As summer begins, Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda, appears in excellent shape as he seeks a fourth and final term next year in the Florida House.
Representing all of Charlotte County, Roberson chairs the Health Quality Subcommittee and also serves on the Health and Human Services and Judiciary committees, the Select Committee on PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), and the Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee. Born in Bradenton in 1943, a funeral director by trade, Roberson has deep ties to the area.
While active in community affairs before he was elected to the Florida House in 2008, he has generally not made a career of politics, though he did make an unsuccessful bid for a House seat back in 2004. Based on that record and his age, 2014 could well be his last campaign.
So far, he appears to be a heavy favorite next year. Since filing to run again on Nov. 7 -- the day after Election Day -- as of March 31, Roberson raised almost $15,000 and spent less than $570.
But Roberson does not have an open shot at re-election. Ronald Gillis, a former police dispatcher with North Port who currently works as a notary and mortgage broker, filed to run against Roberson back in December. Between then and March 31, Gillis did not set the world on fire, raising $500, loaning his campaign $300, using $109 through in-kind donations and spending around $250. But like Roberson, Gillis has deep ties to the area and has been active with the Charlotte and Sarasota chambers of commerce, the Open Network groups of Venice, Sarasota, and Bradenton, and the Southwest Florida Police Benevolent Association.
Roberson is looking to build on momentum from the last two election cycles. After winning his seat in 2008, Roberson utterly routed Democratic candidate Andrew Saltman in 2010, taking 66 percent of the vote. Roberson had an even easier go during the 2012 election cycle when he faced no opposition.
Republicans are starting to consolidate their already strong position in Charlotte County. While Bill Clinton almost took the county from George Bush and Bob Dole back in the 1990s, Charlotte County has backed Republicans in recent presidential cycles. Despite losing Florida to Barack Obama in November, Mitt Romney carried 56 percent of Charlotte County voters -- the best a Republican presidential hopeful has done there since Bush beat Michael Dukakis back in 1988. Despite it being the closest gubernatorial election in Florida history, Rick Scott routed Alex Sink by 14 percent in Charlotte County in 2010.
With a solid record of electoral success and a headstart on fundraising, Roberson looks like a heavy favorite in 2014. Even when he faces term limits in 2016, this House seat should remain with the Republicans.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine state News.