Florida Senate Incumbents Sitting Pretty
Around the State
Incumbents in the Florida Senate are sitting pretty despite November looming. Only seven of the 20 senators facing the voters in November have opponents and only one of the races can be called competitive.
Tampa Bay Republican Jeff Brandes is the only senator who has drawn a major challenger so far in Democrat Judithanne McLauchlan, a professor at the University of South Florida. McLauchlan has an impressive background working with the New Hampshire Democrats and being one of John Kerry’s chief organizers in Florida back in 2004. But Brandes has been successful in getting his message out and raising funds. With Republicans outnumbering Democrats in this Tampa Bay district, Brandes starts off with the edge, though McLauchlan is a live underdog and Democrats are building momentum in the area.
McLauchlan will be competitive, which is more than can be said about the other Senate races. Joe Negron is facing a lively Republican primary opponent in Brandon Cannon who is bashing the incumbent over Internet cafes and gambling. Cannon has brought in more than $11,000, loaned his campaign more than $26,150 and spent almost $33,800 by the end of January. But Negron has raised more than $486,000 and spent almost $91,200. Democrat Bruno Moore has brought in less than $750, far behind either Negron or Cannon.
Democrat Maria Sachs is the latest senator to get an opponent. Republicans would love to defeat Sachs in her swing district but no candidates from the GOP have stepped up to the plate. Jonathan Jamal Marc entered the race and is running with no party affiliation but he has little chance to defeat Sachs.
Nor should other senators expect much in the way of competition from their current opponents. Democrat Geri Thompson has a safe district and leads her two Republican foes in the money chase. Jack Latvala should have no problem with Zahid Roy in the Republican primary. After all, Latvala easily beat Roy in 2012. Latvala should also face little competition from Libertarian Tony Caso. Republican Tom Lee has nothing to worry about in Democratic challenger Scott Landry. Lizbeth Benacquisto is rightfully more concerned with her congressional race than Senate primary opponent Thomas LePine.
But the other senators are on cruise control: Republicans Greg Evers, Aaron Bean, John Thrasher, Dorothy Hukill, David Simmons, Thad Altman, Wilton Simpson, Bill Galvano, Nancy Detert, Rene Garcia and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. The same holds true of Democrats Darren Soto and Oscar Braynon.
Even if Brandes and, to a lesser extent, Negron have to sweat a little, they start off as the favorites. Tallahassee should expect little, if any, changes in the Florida Senate come November.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.