Iowa Caucus rally!” posted state Rep. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican, with a picture of himself alongside state Reps. Chip LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point Republican, and Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican.

State Rep. Sam Garrison, a Fleming Island Republican in line for Speaker, also posted pictures from Iowa online.

Democratic lawmakers have less of a stake in Iowa, with President Joe Biden an overwhelming favorite for renomination. But many do hope to make a statement in Central Florida.

A Special Election Tuesday will decide who fills a House seat vacated by Fred Hawkins, a St. Cloud Republican recently hired as South Florida State College President. Hawkins won the district in 2022 by 10 percentage points, but two years before that, voters in the district favored Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election by 5 points.

Republican Erika Booth and Democrat Tom Keen are now competing for the seat.

The swingy nature of the district has both parties showing up in force now.

“The energy on the ground has been electric,” Driskell said.

U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost has rallied volunteers for canvassing events. State Reps. LaVon Bracy Davis, Rita Harris and Johanna López, all Central Florida Democrats, were knocking doors as well. Meanwhile, other lawmakers like state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, a Parkland Democrat, worked phone banks to reach voters.

But not every Republican lawmaker flew to Iowa. Perez, who chairs the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee this cycle, was part of field operations.

“The Speaker-designate, along with many members of the House Republican Caucus, were on the ground walking in HD 35 this weekend, as well as many volunteers and House Campaigns staff,” said Sarah Bascom, a spokesperson for Perez.

Other Republican lawmakers included state Rep. Jennifer Canady, a Lakeland Republican in line for House Speaker, and GOP state Reps. Doug Bankson and Berny Jacques, who both knocked on doors this week as well.

Republican Party of Florida Chair Evan Power was in Central Florida organizing a field team on the ground this weekend. Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried expects to hold a press conference there on Monday afternoon.

Both sides boast about knocking on thousands of doors this weekend, as early voting wound down. Now voters are heading into the Special Election, with polls opening at 7 a.m. Tuesday and closing at 7 p.m.

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].


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