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Sunburn – The Morning Read Of What’s Hot In Florida Politics – 5.25.21

Wilton Simpson and Kathleen Passidomo launch the prime season with a major fundraiser. Image via Colin Hackley.

 By Peter Schorsch    

Rep. Nick DiCeglie is officially kicking off his bid for Senate District 24 tonight, launching what will be a key race to watch heading into the 2022 election cycle.

DiCeglie filed for the seat, currently held by term-limited Sen. Jeff Brandes, in late February and has already raised nearly $21,000, as of the most recent campaign filings covering activity through April. His political committee, The Economic Freedom Committee, has about $130,000 on hand.

Nick DiCeglie kicks off his Senate campaign with a high-profile event that could keep opponents at bay. Image via Colin Hackley.

His star-studded launch includes cameos from U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Reps. Linda Chaney, Traci Koster and Chris Latvala, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Clerk Ken Burke, Pinellas County Tax Collector Charles Thomas, Pinellas Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, St. Petersburg Councilman Ed Montanari, Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters and Councilor Chris Burke, former Reps. Larry Ahern and Seth McKeel, former Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield, former Pinellas GOP Chair Jay Beyrouti, and former Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell.

That’s a guest list sure to drum up a major funding boost. And DiCeglie comes with a legislative record to help propel him through a possible primary against former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, and an already filed Republican, Timothy Lewis.

In 2019, he led efforts (HB 5) to make it harder for local governments to tax their citizens, a move that should help him in an eventual competitive primary.

This year, DiCeglie co-sponsored legislation to create COVID-19 liability protections for businesses. The approved bill (HB 7) increased the burden of proof on plaintiffs to prove gross negligence for COVID-19-related lawsuits. It’s applied retroactively to already filed legal action, a priority among Republicans.

But where are the Democrats?

So far, there has been almost no buzz on possible contenders from the left. Despite SD 24 being one of the best chances Dems have at reducing their minority in the upper chamber, only South Florida districts 9 and 37 a higher priority for the party. The race will be open, removing the incumbency challenge that often comes with trying to flip a seat. And as the district is currently drawn, it favors Republicans, but not so much that winning an open race is impossible.

Republicans carry a voter registration advantage, with 131,507 voters to Democrats’ 117,412. Still, it’s not insurmountable, even if their advantage grows as a result of upcoming redistricting, which could see Democrats lose ground in the district, most likely by drawing parts of the blue areas in the southern part of the district into Sen. Darryl Rouson’s already heavily blue Senate District 19.

There are some possibilities. Some insiders tell Florida Politics a candidate has already expressed interest, a woman with experience running communications for unions. But it’s not official. And an obvious choice, Lindsay Cross, who previously challenged Brandes, is rumored to be considering a run for Rep. Ben Diamond’s House seat, which he’s leaving to run for Congress.

Another option is former Rep. Jennifer Webb. She has the chops to get it done and already proved that she could win a purple district with her 2018 victory in House District 69. But she lost that seat just one cycle later, and she doesn’t currently live in the district.

But Democrats’ best hope might be in someone who can run as a moderate. St. Petersburg City Council member Brandi Gabbard comes to mind. As a Realtor, she often sides with Republicans on property rights issues and would be a palatable choice for Jeb Bush-type Republicans and nonpartisan NPAs.

To win, which Democrats desperately need to boost morale in a party that suffered painful losses just last year, they need a candidate who cannot only bring a solid resume to the table but one who can raise a ton of money to match DiCeglie, or whoever the Republican nominee winds up being. They also likely need a moderate candidate who can appeal to NPA voters, a crucial bloc in a district where they’re already outnumbered. Gabbard checks both boxes, and it’s no secret she has future political ambitions.

The SD 24 race seems like it might be a referendum on whether Democrats can rise to the occasion and get the right candidate into the race. Stay tuned.


Top Senate Republicans are taking a post-Special Session fishing trip, and donors are welcome aboard.

Senate President Wilton Simpson and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, who is set to succeed him, will be in Key West today through Thursday for a fishing fundraiser. The agenda includes a VIP dinner this evening, a welcome reception and dinner on Wednesday, and a fishing outing and dinner on Thursday.

Money raised will head to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the main political committee supporting Republican state Senate candidates.

Donor tiers aren’t listed on the invitation. The invitation states all events will be held outside and asks attendees to “remember to wear a mask.”

The fishing fundraiser is not the only one on the calendar for Senate Republicans.

A fundraiser at the storied Pebble Beach golf course in California is back on for mid-June. Senate Republicans have made the trek several times before, with last year being a notable exception. The 2020 event — also planned for June — was canceled over coronavirus concerns.

More details on the Pebble Beach fundraiser will be made available at a later date.

Entering prime fundraising months, FRSCC has about $3.7 million in the bank. The balance reflects $1.48 million raised and $1.14 million spent in the first quarter of 2020. The Key West and Pebble Beach rakes will be reported on the committee’s next quarterly report, due in mid-July.

FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.comMay 25, 2021

Republished with permission


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