A glimpse of a new-look Florida Senate, with many new faces
Florida's primary election was a mixed bag for Gov. Rick Scott in the Florida Senate, as two candidates he favored won their elections but two others lost in costly and hotly-contested Republican skirmishes across the state.
Scott, with a push from his allies at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, pulled out the stops for Rep. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, who cruised to victory in Senate District 1 over Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola Beach. Scott also triumphed in his backyard of Naples where Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, defeated Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples. Hill and Hudson both opposed Scott's priority of a framework for Enterprise Florida to spend $250 million for job incentives.
But two other candidates who opposed that proposal (HB 1325) were victorious Tuesday. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, won a crowded race for an open Senate seat, and Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, defeated Rep. Ritch Workman in a vitriolic race for a Space Coast district. (Scott favored Workman and ex-Rep. Doug Holder of Sarasota over Steube).
In a three-way GOP race that was nip-and-tuck all night, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, needed a late push from Lake County voters and narrowly defeated Rep. Marlene O'Toole, R-Lady Lake, and businessman David Gee, based on unofficial returns on the state Division of Elections web site. O'Toole and Gee split the GOP vote in The Villages, a pillar of the redrawn Senate District 12 where both are residents.
Broxson, Passidomo, Steube and Mayfield are all poised to join a new-look Senate that will have at least 18 new members out of 40 when it reorganizes in November in Tallahassee as it experiences the greatest one-year turnover since term limits took effect in 2000. Steube still faces Democrat Frank Alcock of Sarasota in November in an area that has consistently favored Republican Senate candidates.
The other new Senate candidates who won primaries Tuesday and are heavily favored in November or who face only write-in opposition are Democrats Randolph Bracy, Linda Stewart and Victor Torres in Orlando, Kevin Rader and Bobby Powell in Palm Beach, Gary Farmer in Fort Lauderdale and Daphne Campbell in Miami. Two other senators, both incumbents, also were assured of new terms Tuesday because they face only write-in opposition: Republican Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers and Democrat Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth.
Despite all those new faces, the partisan composition of the Senate remains 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats -- but that could change on Nov. 8.