Well, it’s that time of year. We’re about a month away from the Aug. 14 primary, so I’m going to start the ball rolling at looking through each and every race for the state Legislature, state Senate, and House of Representatives. Every candidate is included in the writeup, except for no-party-affiliation candidates (because why bother?) and write-in candidates because those are almost always a political ploy. In Florida, primaries are open — that is, anyone can vote in them — if there are only candidates from one party on the ballot. So, for example, if only two Democrats are running, than anyone can vote in that primary, since it essentially becomes the general election. But if candidates from several parties are in the race, then the primaries become closed — in other words, only members of the party can vote. Both parties have gotten around the open primary rule by sticking write-in candidates in any race where only their own party members are running, thus insuring that no one from outside the party can vote. Yay democracy! Below, I’ve categorized the first 30 of the 120 state Legislature seats, which covers North Florida. Next Wednesday, I’ll put up districts 31-60 (eastern Central Florida), then next Friday districts 61-90 (western Central Florida and northern South Florida), then districts 91-120 (the rest of South Florida) the Wednesday after that. I’ll follow that up with state Senate races on Friday, July 20, U.S. House races the following Wednesday, and finally summarize the whole odyssey that Friday.
It’s important to get this stuff out there ahead of the primaries, rather than in November, because in many districts, the races simply aren’t competitive between the two parties, even with the recently passed Fair Districts amendments. These districts are all newly drawn based on 2010 U.S. Census information, but as you’ll see below, in many cases, would-be state Legislators are running unopposed, so you’ve got about as much choice in representation as your typical Syrian or North Korean. Again, hooray for democracy!
STATE HOUSE RACES, DISTRICTS 1-30
District 1: Northern Escambia County, the end of the panhandle
Candidates: Republican Clay Ingram
Outlook: Ingram is running unopposed.
District 2: Southern Escambia County, Pensacola and Gulf Breeze
Outlook: Bosso is a newcomer, while Ford is the current state Rep. in District 3, running essentially for re-election in the newly drawn 2nd district. He’s a known entity, has raised far more money, and despite Bosso’s running as a Christian conservative, Ford has the endorsement of Florida Right to Life.
District 3: All of Santa Rosa County except Gulf Breeze, northern Okaloosa County
Outlook: Similar to District 2, we have a political newcomer (Williamson) vs. a state Rep. seeking re-election in a newly drawn district (Broxson). Unlike in the 2nd, though, Williamson has raised over $30,000 – chump change in South Florida, but enough to make a run for it in the panhandle. On the larger issues, he’s running a campaign to the right of Broxson, promising to “fight against any attack on Florida’s Castle Doctrine, Stand Your Ground and the 1987 Firearm Preemption Law,” along with similar bromides on “government overreach” and “conservative family values.” But Broxson is a life-long resident of Milton, the district’s largest town, and performed well during the BP oil-spill crisis. There’s just not a lot of reason to toss him out of office, and Williamson hasn’t given voters any good ones.
District 4: Southern Okaloosa County – Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Niceville
Candidates: Republican Matt Gaetz
Outlook: Gaetz is running unopposed.
District 5: Walton, Holmes, Washington, and Jackson counties, along with a thin strip of northern Bay County
Outlook: If you’ve been reading through the races up till now, this will sound eerily familiar. Marti Coley is running for re-election in a newly drawn district, while Danny Glidewell is a political novice trying to fill the seat. This race is more like District 2 than 3, though – Glidewell has raised little cash and faces an almost impossibly tough upset victory. The former Walton County Sheriff’s deputy and director of the Walton County Corrections Department lists his occupation as “sports official” on his Facebook site. He refs high-school games.
District 6: Bay County, including Panama City, Panama City Beach, and Mexico Beach
Candidates: Republican Jimmy Patronis
Outlook: Patronis is running unopposed.
District 7: Calhoun, Gulf, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor and Lafayette counties, along with the southwest portion of Leon County. Includes Bristol, Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, Madison, Monticello, Perry, and Mayo
Outlook: Finally, we’ve got a race. Or maybe not. At the very least, we’ve got candidates from both parties, so that’s something. But Curtis, Westbrook, and Williams are all running way behind Beshears in fundraising, which is especially important in such a sprawling district. Meanwhile, Dickens, Hill, and Smith have all raised enough cash to be interesting, but Dickens and Smith have about $50,000 a pop to Hill’s $10,000, and both Dickens and Smith have compelling stories, the former an Iraq War combat veteran, the latter a former cop.
Pick: Beshears and Dickens in the primary, Beshears in the general
District 8: Gadsden County and a big chunk of the middle of Leon County, including part of Tallahassee
Candidates: Democrat Alan Williams
Outlook: Williams is running unopposed.
District 9: The rest of Leon County, including most of Tallahassee
Outlook: This could be a serious race. Neither candidate has primary competition, and both have raised a similar amount of cash. But Vasilinda is the incumbent candidate in District 9, and the redrawn district should only benefit her – the new District 9 loses some area along the Georgia border and adds territory around Tallahassee.
District 10: Hamilton, Suwanee, Columbia, and Baker counties, along with a small patch of northern Alachua County
Candidates: Republican Elizabeth Porter
Outlook: Porter is running unopposed.
District 11: Nassau County, along with the east side of Duval, including Jacksonville Beach, Hilliard, and Callahan
Outlook: Adkins has raised six figures; Byrd and Smith haven’t raised five figures between the two of them.
Pick: Adkins in the primary, Adkins in the general
District 12: Eastern Jacksonville
Outlook: C’mon. Green Party?
District 13: Downtown Jacksonville
Candidates: Democrat Reggie Fullwood
Outlook: Fullwood is running unopposed.
District 14: Northwestern Duval County, including parts of Jacksonville
Outlook: C’mon. Libertarians?
District 15: Southwestern Duval County, including parts of Jacksonville
Candidates: Republican Daniel Davis
Outlook: Davis is running unopposed.
District 16: Southeastern Duval County
Candidates: Republican Charles McBurney
Outlook: McBurney is running unopposed.
District 17: North St. Johns County, including St. Augustine
Outlook: Doc Renuart was written out of his old district in Ponte Vedra Beach in the redistricting, so he’s carpet-bagged his way down south to St. Augustine. Newcomers Davis and Kendall want to send him back up to Ponte Vedra. Davis has pulled in some business-group endorsements, and those sort of groups usually back the incumbent in Republican races.
Pick: Tossup, though if I gotta pick, I go Davis
District 18: North Clay County, including Orange Park
Candidates: Republican Travis Cummings
Outlook: Cummings is running unopposed.
District 19: Union, Bradford, and Putnam counties, along with most of Clay County, including Lake Butler, Starke, and Palatka
Candidates: Republican Charles Van Zant
Outlook: Van Zant is running unopposed.
Pick: Van Zant
District 20: Most of Alachua County and northeastern Marion County
Outlook: As in most states with only candidates from one party running, there is a negligible write-in candidate on the ballot. This insures that only Democrats vote in the Democratic primary (or Republicans in the Republican primary). And that means a more-activist, well-informed voter. And that means that Watson should get stomped. Twice a turncoat, Watson jumped from the Democrats to the Republicans and then hopped back to the Democrats in 2008 when Obama took the White House in a vain effort to secure a federal gig. Rumors persist that he’s already making deals to jump to the GOP if Democrats are stupid enough to elect him this time around.
District 21: Dixie and Gilchrist counties, as well as the western tip of Alachua County, including most of Gainesville
Outlook: Bosshardt has raised way more money, but Morey has some political experience in as much as he worked in the State Attorney’s office prosecuting bad guys. It’s not much, but it’s at least a compelling narrative, and voters love that sort of thing. Of course, that doesn’t matter much if no one knows who you are.
Pick: Tossup, but with a gun to my head, Bosshardt, who then goes on to beat Perry in the general
District 22: Levy County and the southern part of Marion County
Candidates: Republican Charlie Stone
Outlook: Stone is running unopposed.
District 23: East Marion County, including Ocala
Candidates: Republican Dennis Baxley
Outlook: Baxley is running unopposed
District 24: South St. Johns County, Flagler County, and west Volusia County, including Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, and Pierson
Outlook: Flagler is a deeply conservative area filled with aging retirees who trust Obama about as far as they can throw him – which is to say, not at all. Still, the newly drawn district mostly consists of Flagler County, and county commissioner Holland hopes to convince those voters that the general election should be about Flagler County having a voice in the state House. Whichever of Courtney and Holland wins, St. Johns County businessman Hutson awaits him or her in the general election, armed with a mountain of cash.
Pick: Holland in the primary, Hutson in the general
District 25: East Volusia County, along the beach from Ormond Beach to New Smyrna Beach, with just a sliver of land along Daytona Beach
Candidates: Republican Dave Hood
Outlook: Aside from an indie candidate, Christina Spencer-Kephart, Hood is running unopposed.
District 26: Central Volusia County, from DeLand in the southwest to Daytona Beach and Holly Hill in the northeast
Candidates: Democrat Dwayne Taylor
Outlook: Taylor is running unopposed.
District 27: South Volusia County, from DeBary and Orange City to Oak Hill
Outlook: Sheesh. Little money raised all around, no obvious charisma … Santiago was a city commissioner half a decade ago, and Mulder was mayor of the same town, Deltona. The race might play up some history from those candidates’ Deltona days, when the mayor’s political enemies organized a recall election against Mulder after the mayor supported “possible lawsuits against people who speak out, write or blog against leaders and actions in city government,” a nakedly unconstitutional bit of stupidity. The other candidate, Trovato, become City Attorney in Deltona after getting his law degree from Pat Robertson’s Regent University and was subsequently fired over charges of incompetence. Oy.
Pick: Santiago in the primary and the general
District 28: East Seminole County, including Oviedo, Sanford and Winter Springs
Outlook: Brodeur should lose. Because he is a moron. But he is also an incumbent, and one who has raised well in excess of $100,000 at that. He could lose to the right candidate, but that candidate is not three-time Winter Springs mayor Bush.
Pick: Brodeur by a mile
District 29: West Seminole County, including Longwood and Lake City
Outlook: Dorworth, the incumbent, has suffered from numerous financial scandals recently and is in the throes of a divorce. Onest is negligible. Moffitt is Dorworth’s only real competition, but only just – Dorworth has raised more than a quarter million dollars. In the general, the Republican primary winner will face Democratic firefighter Clelland.
Pick: Dorworth in the primary and the general
District 30: Northwestern Orange County, including Maitland
Outlook: Dentel, the sister of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, looks to break into politics by upsetting an incumbent Republican in a newly drawn, but ever-so-red, district. Lots of points for chutzpah, but good luck with that.