DiCeglie, Rick Baker among potential candidates for Pinellas state Senate seat

The seat is now held by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who’s term-limited in 2022.
State Rep. Nick DiCeglie and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker are among the possible candidates for the state Senate seat currently held by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who will term out in 2022.
State Rep. Nick DiCeglie and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker are among the possible candidates for the state Senate seat currently held by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who will term out in 2022. [ Times ]
Published Jan. 9, 2021

Pinellas Republicans could be looking at a competitive primary for a juicy political prize in 2022, as both state Rep. Nick DiCeglie and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker are considering running for what will be an open state Senate seat.

According to GOP insiders, both have had conversations with Senate leadership about the seat now held by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who’s term-limited in 2022.

DiCeglie, of Indian Rocks Beach, confirmed via text message he’s considering running, while Baker didn’t respond to messages for comment.

Both would have strengths as GOP primary candidates, said Pinellas GOP insider Todd Pressman.

Baker has one of the county’s best-known political names after being elected twice as mayor — with 70 percent of the vote in his 2005 re-election — and losing narrowly to Rick Kriseman in 2017.

His non-partisan political history could appeal to the county’s GOP moderates.

DiCeglie, meanwhile, just won his second House term with 58 percent of the vote and is incoming chairman of the Insurance and Banking Committee, a powerful political fundraising platform. He has a strong party base as a former county GOP chairman.

Both have won elections in areas overlapping the Senate district, which covers central Pinellas and the southern beaches. The district takes in northeastern and northern St. Petersburg as well as parts of DiCeglie’s central Pinellas House district.

They may not be the only Republican candidates for the GOP-leaning district.

“An open Senate seat is a big ripe political plum that’s very attractive to any politician,” said Pressman.

Harvey to challenge Burgess

Mike Harvey, a 48-year-old North Tampa businessman and Democrat with little political experience, has filed and announced to run for the state Senate District 10 seat, formerly held by Tom Lee and just won by Sen. Danny Burgess.

A father of five who runs car services that work mainly at the Tampa airport, Harvey described himself as a political moderate, a position he said is being lost in today’s politics.

He ran unsuccessfully in November for Soil and Water conservation District supervisor’s post.

“I’m a political novice – just a guy with a mission,” Harvey said.

“I cannot sit idly by and watch my state and the Democratic Party fall apart. … I’m not getting younger, and I’m starting to think about the Florida that I want my children and grandchildren to grow up in.”

Harvey said issues that most motivate him are criminal justice reform; what he called the state’s failed response to the coronavirus pandemic; advocacy for the disabled, particularly schoolchildren; and what he called a faulty response to rampant opiod abuse and overdoses.

He said he strongly disagrees with the notion of defunding law enforcement, but that law officers need better training on how to deal with the community and young people should get instruction on how to respond to police.

Bilirakis on his missed votes

Why did Rep. Gus Bilirakis not cast votes on overturning President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, or on whether the next round of pandemic relief stimulus checks should be $600 or $2,000?

A family obligation kept him away from Washington Dec. 28 when both bills were voted on, but he would have voted for both measures, Bilirakis said in a statement released last week and filed in the Congressional Record.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.

“I have always supported getting larger direct stimulus payments into the hands of Americans who have suffered throughout the pandemic,” Bilirakis said.

The attempt to increase the payments from the $600 initially passed by Congress to the $2,000 demanded by Trump and urged by Democrats failed.

All Florida Democrats voted for the increase, while Florida Republicans split, with Tampa Bay area Reps. Ross Spano and Vern Buchanan among the “no” votes.

Congress successfully overturned the veto.

Franklin staffs up

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Lakeland, has chosen veterans of the congressional staff of retiring Rep. Pete Olson, R-Tx. for his top two staff positions, and a Lakeland construction executive and civic activist as his district director.

Scott’s chief of staff will be Melissa Kelly, and deputy chief of staff and legislative director will be Michael Richards, both of whom held similar positions under Olson.

U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin.
U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin.

Running Franklin’s Lakeland office will be Alice Hunt of Hunt Construction of Central Florida, who has a history of activity in the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Polytechnic University Foundation and other civic groups and construction trade groups.

Franklin’s press spokeswoman is Patrice Smith, a California native formerly on the staff of Sen. Tom Scott, R-S.C.

Contact William March at