LaRosa Faces Challengers in Florida House Race
Around the State
Mike LaRosa had a tough path to the Florida House in 2012 and things won’t come easy this year either as a new major opponent filed paperwork on Wednesday to challenge him.
LaRosa has had one of the strangest roads to the Florida Legislature in recent memory. Mike Horner was well on his way to another term in the Florida House when his name surfaced in a prostitution investigation in September 2012, a month after the Republican primary. Horner dropped out of the race and Republicans picked LaRosa to replace him in the race. But Horner’s name was still on the ballot even though the votes would go to LaRosa. Eileen Game came close to picking up the seat for the Democrats but, when the dust settled, LaRosa won by less than 530 votes.
Game certainly benefited from Barack Obama’s and Bill Nelson’s coattails as well as Horner’s name remaining on the ballot, but Democrats are making inroads in Central Florida. This district, which includes parts of Osceola and Polk counties, simply is not the Republican stronghold that Horner’s district was before redistricting in 2012. Democrats have the edge in registered voters but Republicans can do well here and Rick Scott handily beat out Alex Sink here in 2010.
Two Democrats have stepped up to run against LaRosa. Native Floridian Chad Carnell filed to run back in November. Carnell has an interesting background, serving as CFO of Brevard Family Partnership for seven years and helping the Children’s Home Society before that. He also worked as a tax auditor for the state and ran for the Osceola County Commission in 2012.
Carnell has some interesting ideas for cutting waste and water management but he has not impressed with fundraising. He loaned his campaign $1,075 and relied on $2,500 of in-kind donations to start his campaign in November, did nothing to December and then reeled in $2,000 in January. He’ll need to pick up the pace considerably in the months to come.
Pete Placencia, an attorney from St. Cloud who works in Kissimmee, filed his paperwork to run on Wednesday. Placencia is a trial attorney who came out behind alternative energy on Wednesday, insisting it will help the region’s economy. Carnell has a head start, to be sure, but Placencia has ties to the area and should be able to offer a competitive primary.
LaRosa has been building up his campaign accounts in recent weeks. Since filing to run for a second term in January 2013, LaRosa has raised almost $77,750, including almost $15,800 in January this year. He’s kept most of it in the bank, spending $12,250 as of Jan. 31.
Having survived 2012 despite a strong Democratic tide and having Horner’s name on the ballot, LaRosa starts off with the edge in this race. But this race has the potential to be very competitive, especially if Carnell and Placencia keep pace on the fundraising side.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.