Lady Lake Republican Rep. Marlene O’Toole has filed to run for the newly redrawn Senate District 12 seat, setting up a primary battle between her and fellow Republican Rep. Dennis Baxley.
O’Toole currently represents District 33 in the Florida House and, like Baxley, is finishing up her last term as a Representative, though her Lake County roots should set her apart from Baxley, who currently represents neighboring Marion County.
Lake County makes up the largest part of the SD12 electorate, with about 220,000 residents. The district also includes about 160,000 voters from the southern half of Marion County as well as all of Sumter County, which includes heavily Republican retirement community the Villages.
Though O’Toole may have an advantage in a Lake County-centric district, she is far behind Baxley in fundraising.
Baxley, up to the start of the 2016 Legislative Session in mid-January, had raised nearly $200,000 in contributions for his Senate run. As of the end of January, he had about $110,000 of that money on hand.
O’Toole, who hadn’t been campaigning for any seat before entering the SD12 race, brings no money with her to the race.
SD12 is safe for Republicans and will likely be decided in primary season. About 45 percent of the district’s voters are registered Republicans, compared to a 33 percent share for Democrats.
In the 2012 cycle the district voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama 62-to-38, which was one of the largest Republican advantages of any Senate seat outside of the Florida Panhandle.