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Senate District 8 Leaning Toward Darren Soto

October 29, 2012 - 7:00pm

Expected to be one of the more intriguing state Senate contests, District 14 has fizzled and appears likely to land in the Democratic ledger as Election Day approaches.

The Republican Party of Florida has largely ignored the open contest between Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, and Republican Will McBride.

Meanwhile, business advocacy groups including the powerful Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation, along with a lobbyist tied to a casino, have shown support for Soto.

Soto, who would be expected to continue the Democratic opposition to the charter school choice parent trigger and privatizing prisons, has frequently joined the GOP in House votes, such as on expanding the corporate tax-credit scholarship program or to allow employees to keep guns in their car while at work.

McBride, a trial lawyer who took 30 percent of the vote in the 2006 GOP U.S. primary against then-U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, and was for a short time considered a potential candidate for this years U.S. Senate contest, has mostly had to self-finance his current campaign.

I would think Soto will win that seat by a comfortable margin given how Democratic and Hispanic the district is, noted Aubrey Jewett, an associate professor and associate chair of political science at the University of Central Florida.

The fact that the RPOF is not assisting very much suggests they also think that the Democrats will most likely win this seat and their resources are best used in more competitive races.

As of Oct. 12, the most recent campaign finance report, McBride has put $205,000 of his own money into the effort, more than two-thirds of the overall total he had raised and mostly spent.

The RPOF has spent $28,000, mostly on polling, on the contest for the new District 14 seat that includes parts of Orange, Osceola and Polk counties and is comprised of 47 percent Democrats and 24 percent Republicans.

Democrat Alex Sink received 59 percent of the vote in the district in her failed gubernatorial run in 2010.

Soto, an attorney first elected to the House in April 2007, has received more than $80,000 from the Florida Democratic Party through in-kind assistance that included staffing, research and polling, entered mid-October with nearly $90,000 of his contributions still on hand.

He has also gained from a mailer attacking McBride over a proposed national sales tax from political group Citizens for Central Florida Committee. The committee was set up by Daniel Pollock, an Orlando lobbyist who includes among his clients AT&T Inc. and Bayfront 2011 Development LLC, which is a subsidiary of casino giant Genting Malaysia.

Soto has opposed expanding gaming, an effort that died before the 2012 Legislature, which would keep him in line with the Florida Chamber.

The contest is one of a small handful that Democrats had hoped to pick up in an effort to dig into the Republican majority in the Senate.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

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