Floridas gubernatorial election is set to win national attention next year, but the races for state Senate seats should see incumbents romping to victory.
Andy Gardiner, the next Senate president, should see familiar faces when he takes over after the elections. Not a single Florida senator will be term-limited in 2014 and all 20 members who are up for re-election next year have already filed to run.
Most senators dont even have opponents yet, even as the clock starts ticking. Republicans Greg Evers, Aaron Bean, John Thrasher, Dorothy Hukill, David Simmons, Thad Altman, Wilton Simpson, Jeff Brandes, Bill Galvano, Nancy Detert, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rene Garcia and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democrats Darren Soto, Maria Sachs and Oscar Braynon are already off and running without opposition in 2014. Most of those senators hold seats in districts where their party has a clear edge.
There are two Republicans who have filed to run against Democrat incumbent Geri Thompson. Fritz Jackson Seide has run for the seat before and did not impress. Republicans should have higher hopes for Edward DeAguilera, but hell have a tough time against Thompson in a heavy Democratic district. Republicans in Central Florida are looking to take down House Democrats in their area but defeating Thompson is low on their list of priorities.
Republican Jack Latvala is in fine shape to return to Tallahassee despite already having two opponents. Latavala easily beat Zahid Roy in the Republican primary and should do so again in 2014. Libertarian Tony Caso will be waiting, whoever wins the Republican primary. Latvala should have no problems turning back the challenges from both opponents.
Tom Lee has his eyes on becoming Senate president once again. First, hell have to get by Democrat Scott Landry next year. Lee should be in a good shape though there are enough Democrats here that its not quite the slam dunk as wins for Thompson and Latvala would be. This might be the closest general election contest for a Senate seat so far, but that tells you more about the rest of the races than Landrys chances.
Joe Negron has drawn a primary opponent in Brandon Michael Cannon. Gambling will be on center stage in this Republican primary. Cannon owned a senior arcade which was shut down by legislation backed by Negron and others that passed last year and was signed into law by Rick Scott. Negron should have little problem as he looks to keep his Senate seat, though Cannon is already off and running and has made frequent campaign appearances already.
While theres plenty of time for the races to change, so far there is little chance of a major or even a minor change in the Senate. As things stand, Gardiner can expect to preside over a chamber of experienced and very familiar senators.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.