State Representative Anthony Sabatini may be looking to bring his conservative message to the Florida Senate.
The outspoken firebrand who represents District 32 in the Florida House may be mounting a run for a Senate seat that comes open in 2022. Senate District 22, a Republican stronghold since 2010, is up for grabs in the next year. SD 22 is currently represented by Republican Kelli Stargel who is term-limited, and is sure to be a key piece of real estate that Republicans want to retain in a post-Trump presidency.
While there could be a few GOP leaders looking to fill the void left by Stargel, only one lawmaker has thrown their hat in the process. Republican State Representative Colleen Burton is the lone applicant in the race that is sure to draw interest. Burton, who represents House District 40 and is also term-limited in the Florida House, has been mum on her entry in the race, with few media outlets reporting on it. Other than a tucked away blurb on her website, Burton has kept her Senate bid mostly under wraps, potentially hoping to bolster her political coffer to gain an early advantage.
Though it’s early in the process and the field remains quiet, insiders who have their fingers on the pulse are aware of who is on deck and how 2022’s redistricting will influence candidates to run. SD 22, a pivot county that encompasses Southern Lake County and parts of Polk County, is set to receive a total makeover following the completion of the 2020 United States Census. While this could deter others, many within Florida’s political arena — including lobbyists and fellow colleagues — believe Sabatini may see this as the perfect opportunity to ride the elevator to the high chamber.
“Love him or hate him, if Sabatini gets in a Senate primary he has to be taken seriously,” said GOP lobbyist and FSU political science professor Jon Costello. “If the election is about who will carry the Trump agenda forward in Florida it’s hard to out do him.”
Speculative as they may be, Sabatini boasts some impressive ‘hole cards’ in the early stage of this political hand.
The current landscape in SD 22 bodes well for Sabatini, with Lake County making up a large percentage of the district, the redistricting cycle could put some of the county’s most populous areas front and center. Lake county, with an estimated population of 387,914, continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in the state. The area saw a 4.2 percent growth rate in 2019, making it the third fastest growing county in Florida. And this is just a tip of the iceberg for Lake County. Cities like Clermont and Groveland remain some of the most heavily populated in the county, and are expected to receive an influx of new growth by 2030 as Orlando’s urban core continues to expand.
What’s more, significant changes in the current Senate maps are expected to play out. The district north of Stargel‘s is held by Republican State Senator Dennis Baxley. That district is the fastest growing in the state and is expected to shift dramatically, which would in turn change the district maps nearest it.
And if the lay of the land is not enough to entice Sabatini, an Army National Guard officer, to join the race, his supporters may serve as a catalyst in his decision to jump chambers.
Sabatini remains one of the most followed lawmakers in the state of Florida, with a growing social media presence. At the time of writing, the Central Florida attorney has over 51,000 followers on Twitter, and boasts an additional 18,000 followers on his public Facebook page. Sabatini regularly uses his platform to promote his agenda, casting a major political footprint that has earned him a fair share of supporters — and detractors — in the Sunshine State.
On any given day, Sabatini can be seen regularly tweeting out bills he’s filed, proposals he supports, and the occasional back-and-forth with celebrities and media personalities who want to see the House member go down in flames. Suffice it to say, Sabatini has embraced a more populist approach — much like former President Donald Trump — which has endeared him to many in his district and has earned him endorsements from top Republicans like Congressman Matt Gaetz.
When asked if the whispers behind the scenes were true, the Howey-in-the-Hills Republican didn’t confirm a run at SD 22, but came pretty close, stating he was “strongly considering” a bid for the red meat district.
“I’m talking it over with my campaign team,” Sabatini told The Capitolist.