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Republican challenger, redistricting expected to shake up North Florida Senate race

Florida's newly-drawn state Senate District 3 no longer includes Calhoun County. It includes three additional counties: Suwannee, Lafayette and Dixie Counties.
Florida State Legislature
Florida's newly-drawn state Senate District 3 no longer includes Calhoun County. It includes three additional counties: Suwannee, Lafayette and Dixie Counties.

North Florida Democratic Senator Loranne Ausley is likely facing tougher race this year than when she ran in 2020. The district’s new boundaries, national politics and a high-profile Republican challenger are three factors expected to make Senate District 3 more competitive this year.

Lawmakers removed Calhoun County from District 3 and added Lafayette, Suwannee and Dixie Counties. The district also became less Blue.

President Joe Biden won the district by 9 percentage points.

An analysis of the newly-drawn district, showed Biden with a three percentage point lead over former President Donald Trump in 2020. Former Leon County Democratic Chair Jon Ausman says this change is likely to shape how the election plays out in November.

“I would say a small lean towards Ausley, but I think that if there’s a Republican wave, then she could get wiped out.”

Ausman says the nation’s economic woes could also make winning elections up and down the ballot tougher for Democrat’s this year.

“If the overall, national viewpoint is negative towards to the White House and towards the Congress, that that can have an impact on lower-down races for state senate, state house and your city commission and county commission elections.”

Ausley says she’s running on her record of experience. Ausley served 12 years in the state House before she was elected to the Senate in 2020.

“I don’t think people care about what letter’s behind your name, as long as you get the work done. And today we are so divided, we need to stop talking about divides us and find that common ground so we can work together to solve people’s problems.”

Ausley is facing Republican challenger Corey Simon, who played football for Florida State University before his career in the NFL. Simon has the backing of Governor Ron DeSantis and has experience working in state government. Leon County GOP Chairman Evan Power says those factors make him a strong candidate.

“We’re excited about the race. It’s obviously a winnable race. We have a high-profile name with Corey Simon, who’s served the state as the CEO of Volunteer Florida.”

Simon says his passion for people motivated him to make his first run for political office, and he wants his campaign to focus on serving the needs of families in the district.

“This race is about the ideas that I have and the community that we serve and sitting down with them and hearing their concerns. The incumbent versus the candidate — that’s the politics of this. I’m in this for the people.”

Ausley and Simon are the only two candidates who have so-far qualified to run in Senate District 3, with the candidate qualifying period ending at noon today.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.