Gulf Breeze News publisher files to challenge Don Gaetz in SD 1

Lisa Newell copy
Lisa Newell filed to challenge the former Senate President, though she got key parts of her opponent's biography wrong.

Newspaper publisher Lisa Newell has filed to challenge former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz’s bid to return to the Capitol. But she also flubbed parts of her opponent’s biography.

Newell filed this week as a Democrat in Senate District 1. The Gulf Breeze News publisher announced her candidacy in an op-ed. in the South Santa Rosa News, a paper unaffiliated with her company.

She acknowledged the long odds running as a Democrat in one of Florida’s most conservative state Senate districts. But she said voters in the Panhandle deserve to have choices on the ballot. She told Florida Politics that she spoke to party leaders about finding another candidate in the race before ultimately deciding to run herself.

“I just kept seeing there was no opposition,” she said. “We can’t just not have a candidate. We have to run someone. I think our area is so reliably red that most say it’s not worth the effort. But I thought we needed to have a choice on the menu.”

Indeed, more than 63% of voters in SD 1 supported Republican Donald Trump for President in 2020, and nearly 70% backed Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ re-election in 2022. But that’s no reason for Democrats to sit out Panhandle politics entirely, she wrote in her op-ed.

“The problem with this method is that voters are told who will represent them in this election and in the next and the one after that. In many races, there is no debate, no need to campaign,” she wrote. “Just put your name on the ballot and take your seat as the county officer, state representative or state senator. Then, you can put your son on the ballot and he can have your seat when your two terms are up.”

That last bit was a clear barb at U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, son of Don Gaetz. She noted that Matt Gaetz served in the Florida House while Don Gaetz represented the same area in the Senate, though she misstates the series of events leading to that.

“You may remember that Don Gaetz served as State Representative then ran for State Senate, with Matt running for his house seat,” she wrote.

But Don Gaetz never served in the state House. Rather, he served as Okaloosa County’s elected school superintendent before running for the state Senate in 2006, as reported by the Pensacola News-Journal. Matt Gaetz won election to the state House in a 2010 Special Election to succeed state House Speaker Ray Sansom following the once-powerful legislator’s resignation from a Panhandle seat. The younger Gaetz went on to win a seat in Congress in 2016.

Newell acknowledged the error to Florida Politics.

She said her campaign will focus on a number of economic issues impact Floridians day to day.

“One of my main issues is property insurance. We are all getting squeezed from all directions,” she said. “We are ranked 50 of 50 in our schools, I think because we are making a lot of changes to accommodate private schools. I’m also concerned about high energy and civil rights, and the fact we have Airbnb and short-term rentals in our neighborhoods and we have no say in that.”

It’s unusual for media figures to run for office, many preferring an independent posture as members of the “fourth estate.” But the 23-year publisher has no plans to take a leave of absence at Gulf Breeze News, a community paper focused more on local government.

She doesn’t expect the race to receive significant coverage in the publication outside of candidate questionnaires and spotlights that dedicate equal space to both sides.

Florida Democrats have vowed this year to run a candidate in every legislative district. Newell said she decided to run after attending the state party’s Leadership Blue event in Orlando and speaking with grassroots organizations about the push to field a full slate of Democratic candidates.

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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    May 15, 2024 at 5:46 pm

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    • Hung Wiil

      May 15, 2024 at 8:39 pm

      You suck and this Democrat lady will get crushed in November


  • Earl Pitts "The Big Voice On The Right" American

    May 15, 2024 at 7:02 pm

    Good evening America,
    We are going to have an FDLE audit on Lisa’s campaign funding and spending. We are going to account for every red cent comming in and going out.
    Everyone knows Dook 4 Brains Leftist politicions have no chance in ANY election after tje Epic Fail of the 08iden Sad-Ministration.
    All Democratic Candidates 100% know they have ZERO chance of winning so anyone running is just trying to scam Geo. $oros out of his NAZI money.
    We got our eye on you Dook 4 Brains Lisa,
    Elvis Pitts American


    • rick whitaker

      May 15, 2024 at 7:41 pm



  • Elvis Pitts "AMERICA'S BIG VOICE ON THE RIGHT" American

    May 15, 2024 at 8:20 pm

    Good evening America,
    I, Elvis Pitts American, and all members of the Elvis Pitts American Fan Club have been concerned about Rick’s Soul after all the time he spends Blastphieming The Son Of Man, Our Lord And Savour,7 Jesus Christ.
    So I placed a call to The Heavenly Hosts on my Prayer Phone to ask if I could bring Rick up to Heaven to work for me. I was advised that would be a violation of Heaven’s Southern Border Laws as well as The Heavenly Constitution. If we were to let Rick cross over Heaven”s Southern Border he might be part of a sleeper cell of Demonic Terriorists from HeII.
    They said once Rick ( or any un-Repentant Sinner ) is sent to HEII they can not Cross Over.
    Thank you America,
    Elvis Pitts American


    • rick whitaker

      May 15, 2024 at 8:46 pm



  • Ian

    May 15, 2024 at 9:36 pm

    From the article:
    It’s unusual for media figures to run for office, many preferring an independent posture as members of the “fourth estate.”



  • Morris Fraser

    May 16, 2024 at 12:08 pm

    Lisa, you picked a tough road to travel. But you took the path with your eyes open. Best of luck.


  • Keith Gillum

    May 27, 2024 at 12:49 am

    Amen. That’s right. Voters should have a choice. If you don’t have a choice, you aren’t free. I’m happy Lisa is running.


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