Three months after new congressional and Florida Senate maps shook up the landscape, some of Central Florida’s House races are starting to crystalize, though there’s still plenty of drama left for the fall. House Districts 25, 27 and 48 are all open due to Senate and congressional aspirations, and clear frontrunners have emerged in at least two of those seats.
In HD25, Republican Tom Leek looks primed to take over for exiting Republican Rep. Fred Costello. When he filed in February he found himself running in a three way primary race for the Volusia County seat, but after pulling in more than $50,000 in his first month, competitors Becky Reichenberg and Deb Denys exited the race and threw their support behind the Ormond Beach attorney.
A similar situation is shaping up in HD27, currently held by Republican Rep. David Santiago. Businessman William McBride filed to run for the Volusia County seat last week and kicked off his campaign with $250,000 of his own money. His only GOP competitor in the Republican-leaning seat is Zenaida Denizac, who has only posted $3,000 in contributions after two months in the race.
HD48 isn’t as cut and dried. Democrat Amy Mercado has been campaigning for the seat held by her father, Rep. Vic Torres, since mid-January but has only been able to raise a little over $7,000 and has drawn two challengers: Democrat Alex Barrio and no-party candidate Augustin Martinez.
Barrio worked as a district aide for Sen. Darren Soto, whose congressional campaign opened up a spot in the Senate for Torres, as well as for the Senate Democratic caucus in Tallahassee, and his entry in the race could cause trouble for Mercado, especially if he’s more prolific on the money front.
The other major shuffle this cycle involves current Republican Reps. Rene Plasencia and Tom Goodson shifting over a district.
Plasencia faces a three-way Republican Primary in HD50, but should be safe with his large fundraising advantage over businessman Chadwick Hardee and college professor George Collins. Goodson is likely to stay in the House as well, with more than a $100,000 lead over fellow Republican Tim Timulty in the GOP’s HD51 stronghold.
The Legislature will get some new blood in HD49, though. Plasencia won the district by the skin of his teeth two years ago and the Orange County seat is likely to flip back to the Democrats in 2016. Carlos Smith, who was former Democratic Rep. Joe Saunders‘ legislative aide when he held the seat, has nearly $65,000 in his campaign account and his only competition is former Plasencia intern Amber Mariano. Given HD49’s voter registration split – and that 2016 is a presidential election year – the seat should be Smith’s come November.
Term limits are only bringing a couple of races to the forefront this cycle. HD52, held by Republican Rep. Ritch Workman, and HD53, held by Republican Rep. John Tobia.
Of the two, Workman’s seat looks to have the bloodiest primary battle.
Four Republicans are duking it out for the Brevard County seat, including current Space Coast Sen. Thad Altman. In the months since he filed for the House, Altman has only brought in $10,000, putting him far behind frontrunner Brian Hodgers, who had nearly $340,000 on hand heading into March.
Monique Miller and Robert Van Volkenberg are also in the race and have about $27,000 and $7,000 on hand, respectively.
In HD53, Republican Randy Fine looks like he will cruise past Democrat David Kearns in the in the fall. Through the end of February the Fine Point Group director had more than $173,000 on hand, including $115,000 in loans, compared to just $500 for Kearns.
Most of the incumbent legislators actually running for reelection look like they’ll have an easy go of it in 2016, with many of them going unopposed. That might not be the case for HD47 Republican Rep. Mike Miller, however.
The Orange County seat has already drawn a few Democratic challengers: TV professional Beth Tuura, attorney Henry Lim and Clint Curtis, who made headlines a decade ago for accusing former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney of election rigging. While Lim and Tuura have each been able to bring in about $25,000 in contributions, there is the possibility Winter Park Chamber of Commerce CEO Patrick Chapin will throw his hat in the ring.
If one of those candidates makes it through the primary season without too many bruises, Miller will have to scramble to hold onto the Democratic-leaning seat.