Florida’s 2022 political nominees are set after Friday’s qualifying deadline, starting races that include the state senate president taking on a worm rancher for agriculture commissioner and a Grim Reaper COVID-19. 19 candidate for the post of attorney general.
Here’s how the major state and federal races are gearing up for the Aug. 23 primary election and Nov. 8 general election.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has no Republican challengers listed as having qualified on Friday. U.S. Representative Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried are the biggest names among the four Democrats listed as qualified out of a dozen who initially filed.
An Afghanistan War veteran from Winter Park who said he was running against incumbent Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson for the job of agriculture commissioner has disappeared after Simpson won a resounding endorsement from the Governor Ron DeSantis several weeks ago.
Chuck Nadd was not listed as having qualified to race by Friday’s deadline. Some saw him as a stalking horse to bully Simpson into compromising on several issues on which he and the governor disagreed.
Instead, Simpson, a multi-millionaire egg farmer who also owns an environmental cleanup business, faces off in the GOP primary with James Shaw, an “organic farmer” from Vero Beach. whose harvest includes worms. Shaw doesn’t have a lot of money or notoriety.
The three Democrats who qualified for their party’s primary also don’t seem to have much recognition for a statewide campaign that requires a lot of both.
On the Democratic side, JR Gaillot of Gainesville, Ryan Morales of Clermont and Naomi Esther Blemer of North Miami all qualified to run.
As expected, Ashley Moody drew no Republican opposition to her bid for re-election as Attorney General. But she could find herself facing the Grim Reaper in the general election.
Daniel Uhlfelder, who donned the grisly costume to criticize DeSantis’ pandemic policies, qualified to run against Moody along with two other Democrats.
Moody’s campaign raised $1.84 million through the end of May, the latest reporting period available. She spent $105,000, the same amount Uhlfelder raised.
Aramis Ayala, the former Orlando prosecutor, is also qualified to run. She caused a stir when she said she would not seek the death penalty under any circumstances. Governor Rick Scott made sure no death penalty cases were directed at him.
Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Jim Lewis, who grew up in Orlando and served as an assistant district attorney, is also a candidate for the Democratic nomination.
Jimmy Patronis has attracted no serious challengers in his bid for re-election as Florida’s chief financial officer. The only other person to qualify was Adam Hattersley, a Tampa resident who served a term at the State House.
U.S. Representative Val Demings, D-Orlando, is going to have company in her bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Their degree of seriousness is another matter.
William Sanchez, a Miami immigration attorney, is the only other candidate besides Demings to have a campaign account, according to the Federal Election Commission website. He had raised $202,000, including $147,000 in personal loans from himself.
Dana Harshman, a Democrat from Ocala, didn’t even raise $2,000. Demings raised $30.5 million.
Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio had no GOP challengers listed as qualified.
In congressional races, the controversial redistricting map pushed by DeSantis has created major changes in Central Florida.
District 7, currently held by incumbent Democratic U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy, has gone from an evenly divided district to a GOP-leaning district.
As a result, the Republican primary there is packed with candidates, including state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Army veteran Cory Mills, retired Navy SEAL Brady Duke, former chief of staff of the Congressman Rusty Roberts, businessman Scott Sturgill and former DeBary Vice Mayor Erika Benfield. .
Jeremy Liggett, a reported member of the right-wing Three Percenters militia who spoke at a pre-January meeting. 6 rally in Washington, was not listed as a qualifier.
Democrats had only a few candidates for District 7, including state party vice chairman Karen Green of Apopka. Businesswoman Tatiana Fernandez is the only late addition to this Democratic race, qualifying this week.
Orange County’s District 10 was one of the most controversial map changes in the state. It remains a heavily Democratic seat but has seen its black vote diluted.
Most of the Democrats running to succeed Demings are African American, including gun rights activist and Black Lives Matter protester Maxwell Frost, State Senator Randolph Bracy, civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson and Pastor Terence Gray.
But two former Orlando-area congressmen with long histories suddenly jumped into the running last week.
First, former U.S. Representative Alan Grayson, who is white, announced his candidacy for the seat on Tuesday. Grayson represented Central Florida in Congress twice and faced an ethics investigation in 2016 as he left office.
Then on Thursday, former U.S. Representative Corrine Brown, an African American and Jacksonville resident who represented part of Orlando, also filed for the seat.
Brown pleaded guilty to tax evasion last month. She had spent two years in prison on felony charges including mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and filing false tax returns before an appeals court overturned her original conviction.
Central Florida’s only Democrat seeking re-election, U.S. Representative Darren Soto, has no Democratic opponents in District 9 of Osceola and southern Orange counties, which were set to become yet more Democrats. Four Republicans have qualified for the chance to face him in November.
On the GOP side of the aisle, U.S. Representative Dan Webster faces a primary challenge from Laura Loomer, an anti-vax conspiracy theorist who has been banned from most social media platforms for anti-Islamic views.
In Central Florida’s races for the state Senate, State Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, this week lured a surprise GOP challenger to Longwood, nurse Denali Charres. Brodeur drew attention to Charres’ past record as a Democrat in 2015, writing in a text to Florida politics“We look forward to the mainstream media’s scrutiny of this DEM’s new home in the GOP.”
Brodeur’s narrow 2020 Senate victory was caught up in the “ghost candidate” scandal, in which mysterious independent candidate Jestine Ianotti, portrayed as a progressive in direct mail, drew thousands of votes.
The scandal led to the arrest of Seminole GOP Chairman Ben Paris, political operative Eric Foglesong and Ianotti herself. Paris was Brodeur’s employee at the Seminole Chamber of Commerce.
Get the latest political updates from Central Florida and across the state.
On the Democratic side, State Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil of Maitland is running to challenge Brodeur.
The most-watched party primary for the Senate may be in western Orange County, where two Democratic lawmakers are vying to succeed Bracy. The winner of the August primary between state Rep. Geraldine Thompson and state Rep. Kamia Brown will face no opposition from the GOP in November.
Democratic state senator Linda Stewart also attracted a last-minute Republican challenger in Steve Dixon, an Orlando insurance agent.
In the State House, districts were drawn primarily to Democrats in central Florida as Republicans consolidated districts elsewhere.
Democratic State Rep. Travaris McCurdy faces a primary challenge in his west Orlando district from former state Rep. Bruce Antone, a last-minute qualifier.
One of the biggest races in Central Florida could be the potential showdown between Democratic State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith and Republican Susan Plasencia, the sister of former State Representative Rene Plasencia. Plasencia has a GOP opponent in Kris Stark, a real estate agent from Oviedo.
Orange Board of Education member Johanna López, a Democrat, is the most prominent candidate for the new District 43 in South Orange, with state Representative Daisy Morales choosing to run in a neighboring district.