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Geri Thompson Faces Gary Siplin in Senate Primary Battle

April 14, 2014 - 6:00pm
After months indicating there will be almost no competitive Florida Senate races this year, incumbent Geri Thompson drew a major foe this week in Gary Siplin who held the seat for a decade.

Both Thompson and Siplin are veterans of Tallahassee. Siplin was elected to the Florida House in 2000 and moved over to the Senate in 2002. After running for the House in 2002 and 2004 without success, Thompson finally won a seat in 2006 and moved up to the Democratic leadership, serving as Democratic leader pro tempore in her second term in Tallahassee.

When Siplin faced term limits in 2012, Thompson ran for the open Senate seat. But Thompson faced a major primary rival in Victoria Siplin, wife of the retiring senator. Thompson managed to win 56 percent to 44 percent in an ugly competitive primary.

But Siplin is now looking at running himself against Thompson. Before filing this week, Siplin insisted people across his district were asking him to run. Now Siplin is gearing up to run against the senator who defeated his wife last time out.

Thompson hasnt exactly impressed with her fundraising which could hurt her in the expensive Orlando market. By the end of March, Thompson had brought in less than $92,550 and spent more than $22,000 of it.

Siplin has been able to count on the business communitys support before and it should back him just as it did his wife over Thompson in 2012. But Siplin has had some problems before. In 2006, Siplin was convicted of felonies but was not expelled from the Senate for his actions. He faced a major political scare in 2008 when Republican Belinda Ortiz almost beat him. Still, that was before redistricting and this is a more Democratic district.

This is a Democratic district and whoever wins the primary will be headed back to Tallahassee. Frequent candidate Fritz Jackson Seide is running for the seat once again but hes never been much of a factor and isnt about to be one now. Edward DeAguilera is a more promising possibility for Republicans with ties to the area and a fascinating story, but he wont be a threat to whoever wins the Democratic primary.

With Siplin standing to Thompsons right, look for the business community to root for him and perhaps support him. Republicans know Siplin and theyve worked better with him than Thompson. During his last years in Tallahassee, Siplin even chaired the Agriculture Committee despite the GOP controlling the chamber.

This is shaping up as a major battle with liberal interests backing Thompson and the business community at least looking at supporting Siplin. While the general election will be a blowout, this primary is now the most competitive Senate race this year.

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

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