Few Competitive Races for Florida Senate Seats Come November
Around the State
Qualifying for the Florida Senate ended on Friday and few incumbents will face major challenges this year. With 26 of the 40 seats under their control, Republicans are in no danger of losing control of the Senate as Democrats are running only three candidates against sitting Republican senators.
After beating fellow Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff in a contest of two sitting senators that resulted from redistricting two years ago, Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, can expect to face a serious Republican opponent come November. Bogdanoff is running for the Republican nomination and she’ll face businessman and philanthropist Joseph “JB” Bensmihen in the primary. Conservative Karin Hoffman did not qualify in the Republican primary. If she wins, Bogdanoff is expected to support Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala's Senate presidential ambitions. Sachs beat Bogdanoff 53 percent to 47 percent in 2012.
Sen. Geri Thompson, D-Orlando, faces former Sen. Gary Siplin, who held the seat for a decade before being term-limited in 2012, in the Democratic primary. In 2012, Thompson beat Victoria Siplin, the former senator’s wife, in the Democratic primary 56 percent to 44 percent. On the Republican side, community activist Edward DeAguilera and attorney Fritz Jackson Seide will face each other in the primary. Thompson defeated Seide 69 percent to 31 percent in the 2012 general election.
Over in Tampa Bay, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, will square off against Democrat Judithanne McLauchlan. A professor at the University of South Florida, McLauchlan worked for the New Hampshire Democrats.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, who is running against Latvala to become Senate president after the 2016 elections, will face businessman Brandon Cannon in the Republican primary in August. Cannon, who owned a senior arcade in Port St. Lucie, has been sharply critical of Negron’s role in cracking down on electronic gaming. Democrat Bruno Moore and write-in candidate Matthew Joshua Loew will face whoever wins the primary in this traditionally Republican district.
Latvala will face businessman Zahid Roy in the Republican primary. Back in 2012, Latvala took 86 percent when he ran against Roy who garnered 14 percent in the primary. Libertarian Tony Caso will face whoever wins the Republican primary.
Even as he continues aspiring to become president of Florida State University, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, drew three opponents. Documentary film maker Derek Hankerson is challenging Thrasher in the Republican primary. Retired teacher Kathleen Trued is running once again against Thrasher as the Democratic candidate while Greg Feldman is in the race with no party affiliation. Thrasher beat Trued by more than 17 percent in 2012.
Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, will face conservative activist Michael Dreikorn in the Republican primary. The two Republicans met earlier this year in the special election primary to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., in Congress. Businessman Curt Clawson won with 38 percent followed by Benacquisto in second with 26 percent. Dreikorn lagged behind in fourth with 11 percent.
On the Space Coast, Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, faces a Republican primary challenge from businesswoman Monique Miller. Whoever wins will face write-in candidate Lloyd Stanton French in November.
Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, has a Democratic primary opponent in accountant Anis “Auguste” Blemur. Write-in candidate William Burton Moreland will face whoever wins the Democratic nomination.
Two senators from Central Florida will face opponents with no party affiliation but don’t have major party challengers. Devin Norton will challenge Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, in November. Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, faces Walter Osborne in the general election.
While there are no candidates on the ballot to challenge Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, two write-in candidates qualified: Brandon R. Thebeau and Steven P. Warren.
Eight Republican senators -- Aaron Bean of Jacksonville, Nancy Detert of Venice, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami, Greg Evers of Pensacola, Bill Galvano of Bradneton, Rene Garcia of Hialeah, Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange and Wilton Simpson of New Port Richey -- were elected without opposition.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.