DemDaily: Florida: Off To The Races

Florida 2020 Presidential Results by County (Hearst)

June 15, 2021

In the last three weeks, two prominent women have announced their bids for statewide office in what are expected to be among the most high profile, and most consequential, contests of 2022.

Last Wednesday, in Florida, the country's largest bellwether state, Congresswoman Val Demings (D) announced she will challenge incumbent US Senator Marco Rubio (R). Less than two weeks earlier, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) announced she will take on incumbent Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

The announcements refocused attention on the Sunshine State, and kicked its election cycle into full gear with now multiple challengers to both embattled Republicans.

Florida is considered a battleground state, having delivered its 29 electoral votes to the winning presidential candidate, regardless of party, in the last six presidential elections -- until 2020. Previously thought to be a necessity on the road to victory, Biden broke the record by winning the White House but losing Florida to Trump by 3.3%.

US SENATE
Incumbent: Senator Marco Rubio (R)
Filing Deadline: June 17, 2022
Primary: August 23, 2022
General: November 8, 2022

Marco Rubio was first elected to the US Senate in 2010, handily defeating Democrat Kendrick Meek and Independent candidate and former Governor Charlie Crist for the seat to succeed retiring incumbent Mel Martinez (R).

Rubio, 50, is Ranking Member on the Senate Intelligence Committee (Chip Somodevilla)

Rubio was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, but suspended his campaign after coming in a distant second to Donald Trump in the March 15th Florida Republican primary. He instead sought reelection to his Senate seat, successfully fending off a challenge by Democratic nominee Patrick Murphy, 52% to 44.3%.

An attorney and son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio was elected at age 28 to the Florida House of Representatives, where he served from 2000 to 2008, including as Majority Leader from 2003 to 2006 and House Speaker from 2006 to 2008.

Rubio currently faces official primary opposition from businessman Howard Knepper, Florida National Guardsman Jake Loubriel, conservative writer Luis Miguel, maritime captain Earl Yearicks IV, and perennial candidates Ervan Katari Miller and Angela Walls-Windhauser.

Democratic Primary Candidates
Val Demings first ran for the 10th Congressional District in 2012, narrowly losing her challenge to freshman Republican Daniel Webster, 48% to 51% in the then-Republican-leaning district.

After the state Supreme Court ordered Florida's gerrymandered congressional districts redrawn in 2015, Demings ran in the new majority-black, Democratic-leaning district in Orlando.

She handily defeated Republican entrepreneur Thuy Lowe in the general, garnering nearly 65% of the vote, and was reelected in 2018 with 75% and 2020 with 63.6%.

Demings Announcement Video tells her story and takes on Rubio (Click/Watch)

Demings previously spent 27 years with the Orlando Police Department, including the last four as Chief, the first woman to hold the position.

A member of both the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, Demings gained national recognition as one of the House managers, or prosecutors, in former President Donald Trump's first impeachment trial.

Demings, 64, was also on candidate Joe Biden's shortlist as a potential vice-presidential pick in 2020.

Other notable names said to be pondering a Senate run include Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy (7th CD), former Congressman Ted Deutch (22nd CD), and former Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (26th CD). Gwen Graham, a former Congresswoman (2nd CD), 2018 gubernatorial candidate and daughter of former US Senator Bob Graham, is also considering the race.

Additional declared Democratic primary candidates include: businessman Edward Abud, 2018 and 2020
Democratic nominee for Florida's 17th CD Allen Ellison, former Congressman Alan Grayson (9th CD) and Miami city commissioner Ken Russell. Former DOJ special counsel William Sanchez, engineer Allek Pastrana, teacher Joshua Weil, and perennial candidate Josue Larose have also filed.

Four candidates have filed as Independents, one for the "Unity Party," and one for the Libertarian Party.

As of April 30, 2021, Florida's Voter Registration is recorded as 36.3% Democrat, 35.7% Republican, and 28% other

GOVERNOR
Incumbent: Governor Ron DeSantis (R)
Filing Deadline: June 17, 2022
Primary: August 23, 2022
General: November 8, 2022

Ron DeSantis, the nation's youngest governor at 42, was elected in 2018, narrowly defeating Democrat Andrew Gillum, who would have been Florida's first black governor, by about 33,000 votes or just 0.4%.

Trump and loyalist DeSantis (Joe Raedle)

An attorney and Jacksonville native, DeSantis served in the Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps before being appointed to be an Assistant US Attorney at the Department of Justice in 2008.

DeSantis was elected to represent Florida's 6th Congressional District in 2012, defeating Democrat Heather Beaven 57% to 43%. In 2014, DeSantis won reelection with 62.5% of the vote and again in 2016 with 58.6%.

A conservative who helped found the House Freedom Caucus, DeSantis won the 2018 gubernatorial race with the help of Donald Trump, who had won the state with 49% to Clinton's 47.8%.

A loyal Trump acolyte, DeSantis acquired a national profile for his opposition to government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions such as mask-wearing and is widely considered to be a frontrunner for the Republican nomination if Trump himself decides not to run in 2024.

DeSantis has drawn just one Republican primary challenger to date, GOP National Committee official and 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Joseph Mercadante.

Democratic Primary Candidates
Nikki Fried, who announced her candidacy June 1st, is the only current Democrat elected statewide in Florida.

Born in Miami, Nikki Fried is an attorney who was elected Florida Commissioner of Agriculture in 2018. After sweeping the three-way Democratic primary with nearly 59% of the vote, Fried narrowly defeated Republican nominee Matt Caldwell by approximately 6,000 votes, or a margin of 0.08%.

Crist and Fried are both challenging DeSantis (NBC6)

Fried previously worked as a lobbyist, forming her own firm in 2016, where she worked with clients including the Broward County School Board and the state's medical marijuana industry.

Fried will be competing against Congressman Charlie Crist (13th CD) who, prior to being elected to Congress in 2016, served as Florida's Republican governor from 2007 to 2011.

Crist, who began his legal career as general counsel for Minor League Baseball, was first elected to the State Senate in 1992, serving for six years in the legislature before waging an unsuccessful campaign in 1998 to unseat Democratic US Senator Bob Graham.

In 2000, Crist was elected Education Commissioner of Florida, and, in 2003 as the state's Attorney General, before being elected Governor in 2006, defeating Democrat Daryl Jones, 52.2% to 45.1%. In 2009, he chose to run for US Senate instead of reelection as governor. He lost the Republican primary to Marco Rubio, but decided to run as an independent in the general election, garnering 29.7% to Rubio's 48.9% and Democrat Kendrick Meek's 20.2%.

In 2012, Crist joined the Democratic Party and endorsed the reelection of President Obama. He ran for governor in 2014, but lost the general election to Republican incumbent Rick Scott by 1%. Crist ran as a Democrat for the US House in 2016, unseating Republican incumbent David Jolly by 4 points.

Other Declared Dems include businessman David Nelson Freeman, businessman Jonathan Karns, filmmaker Amaro Lionheart, 2018 gubernatorial candidate Alex Lundmark, and charity founder Timothy Mosley.

Miami State Senator Annette Taddeo is also said to be exploring a run.

DemList will keep you informed.

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Sources: Ballotpedia, Politico, New York Times, Florida Department of State, Wikipedia, Politico

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