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Politics

SD 7 and SD 18: Republicans Rob Bradley and Wilton Simpson Have Edge for Open Seats

July 18, 2012 - 6:00pm

As incumbents bow out of office, two Republican candidates appear poised to win open state Senate seats in the northern half of the Sunshine State come November.

With an open shot at the Republican nomination as current incumbent, Steve Oelrich runs for Congress; attorney Rob Bradley, who rose to become chairman of the Clay County Commission, is a heavy favorite to win an open seat in SD 7, representing Alachua, Baker and Clay counties.

Bradley, a former criminal prosecutor who was appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to the Clay County Commission, has assembled an impressive war chest since entering the race in early January. So far in the 2012 election cycle, Bradley has raised more than $116,500 in cash and more than $2,400 through in-kind donations. So far, Bradley has kept most of his money in the bank. By the end of the second quarter, Bradley had spent more than $25,500 -- giving him around $81,000 for the general election.

Facing Bradley in the general election is Democratic candidate Will Mazzotta, a 21-year-old student at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Since entering the race in early June, Mazzotta has raised almost $2,100 and spent more than $1,800.

Dade City businessman Wilton Simpson also appears to be cruising as he seeks a seat in SD 18. Simpson had been gearing up for a tough Republican primary fight with House Speaker Pro Tempore John Legg, R-Port Richey. But in late May, Legg announced that he was targeting another Senate seat -- the one held by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa -- leaving Simpson as the only Republican candidate looking to represent all of Hernando and Sumter counties and parts of Pasco County. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who has represented parts of Pasco and Hernando counties since being elected to the Senate in 2002, is facing term limits and is now running for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

Since entering the race in March 2011, Simpson has pulled together an impressive fundraising operation, bringing in $273,000 in cash and more than $17,300 through in-kind donations. But Simpson has spent more than $245,700 of that -- including almost $212,000 during the second quarter of 2012 when it appeared he was in a tight primary with Legg -- and has loaned his campaign more than $50,300, including more than $35,000 in the second quarter of 2012.

With Legg out of the race, Simpson appears to be a heavy favorite over Joshua Smith. Like Mazzotta, Smith is a student. The 22-year-old attends the University of South Florida. Since entering the race in early June, Smith has raised $2,000 and spent almost $1,800.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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