Early Dad’s Day gifts
With more than four months before the General Election, and more than two months before a single vote is counted, nearly a quarter of the 2022-24 Legislature is already lined up.
Friday’s noon qualifying deadline came and went, and 36 of Florida’s 160 state House and Senate lawmakers secured victory when no one else signed up to challenge them. By the end of the day, as the Department of State’s bookies counted who had paid their qualifying fees, dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s, the final list includes seven current and future Senators, as well as 28 “re-elected” House members. All are Republicans, except for one Senator and five Representatives.
Along with Senate President-designate Kathleen Passidomo, congratulations to Republican Sens. Jennifer Bradley, Gayle Harrell and Debby Mayfield, as well as Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, on their re-elections. And say hello to future Republican Sens. Bryan Avila and Erin Grall.
On the House side, Republican Reps. Thad Altman, Melony Bell, Chuck Brannan, David Borrero, James Buchanan, Wyman Duggan, Tom Fabricio, Mike Giallombardo, Michael Grant, Joe Harding, Sam Killebrew, Patt Maney, Stan McClain, Lauren Melo, Daniel Perez, Alex Rizo, Spencer Roach, Will Robinson, Bob Rommel, Jason Shoaf, Tyler Sirois, Cyndi Stevenson and Kaylee Tuck will return. Democratic Reps. Kevin Chambliss, Michael Gottlieb, Dianne Hart, Christine Hunschofsky and Felicia Robinson are also uncontested.
The list is missing Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, who was listed as unchallenged initially but picked up a late challenger in Tampa Democrat Mike Harvey.
Several lawmakers also lost challengers as the Division of Elections processed paperwork throughout the afternoon. Avila, Bradley and Mayfield lost their Senate challengers, as did Altman, Buchanan, Chambliss and Killebrew.
Notably, Avila was already a given, as his only competition was former Miami Republican Sen. Manny Diaz. Avila only entered the race after Diaz declined re-election to become DeSantis’ Education Commissioner.
For the Republican Majority, the early lead doesn’t shift the needle as far as the expected balance of power. However, it means Republicans presumably have less in question before the Aug. 23 Primary Election and the Nov. 8 General.
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
But first …
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
DeSantis looms over qualifying week — While some state lawmakers sailed to another term, and state races formed or solidified, qualifying week meant prospective candidates from the federal level to the local level were jockeying for seats up and down the ballot. DeSantis played a significant role in assembling the GOP’s final slate of candidates in the Senate. With Rodrigues apparently moving into the DeSantis administration, the Governor picked Martin as his preferred Senate District 33 candidate. DeSantis also gave the nod to Volunteer Florida CEO Corey Simon to challenge Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley in Senate District 3 and Green Beret Jay Collins to challenge Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz in Senate District 14. But this week also brought other shakeups, like Corrine Brown jumping into the race for the 10th Congressional District … in Orlando.
Children’s COVID-19 vaccine orders available in Florida — Florida providers can now start ordering doses designed for children. But White House officials say Florida’s rollout will be delayed because the DeSantis administration “intentionally” and “deliberately” missed the pre-order window ahead of the federal government clearing COVID-19 vaccines for children between 6 months and 5 years old. Despite the expected clearance, DeSantis told reporters Thursday that the state would continue recommending against vaccinating healthy children. The advisory from the Florida Department of Health won’t prevent parents from choosing to vaccinate their children, but it does mean they won’t be able to go to state and public health departments to get those shots. The issue breathed new life into the political posturing between DeSantis and President Joe Biden, as both administrations lobbed verbal attacks at each other over vaccines.
DeSantis signs immigration bill, announces new measures — The Governor is taking the next step in his plan to crack down on illegal immigration with a plan to fight back against Biden’s “sanctuary federal government.” DeSantis signed legislation and announced initiatives to take more action against illegal immigration at the state level after accusing the Democratic President of violating his oath of office. Among them, DeSantis announced the implementation of a law enforcement strike force on drug and human trafficking, as well as immigrants who are in the country illegally and carrying firearms illegally. The Governor also petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a grand jury on human trafficking and smuggling.
Soil and water supervisors added to qualifying week — Qualification week also brought surprising news for supervisors on Florida’s 56 Soil and Water Conservation districts. DeSantis signed a measure late Wednesday upping the qualification requirements and forcing all sitting and prospective supervisors, regardless of whether they were already up for re-election and whether they had already qualified, to submit new documentation and run this year. The law requires candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District boards to either be agriculture producers working or retired after at least 15 years of work or be employed by an agriculture producer. With the new law, each district’s five board members must meet at least once per calendar year or else the district is immediately dissolved.
Florida’s python hunt challenge is back — Florida’s annual python challenge is back, and the Sunshine State is taking the names of people who want to cull invasive Burmese pythons from the Everglades. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and South Florida Water Management District will host the event, which will run from Aug. 5-14. Applicants will have to take an online training course and register to compete in the challenge. Hunters who capture the longest python will get a $2,500 reward, and the hunter who catches the most will receive $1,500.