A dozen Republicans will seek higher office. Here’s where they stand on guns

NRA's rating system remains a big factor in Republican primaries
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres (
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres (
Published March 6, 2018|Updated March 6, 2018

As the Florida House debates access to guns, at least a dozen state lawmakers are running for higher office. Many of them face Republican primaries in which the National Rifle Association and its coveted rating system is a factor.

Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, who's running for agriculture commissioner, will be voting no. He opposes raising the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21.

"You're talking about 18-to-20 year olds. That's 600,000 Floridians who didn't do anything wrong, and they're going to have fewer civil rights after we pass this bill," Caldwell said.

How Republican legislators vote on access to guns will be a key issue on the campaign trail.

Caldwell is a lifetime NRA member who has called attention to his A rating with Republican primary voters.

He now faces a Republican primary in which one of his rivals for the Cabinet post is Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring. She voted against the bill Monday (SB 7026) after an impassioned speech about the lack of moral outrage in Florida about child neglect that contributes to gun violence.

Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, who's looking to move up to the Senate, is an exception. Diaz, a former assistant school principal, supports the legislation and says he'll vote for it.

"There are a lot of things in that bill that I would have loved to have had a long time ago," Diaz said.

Other Republicans expected to seek higher office are Gov. Rick Scott, a likely U.S. Senate candidate, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, who's considering a bid for governor.

Scott is expected to sign the legislation and Corcoran is expected to vote for it.

Three Republican House members are running for attorney general. Two GOP lawmakers will run for Congress and at least three House members will seek seats in the state Senate.