Corcoran wants House GOP candidates to qualify by petition
House Speaker-Designate Richard Corcoran will set up a committee of 15 GOP lawmakers who will help oversee members' campaigns in the upcoming cycle. As part of the effort, Corcoran is urging every candidate to reach the 2016 ballot by the alternate method of gathering signatures from voters, not paying the qualifying fee of nearly $1,800.
"Our goal is that by the time qualifying happens there will be more people in our conference qualifying by petition and going the grass roots than ever before," the Land O'Lakes lawmaker says.
Under the petition method, state law requires House candidates to gather signatures from 1 percent of the voters by late May (qualifying opens June 20). The number of voters ranges from a low of 639 voters in Democratic Rep. Dave Kerner's Palm Beach County district to a high of 1,347 in Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson's district south of Jacksonville.
Corcoran himself will chair the campaign group, which he says is sure to include Rep. Keith Perry of Gainesville, who has won three races in a swing district with many liberal Democrats. Others will be sprinkled throughout the state and will be announced soon.
To maintain or grow the GOP's 81-member caucus in a presidential election year that could favor Democrats, Corcoran will likely pay special attention to three competitive seats: Districts 49 in Orange County, 53 in Brevard and 114 in Miami-Dade. District 49 will be an open seat in 2016 with freshman Rep. Rene Plascencia moving east to run in District 50. District 53 is open with Rep. John Tobia termed out (and GOP newcomer Randy Fine a favorite to win), and District 114 is open with Rep. Erik Fresen of Miami termed out.
Corcoran, who will become speaker next fall, faces a delay in deciding who from the Panhandle to put on his campaign committee because some House members may exit to run for Senate seats as they become open. He cited Reps. Mike Hill of Pensacola Beach, Clay Ingram of Pensacola and Doug Broxson of Gulf Breeze, all possible Senate candidates if Sen. Greg Evers leaves to run for sheriff in Santa Rosa County.
"It's very hard to make decisions," Corcoran told the Times/Herald. "We'll leave the Panhandle slot open."