Michael Johnson qualifies to challenge Cory Mills in CD 7
Does Michael Johnson believe America should have stopped at 10 amendments?

2 Democrats have also qualified for a Primary in the district.

A conservative activist in Seminole County has qualified to challenge U.S. Rep. Cory Mills in a Republican Primary.

Michael Johnson, who last year challenged state Sen. Joe Gruters for his Sarasota legislative seat, filed this week to run against Mills, a New Smyrna Beach Republican. On April 23, Johnson paid his $10,440 qualifying fee to appear on the Republican ballot in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Johnson has no relation to U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Two Democrats have also qualified in what could still become a battleground district. Tatiana Fernandez and Allek Pastrana both qualified to run.

Mills flipped CD 7 red last year after redistricting changed it from district Democrat Joe Biden won in the 2020 Presidential Election to one where 52% of voters favored Republican Donald Trump. U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, the Democratic incumbent, opted not to seek re-election. Mills ultimately won the seat with more than 58% of the vote in 2022 over Democrat Karen Green.

He also earlier that year won a contentious Republican Primary over far-right state lawmaker Anthony Sabatini. Mills won 38% of the vote to Sabatini’s 24%, with other candidates splitting the rest of the vote.

Johnson’s record shows he also represents an anti-establishment flank of the party. He’s been active for years with Grassroots For America, which in 2022 tried to overthrow the leadership of the Seminole County Republican Executive Committee.

When Gruters, then the Chair of the Republican Party of Florida, intervened and said activists couldn’t demand new officer elections, Johnson briefly moved to Sarasota to challenge him for his state Senate seat.

While he didn’t run on an extreme platform in that race, the agenda for Grassroots for America was controversial, particularly its support only for the “original” Bill of Rights. That seemed to discount such amendments approved after the Founding Fathers wrote the document, including ones giving Black Americans, women and 18-year-olds the right to vote.

Johnson after the 2022 elections returned to Lake Mary and has remained a critic of local Republican leadership.

Johnson’s late entry means he has not reported any fundraising to date. Mills reported at the end of March he had more than $223,000 in cash on hand, and has already spent more than $677,000 on his re-election

Democrat Jennifer Adams, who has not yet qualified, is the top fundraiser aside from Mills so far. She reported nearly $35,000 cash on hand at the end of the quarter. Patrana had about $12,000 and Fernandez had almost $16,000.

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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