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DeSantis' Departure Leaves Conservative CD 6 a Free-for-All

May 9, 2015 - 6:00pm

Now running for the Senate, Ron DeSantis is giving plenty of other Florida Republicans the political chance of a lifetime with an open congressional seat.

DeSantis represents a district thats not exactly clustered around a single city. Starting off in the outskirts of Jacksonville, including posh areas like Ponte Vedra Beach, the district heads south, taking in St. Augustine and all of Flagler County before hitting Daytona Beach and New Smyrna in Volusia County. Breaking off to the west, touching Lake George, the district covers large parts of Putnam County, almost to the outskirts of Gainesville.

No surprise considering how conservative the voters in this area are, the seat is a lock for the Republicans and plenty of candidates are looking at entering the primary. But several of these candidates have little in the way of ties to the district and, at this early stage, nobody is even close to being a front-runner. This should be a competitive primary next August.

Sandy Adams is gearing up to run and she did cover parts of Volusia County during her one term in Congress. But Adams has been based in Seminole County for her political career and is largely unknown in DeSantis district, especially outside of Volusia County.

Adams will have competition in the southern part of the district.

Adam Barringer is already up and running and he has a solid base of support in Volusia County from his time as mayor of New Smyrna.

Dorothy Hukill could also run and, if she does, she will also rely heavily on Volusia County. Currently Hukill represents parts of Lake, Marion and Volusia counties in the state Senate and, like Adams and Barringer, her name isnt exactly well-known in the northern part of St. Johns County.

Add in the possibility of David Santiago, yet another Republican with deep ties to Volusia County, and the southern part of the district could get a little crowded, much as it did in 2012 when Fred Costello and Craig Miller slit each other's throats and helped DeSantis easily win a crowded primary.

There certainly are candidates from the northern part of the district looking at running as well. John Rutherford isnt running for another term as sheriff of Duval County so, like Adams, he could parachute into the district. Rutherford is known in the northern part of the district and hes currently featured in commercials running across the First Coast for Lenny Curry, blaming Alvin Brown for the rising crime in Jacksonville.

But Rutherford is not alone and there are other candidates from northern CD 6 looking at the race. Having just won a special election for an open state Senate seat, Travis Hutson would be a top contender if he runs and he currently represents a large part of the congressional district. But Hutson is still new to his current job and voters might not want to see him hopping from one office to another after just having been elected. Doc Renuart could also be a factor even if he just lost to Hutson in the special Senate primary.

Theres also another factor which could determine what happens. A political outsider could swoop in and run to the right of the politicians, something DeSantis successfully did in 2012.

Its still very early in the process and some of the possible contenders will end up sitting this one out. But with no front-runner and little to fear from the Democrats in this district, DeSantis moving over to the Senate race offers a golden opportunity for plenty of Florida Republicans.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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