Edward Spaight has never run for office, so when it came time to qualify to run for a judicial seat in the Fifth Judicial Circuit he drove from his home in Ocala to the state elections office in Tallahassee to deliver his qualifying papers.
“This is the first time I’ve ever run for office,” Spaight said. “I’m just excited to put in for my candidacy and wanted to come and do it here in person to make sure everything goes smoothly.”
Spaight was among the first candidates to submit his paperwork during the qualifying period which began Monday at noon for Florida candidates seeking to run for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and the judiciary, as well as for 20th Judicial Circuit state attorney and public defender. The window to qualify runs through Friday. Candidates must submit an oath and a fee to qualify for their races. The qualifying fee for Spaight was about $6,000. Judicial candidates also must submit financial disclosure forms.
The main interest in this week’s qualifying period will be on the races for Congress.
By mid-afternoon, a couple of candidates had qualified for the U.S. Senate race. Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson had qualified, as did Charles Frederick Tolbert, a write-in candidate.
Gov. Rick Scott, who announced earlier this month he would run for Nelson’s seat, may have been too busy raising campaign contributions to file his paperwork on the first day of qualifying. Earlier on Monday, Scott’s campaign announced it collected more than $3 million in the first three weeks of the campaign, matching what Nelson raised in the first three months of the year.
There are several House positions of interest, especially with the retirement of three members —- Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Tom Rooney and Dennis Ross —- and the loss of Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running for governor.
In what has been a crowded field of potential candidates for the Congressional District 27 seat, currently held by Ros-Lehtinen, five candidates had qualified by Monday afternoon — three Republicans and two Democrats. The GOP members qualifying are Angie Chirino, Stephen Marks and Michael Ohevzion. Qualifying on the first day for the Democrats are state Rep. David Richardson and Michael A. Hepburn.
In another race that is getting a lot of attention, there’s been no word from state Sen. Tom Lee, who is speculated to be considering a run for Ross’ House District 15 seat. Lee announced he would not run for state Chief Financial Officer and said last week he was disbanding his political committee, leading many to believe he was setting himself up for a bid for Congress.
So far, state Rep. Neil Combee has qualified on the Republican side of that race, while Andrew Learned qualified for the Democrats. Two write-in candidates have also filed their qualifying papers.
In the race for the House District 17 race, only one candidate has qualified so far for the seat being vacated by Rooney — Republican state Sen. Greg Steube.
And in the race for DeSantis’ District 6 seat, two Republicans have qualified — Fred Costello and John Ward. Two candidates have also qualified on the Democratic side — Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch.
The qualifying period runs through Friday for the federal and judicial offices. Candidates for Congress and the U.S. Senate must also register with the Federal Election Commission, where they are required to file campaign finance reports
Qualifying for governor, Cabinet and legislative offices will be held in June.