Florida State Senate races
Districts 25 and 27-40 cover South Florida. However, only even-numbered districts are up for grabs this year. Let’s go to the board.
I'll also be mentioning some of the more-interesting state senate races elsewhere in the state.
South Florida State Senate races
District 28: southern St. Lucie, eastern Okeechobee, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties
Incumbent: Ken Pruitt, Republican
Outlook: Pruitt consistently wins by large percentages every year. Additionally, he’s raised almost half a million dollars, while the Democrat, Stan Smilan, has raised about four grand. Don’t look to the state party to help him out much. First, this district isn’t competitive. Second, Smilan has a history of bad-mouthing the Democrats, lumping them together with the GOP in the “culture of corruption.” He may have a point, but it doesn’t help his chances.
Web sites: Kenpruitt.com and Stansmilan.com
District 30: Palm Beach and Broward counties, just west of the Intracoastal
Incumbent: Senate Democratic minority leader Ron Klein, who is running against Clay Shaw for the U.S. House seat in District 22.
Outlook: Perhaps the most hotly contested state senate seat, this one comes down to Democrats Ted Deutch and Irv Slosberg, with write-in candidate George Harageones and Libertarian Karl Dickey locking other voters out of the primary. Deutch has raised about half a million dollars and spent half that amount. Slosberg has raised about $1.5 million and already gone through just about all of it, doling out heaps of cash for those cheesy, folksy “Let Irv Serve” commercials. I should also point out that the vast majority of Slosberg’s money comes from $1.4 million in loans, while Deutch garnered his cash primarily from campaign contributions. Given the plague of Slosberg advertising, I’m inclined to say Slosberg will pull this one out, though it’s possible that Deutch will pull ahead in the next couple weeks as Slosberg runs out of steam – I doubt it though. Which is sad, because I think I prefer Deutch — it’s a question of substance over style. Both men are middle-of-the-road, boring Dems, though – Deutch, for example, served on the national committee of the Lieberman for President campaign. Despite being so hotly contested, this race kinda leaves me shrugging my shoulders.
Web sites: Dickey2006.org, Letirvserve.com, TedForFlorida.com
District 32: North Central Broward County
Incumbent: Walter “Skip” Campbell, Democrat, is term-limited out and running for state Attorney-General
Outlook: Another hotly contested race, and another one decided by the Democratic primary, with write-in candidate Kenneth Lunkins locking out other voters. Of the three candidates — Ben Graber, James Haddad and Jeremy Ring — we can pretty much discount Haddad, who has raised less than 10 grand. Graber, on the other hand, has raised just over $200,000 and spent about $121,000, while Ring has pulled in about $600,000 and spent nearly $578,000. Like Slosberg, most of Ring’s money comes from loans, while Graber’s money mostly comes from political donations. Graber also has name recognition, having previously served in the state house of representatives and as a Broward County commissioner. In those jobs, he’s developed a reputation as perhaps the cleanest man floating in an ocean of sleaze. Besides, I rarely like the rich-guy-running-for-political-office candidate, and former Yahoo exec Ring fits that bill to a tee.
Web sites: JeremyRing.com
District 34: South Central Broward and central Miami-Dade counties
Incumbent: Nan Rich, Democrat
Outlook: Rich is running unopposed
Web sites: NanRichForSenate.com
District 36: Central Miami-Dade, just west of the Intracoastal
Incumbent: Alex de la Portilla, Republican
Outlook: Aside from write-in candidate Angie Rodriguez, De La Portilla is running unopposed – sad given the slew of campaign violations he had to pay fines for back in 2000. Originally cited a staggering $311,000 for 311 violations, he eventually paid $8,170 for 17 violations. Hell, he even tried to get out of that, claiming in court that he didn’t have the money. After reviewing his ownership of two homes, one valued at $800,000, the judge ordered him to pay up. Amazing you can be this sleazy and still coast to re-election. Says something about the lopsidedness of districts, caused by the gerrymandering of politicians on both sides of the aisle.
District 38: Central Miami-Dade, nestled between districts 34 and 36
Incumbent: J. Alex Villalobos
Outlook: Challenger Frank Bolanos makes the Republican primary a nailbiter. Both candidates have raised similar amounts of cash. Bolanos is running from the right, painting Villalobos as a liberal sympathizer. The claim doesn’t hold much water, since Villalobos’ conservative creds aren’t in doubt, only his vote against a few rather ridiculous plans by Jeb Bush to ignore the will of the people in the classroom-size amendment. He further ostracized Jeb by voting down the governor’s school-vouchers plan. Jeb, being the petulant little bastard he is, has supported Bolanos in what seems to be nothing more than vengeance for disloyalty. If the Cuban Republican political machine can turn out voters the way they usually do, Bolanos will go for the upset. If not, look for voters to re-elect the incumbent as usual. Given that shadowy groups such as the Citizens for Conservative Values have compared Villalobos to Hillary Clinton and, bizarrely, Ted Bundy, though, this campaign has gotten ugly fast. Also, while Villalobos is far from liberal, he is, admittedly, a lot closer to the center than Bolanos, a Miami-Dade County School Board member who has referred to the teachers’ union as “socialists.” Ah, yes … you know you’re in Miami when you hear anti-Communist rhetoric in a 21st Century American election.
Web sites: Frankbolanos.com
District 40: North Central Miami-Dade
Incumbent: Rodolfo “Rudy” Garcia, Republican
Outlook: Rudy’s running unopposed.
You’ll notice that, in both this and my blog entry on the Florida State House elections, I’m not calling for a single district to change hands. Gerrymandering by both parties has really curbed the people’s ability to elect proper representation. But whattaya gonna do?
Meanwhile, in State Senate races in other parts of Florida
Most of the really interesting races are taking place outside of South Florida this election cycle. Some really great stuff to look at. I'm just going to focus on a couple of competitive ones, and leave all the unopposed candidates and obvious winners alone.
District 08: the coastline of Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Flagler counties
Incumbent: Jim King, Republican
Outlook: Similar to the Bolanos/Villalobos Republican primary in District 38, Republican inbumbent Jim King faces a challenge from an ultraconservative, Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue. For those unfamiliar with Operation Rescue, it's the largest anti-abortion organization in the country that actively practices civil disobedience -- often blockading abortion clinics, and so on. Terry himself was arrested more than 40 times in the 10 years he led the organization (1987-1997). He refers to Republican Christine Todd Whitman as "left wing," leaving me to wonder how he refers to actual left-wingers like Dennis Kucinich -- unpatriotic traitors, more than likely. He has disowned both his adopted son and two adopted daughters, the former for coming out as gay, the latter for both getting pregnant outside of marriage. Although King has raised about three times as much money, the write-in candidates assure that only Republicans will vote in the primary. Hopefully, cooler heads in the Republican Party will prevail. While King certainly has his flaws -- morbidly obese flaws filled with filthy lucre -- he's a million times better as a state senator than a dangerous lunatic like Terry, who ran for Congress from New York in 1998 with the motto: "no property taxes, no IRS, no social security, no abortion and no homosexuals." Yikes.
Web sites: JimKingForSenate.com, RandallTerry.com
District 10: East Hillsborough County, with small areas of Southeast Pasco and West Polk counties
Incumbent: Senate president Tom Lee, Republican, is running for the state's Chief Financial Officer.
Outlook: Former state house member Sandy Murman, local business owner Ray Young and county commissioner Ronda Storms are going against each other in the Republican primary, with the winner facing off against Democrat Stephen Gorham in the general election. We can pretty much discount Young, who has raised less money than either of his competitors and spent nearly all of it already. Storms will make the primary competitive, especially with her security-mom-focused campaign, in which she has focused on national security, porn filters in public libraries, and other issues that are allegedly important to paranoid soccer moms everywhere. However, Murman enjoys a 3-1 edge in fundraising, as well as name recognition and party support. She'll probably win the primary and face Gorham in the general. Gorham, a veteran of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, is calling for college tuition paid for returning vets, promoting jobs that pay a living wage, doubling the Homestead Tax Exemption from $25k to $50k, repealing all of Bush's asinine anti-labor laws, universal healthcare for school-aged children by 2015, and equal protection under the law for everyone, including gays. That last point will probably kill him in this heavily Republican district. Look for Murman to scream "gay marriage" all the way to the state senate.
Websites: RondaStorms.com, SandyMurman.com, StephenGorham.com and VoteRayYoung.com
District 14: all of Alachua and Gilchrist counties, plus surrounding areas of Columbia, Union, Bradford, Putnam, Marion and Levy counties
Incumbent: Rod Smith, Democrat, is running for governor
Outlook: The only state senate race with both Democratic and Republican primaries. For the Democrats, state house representative Ed Jennings, Jr., will likely best former state house rep. and Alachua County Commissioner Perry McGriff, Jr. I say this mainly because of the fundraising advantage, but I also like Jennings' focus on affordable housing, and it'd be nice to have a black man in the state senate -- there's damn few black people there as it is. In fact, Larcenia Bullard of District 39 and Frederica Wilson of District 33 are the only two who spring immediately to mind, though there may be others I've forgotten. In any case, on the Republican side, Travis Horn takes on Alachua County Sheriff Steve Oelrich. Oelrich has a massive fundraising lead and will probably take this primary. In fact, the fundraising lead is so large that he'll head into the general election with a sizable war chest. Jennings will probably pull this off, but if the GOP has a chance to take a state senate seat away from the Dems, it's here.
Web sites: EdJenningsJr.com, PeterMcGriff.com, SteveOelrich.com and TravisHorn.com
District 16: Eastern Pinellas and Western Hillsborough counties
Incumbent: Republican Jim Sebesta is term-limited out
Outlook: Republican primary will feature state house rep. Kim Berfield taking on state house rep. Frank Farkas. Berfield has a slight fundraising advantage and is about 10 times hotter than Farkas. She wins. She'll then take on Democratic state house rep. Charlie Justice in the general election. Justice ought to win for his name alone (much like Sheldon Whitehouse in the Rhode Island U.S. Senate race, but I digress). Because he's running unopposed in the primary, he'll have a lot of cash on hand once the smoke clears and the Republican primary produces a competitor. It's a heavily Republican district -- I mean, it's so red it bleeds -- so I doubt Justice can pull it off.
Web sites: Berfield2006.com, CharlieJustice.com and FranklyFarkas.com
That's pretty much it. The rest of the state senate races are either unopposed or the incumbent or obvious winner faces paltry competition. Hold onto your butts. Should be a great election year.