While the 2013 legislative session has yet to commence, Republicans are already lining up to defeat freshman Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, next time around.
Dentel comes from one of the most prominent families in Florida politics. Her mother, Betty Castor, served as education commissioner and was the Democratic nominee in the U.S. Senate race that Republican Mel Martinez won in 2004. Dentels sister is U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who has been a proven winner for Democrats in the Tampa Bay area since being elected to Congress in 2006.
In 2012, Dentel, who had been a teacher, followed the family tradition and ran for office to represent parts of Orange and Seminole counties. Dentel won the House seat with 53 percent of the vote. Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, who moved out of his Seminole County base to help Rep. Chris Dorworth -- penciled in to be House speaker after the 2014 elections -- took 47 percent.
Plakon has his eyes set on the seat occupied by Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Longwood. But other Republicans are turning their attention to Dentel who has already filed for re-election.
In late January, Longwood City Commissioner Bob Cortes jumped into the race. "I want to promote conservative principles for our state and focus on building a strong economy, Cortes said in his announcement. With the help of the people of this district, I will go to Tallahassee to fight for our community."
Cortes has already won the backing of prominent Republicans,including former Rep. John Quinones, who ran for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson but lost in the primary in August.
"Bob Cortes is a distinguished leader who understands our community because he's raised his kids here, built several different small businesses, and stays involved in making our neighborhoods better, Quinones said in his endorsement. I am honored to call him a friend and to be a strong supporter of his candidacy for state representative."
Cortes team has not been shy about highlighting their candidates Puerto Rican heritage, hoping it will attract the attention of that demographic group which continues to grow throughout Central Florida.
But Cortes may not have an open shot at the Republican nomination. Lucas Boyce, an executive with the Orlando Magic and a former staffer in George W. Bushs White House, is also considering jumping into the contest. Attorney Ben Newman from GrayRobinson is also a possible candidate. A conservative activist, Newman has been raising his public profile recently including becoming chairman of the Foundation for Seminole State College of Floridas board of directors in September.
Will I or won't I be running for office in 2014? Newman posted on Twitter on Jan. 22, about meetings he was having in Tallahassee. Tomorrow's meetings will be a large factor in that decision. Stay tuned.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News.