As 2017 winds to a close, next year is going to be interesting. Florida Governor Rick Scott (R-Naples) will be entering the race for U.S Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson (D-Orlando), who has been in DC for three terms. Scott was a major ally of President Donald Trump in 2016, how much will that affect the governor — who himself won election as an outsider looking to shake up Tallahassee.
An open governor’s mansion will draw interest far and wide, with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R-Bartow), State Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), and possibly Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O’Lakes) and Congressman Ron Desantis (R-Marineland) vying for the Republican nomination. The Democrat field is just as crowded with former Congresswoman Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), the daughter of former Florida Senator and Governor Bob Graham, facing Miami Beach Mayor Peter Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and possibly Orlando attorney John Morgan.
The other cabinet races will provide opportunities for less-well-known candidates, but the Florida Democratic Party is not even fielding strong candidates in two of the races — ceding the races to the Republicans almost by default. The Attorney General’s race will see candidates such as State Representative Frank White (R-Pensacola) and former Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody (R-Tampa) on the Republican side. Tampa attorney Ryan Torrens is the only Democrat running at this point. The Agriculture Commissioner’s race (to replace Putnam) features three GOP candidates with legislative experience in State Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), State Representative Matt Caldwell (R-North Fort Myers) and former State Representative Baxter Troutman (R-Winter Haven) along with Orlando real estate mogul Paul Paulson).
The long competitive seat will feature an ‘incumbent’ of sorts. The Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City) was appointed to fill an unexpired term, and is running to be formally elected to the position – although State Senator Tom Lee (R-Thonotosassa) has thrown his hat into the GOP ring. Former State Senator Jeremy Ring (D-Parkland), one of the founders of Yahoo, is the Democratic candidate.
These state-wide races will be the most visible… but Florida’s 27 Congressional seats, 120 state house seats, and 20 of the state senate seats will also be before the voters — assuming both parties field candidates.
For me, one of the more interesting facets to watch will be the Trump Effect. Florida voted for President Trump by 120,000 votes our of 9 million — showing just how purple the Sunshine State is. The mid-term election years – when Florida’s state-wide races are up – have tended to be more Republican for the last two decades. So it would seem the Grand Old Party is set up for a Grand Old Time… however, we have seen Democratic candidates in redder states have more success than expected. How big will the Trump Effect be? That is still to be determined… but if Democrats don’t run for office, and in many races there are no Democratic candidates, it won’t matter all that much.