Current, Former House Members Look to Move Up to Senate in 2012
Around the State
With the Legislature not tackling redistricting until early 2012, a crowd of familiar faces from both past and present sessions of the Florida House will be looking to make the jump to the Senate. As one of the consequences of redistricting, all 40 seats in the Senate will be up in November 2012 -- giving 14 House members, past and present, a chance to head over to the other side of the Legislature.
With Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, facing term limits, two veteran First Coast Democrats are looking to take the District 1 seat which currently includes parts of Duval, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties. Former Rep. Terry Fields, a longtime fixture of Jacksonville’s political scene as a member of the City Council and the Duval County Civil Service Board, has already thrown his name in the hat and has set up a website. But he does not have a clear shot at the nomination. Former Rep. Audrey Gibson, who served four terms in the House, eventually becoming Democratic floor leader, stands in his path. As of the end of 2010, Fields has been keeping his powder dry. While he has raised more than $91,000, he has kept most of it, spending almost $28,000. That’s more than Gibson had raised in the same period. By the end of 2010, she raised almost $24,000 but has burned through most of it, spending more than $20,500. While there is plenty of time in the race, for the moment, Fields has a solid financial advantage.
Former Rep. Aaron Bean put together an impressive start in 2010 and early 2011 for his bid to replace Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, who faces term limits in 2012. After flirting with running for the Senate seat left vacant by the death of former Senate President Jim King, Bean pulled out and threw his weight behind eventual winner John Thrasher. Since that time, Bean has been keeping busy, raising more than $240,000 by the end of 2010 and spending more than $50,000 as he looks to take the District 5 seat which currently represents parts of Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties. This has earned Bean the backing of many Republicans across the state -- including much of the Senate leadership. Bean’s early start forced former Rep. Dick Kravitz, a longtime fixture of Jacksonville politics, to pull the plug on his own bid and run for tax collector of Duval County. While Bean has cautioned supporters, saying that other candidates may enter the race, he has a solid head start on whoever else emerges.
With Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, facing term limits in 2012, so far only one candidate has emerged to run in Senate District 7, which currently contains parts of Clay, Marion, Putnam and Volusia counties. It’s Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, a veteran of Volusia County politics who won four terms in the House, eventually rising to chair the Economic Affairs Committee. After winning a fourth term in November 2010, Hukill turned her focus to the 2012 Senate campaign, bringing in more than $14,000 and spending less than $21.
House Speaker Pro Tempore John Legg, R-Port Richey, has filed to run for the District 11 Senate seat currently held by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. The district currently contains parts of Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Legg filed the paperwork with the state Division of Elections in January so there are no financial reports out on his campaign yet. So far, he is the only candidate to announce for the seat.
Two Republicans have filed paperwork to run for the District 13 seat currently held by Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, which includes parts of Pinellas County. Rep. Jim Frishe, R-Belleair Bluffs, a veteran of the House who first served three terms in the 1980s before returning in 2006, will be seeking the Republican nomination. Standing in his path is fellow Republican former Rep. Leslie Waters, first elected to the House in 1998 and eventually rising to be speaker pro tempore after the 2004 elections. With Frishe and Waters joining the race in the first months of 2011, no financial reports have been submitted to the state yet for a race that is shaping up to be one to watch.
Another interesting Republican primary is shaping up in District 15 for the seat currently held by Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, who represents parts of Hernando, Lake, Osceola, Polk and Sumter counties. Both former Polk County Commissioner Jack Myers and Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, filed to run for the Senate back in November 2009. Their financial numbers are very similar . By the end of 2010, Stargel raised more $94,000 and spent almost $41,000 of that amount. Myers raked in almost $95,000 and spent more than $43,000.
Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, currently chairs the House Appropriations Committee and is facing term limits in 2012. She’s looking to run for the Senate seat currently held by another Tallahassee budget guru, Sen. J.D. Alexander of Winter Haven, who represents all of Hardee and Highlands counties as well as parts of DeSoto, Glades, Okeechobee, Polk and St. Lucie counties. With no other candidates in the race, Grimsley has built up an impressive war chest, raising more than $136,000 by the end of 2010 and spending more than $20,000 of it.
Rep. Geri Thompson, D-Orlando, has set her sights on the District 19 Senate seat, currently held by term-limited Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, representing parts of Orange and Osceola counties. Two other Democrats have jumped into the race -- Robert Acosta who ran against Republicans Sandy Adams in a House election back in 2008, and former Rep. Curt Levine. None of the candidates has released financial figures for the election yet.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, was elected to the Florida Senate in 2010, taking District 20 which contains parts of Lake, Marion, Seminole, Sumter, and Volusia counties. Hays may face a primary challenge from former Rep. Pat Patterson. Patterson, who represented parts of Flagler and Volusia counties for eight years in the House, pulled out of the state CFO primary race to back eventual winner Jeff Atwater, and announced that he was running for the Senate in 2012. While he has done little in the way of fund-raising since then, Patterson is sitting on more than $45,000.
Former Rep. Bill Galvano wants to head back to Tallahassee. Galvano, who left after the 2010 elections due to term limits, has his eyes on the seat currently held by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, which represents parts of Charlotte, DeSoto, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties. By the end of 2010, Galvano brought in more than $216,000 and spent more than $72,000. With no other candidates filing paperwork yet, Galvano should have a head start over the competition with his war chest.
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, like Hays, won election to the Senate in 2010 -- and, like Hays, may face a challenger in the Republican primary with roots in the House. First elected to the House in 2004, Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, who is facing term limits, filed for the Senate seat -- which currently represents parts of Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, Lee, and Palm Beach counties -- back in February. Neither side has released fund-raising reports yet. This could rank as one of the more interesting Senate primary battles come 2012, provided there are no major changes from redistricting.
With Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston facing term limits, Rep. Marty Kiar, D-Davie, is looking to move up to take the seat which currently contains parts of Broward and Miami-Dade County. Kiar, who was elected to the House back in 2006, is the only candidate to emerge so far. He announced in January and has yet to file a financial report with the state.
Some familiar faces in the Senate have already filed to run for another term in 2012. These include Republicans Thad Altman of Viera, Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale, Charles Dean of Inverness, Nancy Detert of Venice, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami, Greg Evers of Crestview, Anitere Flores of Miami, Don Gaetz of Niceville, Rene Garcia of Hialeah, Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner of Orlando, Jack Latavala of St. Petersburg, Joe Negron of Palm City, Jim Norman of Tampa, Stephen Oelrich of Gainesville, Garrett Richter of Naples, David Simmons of Altamonte Springs, Ronda Storms of Brandon, and John Thrasher of Jacksonville. Senate Democrats who have filed to run for re-election in 2012 include Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, Gwen Margolis of Miami, Bill Montford of Tallahassee, Jeremy Ring of Margate, Maria Sachs of Delray Beach, Chris Smith of Oakland Park and Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood. Nadia Pierre has filed for the seat currently held by Sen. Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens who was elected earlier in the month. Braynon is expected to run again in 2012.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.