Statewide, Democrats Fail to Run Candidates in 47 of 120 House Districts
FlaglerLive | June 9, 2012
Legislative and congressional races were set Friday with the end of qualifying. There will be fewer than usual uncontested races, but still several newly drawn districts in which candidates were essentially elected because they’ll face no opposition.
In the Senate, nine incumbents – seven Republicans and two Democrats – will return automatically with no opposition on the ballot, even though they’re running in newly drawn districts.
In the only Senate race that will affect Flagler County voters (Flagler being entirely in this newly drawn Senate district) Democratic activist Kathleen Trued of St. Augustine qualified Friday to run against Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. Neither has any opposition in the primary for the new state Senate District 6. Thrasher, Rules Committee chairman this past year and a former speaker of the House and state Republican Party chairman, has raised nearly a half million for his re-election. Trued hasn’t raised any money.
One of the two major parties or the other sat out another four Senate races. One of those will be decided in a Republican primary between Jeff Brandes and Jim Frishe, and one in a Democratic primary between Mack Bernard and Jeff Clemens.
Two other Republicans drew no Democratic opposition – Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, will face no-party challenger Richard Harrison, and Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, will run against NPA candidate John Iler.
In the House, 33 candidates were essentially elected Friday, 29 of them incumbents and 4 newcomers. The newcomers who qualified with no opposition were: Travis Cummings, a Republican in District 18; Charlie Stone, a Republican in District 22; Democrat Victor Torres in District 48; and Shevrin Jones, a Democrat in House District 101.
As expected, Republicans, who already dominate the Legislature, will likely continue to do so.
Republicans failed to field a candidate in 23 House races, leaving either Democrats or no party or third party candidates to win those seats. But Democrats didn’t field a candidate in 47 of the 120 House districts.
Among those seats where Democrats won’t mount a challenge are more than a dozen in which it appeared they would have at least a fighting chance to win, according to voting statistics.
For example, in two House districts where a majority of the current voters went for Obama in 2008 – District 36 in the Pasco County area and District 83 in Port St. Lucie – the Democrats did not field a candidate this election cycle. In the Senate, no Democratic candidate was entered in District 22 in the Tampa Bay area, which would have been won by Obama in 2008.
In addition, no Democratic candidates were put up in 13 House districts and one Senate district in which Obama would have won at least 45 percent of the vote.
Both parties likely tried to field candidates in many races to avoid a new financial issue if they don’t: state election law requires candidates who don’t draw any opposition to empty out their campaign coffers. One of the things they can do with that money: plow it back into the party to be used in other races.
Despite the lack of candidates in so many races, a Democrat spokesman predicted the party would make gains in November.
“We are going to break the GOP supermajority in the Legislature and win congressional races across the state,” said David Bergstein, spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party
But Republicans look likely to retain commanding majorities in both chambers.
“What’s clear in today’s candidate qualifying is that Republicans will retain control of the state Legislature and possibly add to those majorities,” said Republican Party of Florida chairman Lenny Curry in a statement.
The nine Senate candidates essentially elected to office Friday were: Republican Sens. Charlie Dean, Nancy Detert, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Anitere Flores, Rene Garcia and Garrett Richter. Democrat Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens and Arthenia Joyner of Tampa were also unopposed.
Republicans also entered candidates in strongly leaning Democratic districts. Davie Republican Soren Swenson filed Friday to run against Democrat Jeremy Ring of Margate in Senate District 29 while Republican Juan Selaya of Hollywood filed Friday to run against Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, in Senate District 33.
On the congressional front, Florida will pick up two seats thanks to population growth over the past decade.
All congressional districts will be challenged with the exception of District 15, where Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican, will waltz into office without opposition. In District 6, the newly drawn district that includes all of Flagler County, two Democrats qualified (Heather Beaven and Vipin Verma) as did nine Republicans: Richard Clark, Fred Costello, Ron DeSantis, Bill Kogut, Craig Miller, Alec Pueschel and Beverly Slough.
Four newcomers will walk into the House: Two Republican and two Democratic newcomers were essentially elected to the House on Friday when qualifying closed and they didn’t have any opposition. Republican Travis Cummings, a benefits consulting firm owner and Clay County commissioner, will be elected to House District 18, which includes part of northern Clay County. “This new seat has given us the unique opportunity to elect one of Clay County’s own, and I am excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work, and be the strong conservative voice our families and neighbors need in Tallahassee,” Cummings, of Orange Park, said in a statement. “Having deep family roots in our community, it is important to me that we continue to grow our economy and create jobs for our residents and all Floridians.” In House District 22, a mostly rural area along the Nature Coast west of Gainesville and into the Ocala area, Republican Charlie Stone drew no opposition. Stone, owner of Stone Petroleum Products, is currently on the Marion County Commission. Two Democrats will walk unopposed into the House, as well. Victor Torres, a labor activist, was elected to District 48 in Orange County. “My district will have a tireless representative who will always remember that, too often, too many are left behind,” Torres said. “We will be changing that in the next legislative session…..For too long, the collective voice of Florida’s working class families has been silenced in Tallahassee. We will build a coalition that addresses their needs and concerns.” Torres, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is a former New York City Transit cop. The other Democrat elected without opposition is Shevrin Jones, who was the only candidate to qualify in District 101 in Broward County.
William McBride, Republican Orlando attorney and loser of the 2006 GOP primary for the U.S. Senate to Katherine Harris, is making a run at state Senate District 14 in Orange and Osceola counties. He’ll face Democratic state Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, in the heavily-Hispanic district.
Victoria Siplin, the wife of outgoing Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, will face Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, in the primary for Senate District 12 in the Orlando area. Gary Siplin is leaving the Legislature because of term limits. The winner of the Democratic primary will be the favorite in the district, which will heavily favor a Democrat. But they will have to face Republican Fritz Jackson Seide in the November election.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, drew a late Democratic challenger in Senate District 20 after himself toying with the idea of running in another district. Latvala, who hopes to be Senate president in the future, will face Democratic newcomer Ashley M. Rhodes-Courter of St. Petersburg in the race for the Tampa Bay area seat. Rhodes-Courter, while very young, has an interesting personal story. A former foster child who bounced around through 14 foster homes and 9 schools until being adopted at age 12, she’s become a child activist and the host of an Emmy award winning TV program called “Explore Adoption,” has a written a New York Times best-selling book, and is a foster parent.
Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford will stand unchallenged for re-election in both August and November with no other candidates qualifying to be on the ballot against the Wesley Chapel Republican slated to take over the chamber in November. Senate President-designate Don Gaetz wasn’t so lucky. Gaetz, R-Niceville, has no primary opposition, and the Democratic Party stayed out of the race, but he’ll have to face no party candidate Richard Harrison in November.
–News Service of Florida