With just two weeks left until the candidate filing deadline for the 2022 election, the electoral landscape is starting to come into sharper focus – particularly for state legislative races, where some crowded primaries will make for a long, hot summer of intense campaigning. For the luckier candidates, only token, or in some cases, no opposition, means a cake walk all the way through the general election. But until the deadline, candidates will keep a wary eye on the Division of Elections website, watching for that last-minute filing that could mean the difference between smooth sailing or rough seas.
While things can still change, here’s a look at a handful of the most intriguing matchups and meaningful races we know about so far.
House District 3 – One of the most conservative districts in the state is up for grabs after GOP state Rep. Jayer Williamson announced in January that he will not seek re-election. The race to replace the popular Tourism Appropriations chair is between two Republican candidates — anti-mask doctor Joel Rudman and first-time candidate Mariya Calkins. Calkins holds an overall fundraising lead, banking $180,000 to Rudman’s $144,000, and has been endorsed by Congressman Matt Gaetz, state Reps. Tommy Gregory and Anthony Sabatini, and a host of local leaders.
House District 16 – Former state. Rep. Lake Ray faces off against Jacksonville Beach City Councilman Chet Stokes in a safe Republican seat. Both candidates lead the rest of the field in fundraising, but could “Angel Mom” Kiyan Michael, whose son was killed in in a car crash caused by an illegal immigrant, play spoiler?
House District 17 – While not exactly a hot race, this one is interesting for other reasons. So much support has coalesced around Jessica Baker, an assistant state attorney, that this race is all but over. Financially, Baker has raised more than anyone else in the running for the seat, and it’s not particularly close, which means she’ll be able to help other candidates with primaries. She’s also been getting around the state and meeting her fellow classmates – no one else is doing that. She knows Tallahassee, the players and the process, and she’ll know how to be effective out of the gate. To political insiders and Tallahassee capitol watchers, this can only mean one thing: she’s got a head start in a potential GOP leadership race that could ultimately result in her becoming House Speaker in the foreseeable future.
House District 45 – Five well-funded GOP candidates are squaring off in what appears to be the most competitive House district this cycle. Republicans eyeing the seat include Christian college executive Carolina Amesty, retired law enforcement officer Janet Frevola, businessman Bruno Portigliatti, and former congressional candidates Vennia Francois and Mike Zhao.
The district went +5 for Biden in 2020, but the only Democrat that has filed to run is diversity consultant and former bankrupt CFO candidate Allie Lee Braswell Jr., who simply isn’t going to put up much of a fight. Braswell has only raised a fraction of the cash his GOP rivals have collected. The crowded field is intriguing — for both parties — thanks to the district being one of the most diverse in the state, boasting a statistically significant bloc of Asian voters.
House District 69 (General) – Republican trial lawyer Danny Alvarez has an interesting matchup with Chamber darling and Democratic incumbent Andrew Learned in a district that has changed significantly since Learned was elected – in 2020 the district went +2 for Trump. Alvarez appears to be staying close to Learned in the fundraising game, too.
Senate District 29 (Primary) – Will state Rep. Erin Grall, who is making a jump to the Senate, draw primary opposition after voting against the Governor’s property insurance bill? Her bid for the newly drawn SD 29 is backed by heavy hitters, including Senate President Wilton Simpson, President-designate Kathleen Passidomo and Sen. Ben Albritton. But DeSantis has the power to play kingmaker, and isn’t afraid to spar with those who go against the grain.
Senate District 35 (Primary) – will Democratic Senate Leader Lauren Book get taken out in a primary by former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief? In an effort to avoid a primary challenge, Book, who was elected to represent SD 32 in 2016, moved to the newly drawn SD 35. But as the saying goes, “the grass isn’t greener on the other side,” and now Book will face her first ballot challenge in a district where Black voters account for more than one third of the primary electorate.
“It’s time to stand up and be counted. Minorities matter,” Sharief said. “I didn’t decide to run against Lauren Book, she decided to come down and run against me. I’ve lived in this district for 21 years.”
Book will have her work cut out for her, and it appears she’s known it for a while. Earlier this year she rolled out a virtual “who’s who” of the state’s political class as part of her campaign team. But all the spending has some of her fellow Democrats privately grumbling that she’s so concerned about her own survival that she’s neglecting her electoral duties as Senate Minority Leader to help Democrats gain seats.