elections ahead

Florida voters hit the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots in the primaries. While the presidential election has commanded most of the attention, there are some competitive congressional and legislative primaries across the Sunshine State.

Republicans will make their choices in primaries to replace two retiring congressmen. With U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., fulfilling his promise to serve only four terms, a crowded field of Republicans has lined up in North Florida to replace him. Whichever of the ten candidates wins the Republican primary on Tuesday will be a heavy favorite to head to Congress in November. Over in Southwest Florida, nine Republicans are duking it out to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla. Just like in Yoho’s seat, whoever wins the Republican primary on Tuesday will likely be headed to Congress.

Most members of the Florida delegation will have little problems with their primary opponents on Tuesday. Expect most of them to win in blowouts. But there is one contest to keep an eye on as U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla., faces a challenge from Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. Spano’s drawn fire over campaign loans from the 2018 election cycle and top Republicans have taken sides in the current primary. U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are backing Spano while U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd are behind Franklin. Thinking Spano is vulnerable, Democrats also have a competitive primary here. This will be one to watch on Tuesday night.

In the meantime, there are competitive primaries to see who will run against incumbents in November. Democratic candidates are battling to see who will challenge Florida Republicans U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, Michael Waltz and others in the general election while Republicans will have competitive contests as GOP voters pick who they want to take on Florida Democrats U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel, Stephanie Murphy and others. Not all of these contests will be competitive in November but Tuesday’s primaries will help the major parties decided which races to focus on.

There are also some competitive state Senate primaries on Tuesday. All eyes will be on Southwest Florida as two Republicans serving in the state House–Reps. Heather Fitzenhagen of Ft. Myers and Ray Rodrigues of Estero–battle to replace retiring state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers. With state Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, retiring, state Rep. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Ration, will face former state Rep. Irv Slosberg in the Democratic primary. A crowd of Democrats–including four who have served in the Legislature–will square off to see who replaces retiring state Sen. Oscar Branyon, D-Miami Gardens.

Over on the House side, there are plenty of primary battles for open seats. A few current House members face serious primary challengers. In the Panhandle, the House leadership and GOP establishment will look to take out maverick conservative state Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola. In the district next door, state Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola, also has a major fight on his hands. Over on the First Coast, state Reps. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, and Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, will also have to fend off primary challenges. The Democratic establishment would certainly love to knock off Daniels. On the Space Coast, state Reps. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, and Randy Fine, R-South Brevard, are hoping to beat back challengers. There are plenty of other contests on the House side as well as, across Florida, well established local officials are battling for House seats.

There are also plenty of other races to watch out for on Tuesday: state attorney contests; an interesting Republican primary in the Clay County sheriff’s race featuring incumbent Darryl Daniels who was arrested last week and removed from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis; the Miami Dade mayoral contest; important county offices; and plenty of other contests. The presidential election might command most of the headlines but the stakes are high across Florida in Tuesday’s primaries.


Kevin Derby wrote this analysis. He can be reached at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

Kevin Derby
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