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Dozens of lawmakers drew no challengers in their races for state office as qualifying ended

Craig Moore
WFSU Public Media

More than three-dozen Florida lawmakers, including incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, appeared headed back to Tallahassee without opposition as a deadline passed Friday for qualifying for the November elections.

Meanwhile, all 28 congressional districts will have contested races, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

The Division of Elections had not posted a finalized list of candidates on its website as of 7 p.m., after the noon qualifying deadline. But numerous state lawmakers, mostly Republicans, appeared on the fast track to return to their current seats or as House members running unopposed for Senate seats.

“This is an important day because we now know who will be on our primary election ballot,” Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said in a news release that noted more than 160 people are expected to appear on the ballot in his county, from candidates for the U.S. Senate to special taxing districts.

Republicans are expected to retain their majorities in the state House and Senate this fall, based on factors such as registered-voter numbers, 2020 voting patterns and a lack of challengers in many races.

Republican House members who appeared headed toward getting re-elected without opposition were Patt Maney of Shalimar, Jason Shoaf of Port St. Joe, Chuck Brannan of Macclenny, Wyman Duggan of Jacksonville, Cyndi Stevenson of Saint Johns, Joe Harding of Ocala, Stan McClain of Ocala, Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island, Thad Altman of Indialantic, Sam Killebrew of Winter Haven, Melony Bell of Bartow, Will Robinson of Bradenton, James Buchanan of Osprey, Michael Grant of Port Charlotte, Spencer Roach of North Fort Myers, Mike Giallombardo of Cape Coral, Bob Rommel of Naples, Lauren Melo of Naples, Kaylee Tuck of Sebring, Tom Fabricio of Miami Gardens, David Borrero of Sweetwater, Alex Rizo of Hialeah and Daniel Perez of Miami.

Democrats who appeared assured of remaining in the House were Dianne Hart of Tampa, Christine Hunschofsky of Parkland, Michael Gottlieb of Davie, Felicia Robinson of Miami Gardens and Kevin Chambliss of Homestead.

With all Senate seats up for election this year because of the once-a-decade redistricting process, likely winners without opposition included Passidomo of Naples; Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island; Senate Majority Leader Debbie Mayfield, R-Indialantic; Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills; Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart; Sen. Anna Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral; and Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach.

Also, House Republicans Erin Grall of Vero Beach and Bryan Avila of Miami Springs had not drawn opposition as they run for Senate seats.

Some Senate races will be fiercely contested this year, including races that emerged in recent days. For example, former Florida State University and NFL football player Corey Simon, a Republican, will take on Sen. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, in North Florida’s Senate District 3.

In Hillsborough County’s District 14, Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, will face
the winner of a Republican primary involving Jay Collins, a Green Beret
veteran backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Shawn Harrison, a former House member who has been supported by Senate GOP leaders.

DeSantis this week also backed Lee County Republican Chairman Jonathan Martin to replace Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, who will not run for another term in Senate District 33. Martin appeared likely to only face a write-in opponent.

One of the more interesting races in the Aug. 23 primaries will feature Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, going against former Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief in Senate District 35.

In statewide races, DeSantis will not face a primary opponent, while U.S.
Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will vie in
the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Meanwhile, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and former Democratic House member Adam Hattersley of Hillsborough County will square off in November.

Also, Attorney General Ashley Moody awaits the winner of a three-way Democratic primary involving: Aramis Ayala, a former state attorney in Orange and Osceola counties; Jim Lewis, a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer; and Daniel Uhlfelder, a Northwest Florida lawyer who drew national attention for dressing as the Grim Reaper as he criticized DeSantis’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Along with the race for governor, the other highest-profile race in the state is for a U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Marco Rubio. U.S. Rep. Val Demings is heavily favored to win a Democratic primary to face Rubio.

Among notable clashes for U.S. House seats, the race in Congressional
District 2 features U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican, and
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat. Lawson opted to run in
District 2 after his current District 5 was redrawn in the redistricting

The Democratic primary to replace Demings in Central Florida’s Congressional District 10 includes state Sen. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who lost re-election in 2016 after facing criminal charges.

The contest in Central Florida’s Congressional District 7 is wide open
after blue-dog Democrat Stephanie Murphy decided not to seek
re-election. Four Democrats and eight Republicans are seeking the seat.

In a crowded field in Congressional District 15, headliners include former Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, state Sen. Kelli Stargel,
R-Lakeland, and state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa.

Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade County, state Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, is hoping to unseat freshman U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., in Congressional District 27. Taddeo would have to first defeat Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell in the Democratic primary.