FLORIDA — Tuesday’s midterm elections are expected to bring a red wave to the Sunshine State. Florida has long been considered a purple state, but the past four years have brought about a remarkable shift in hue. Thousands of Americans living under democratic leadership have fled their home states for greener – and freer – pastures in Florida, drawn in large part by Governor Ron DeSantis’ conservative policies.
Recent polls show commanding double-digit leads for several prominent Republicans, including DeSantis, Marco Rubio, Ashley Moody and Jimmy Patronis. With DeSantis on the ballot, many GOP candidates running for House and Senate seats in the Florida legislature will benefit from down-ballot voters turning out to reelect the governor. At this point, maybe the question isn’t if Republicans will add to their majority in the Legislature, but rather how many seats they will add.
Currently, the GOP holds 76 of the 120 seats in the Florida House of Representatives and 23 of the 40 seats in the Florida Senate. Republicans can secure a coveted supermajority by claiming four additional seats in each house. Eighty of the 120 House seats and 27 of the 40 Senate seats would establish the two-thirds party representation necessary for a supermajority.
SENATE DISTRICT 3
In Tallahassee, Democrat incumbent Senator Loranne Ausley is feeling the heat from Corey Simon, her GOP challenger for District 3. Ausley served in the House from 2000–2008 and then again from 2016–2020. Simon is a former star defensive lineman for FSU who played eight seasons in the NFL. More recently he served as CEO of Volunteer Florida.
In late September, the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee distributed a mailer that had Simon’s face on a gun target with an assault rifle and loose rounds of ammunition beneath it. Ausley said she had “no control” over ads that depicted her GOP opponent’s face on a gun target, but the Committee claims they had received her “written approval.” Neither Ausley nor the Committee led by Senator Lauren Book offered an apology for the ad, and Ausley would not answer the question as to whether or not she had signed off on it.
SENATE DISTRICT 14
In Tampa, another incumbent Democrat, Sen. Janet Cruz, is looking to fend off Republican Jay Collins for District 14. Before joining the Senate, Cruz served in the Florida House from 2010–2018. She currently serves as Vice Chair for the Senate Finance and Tax Committee. In September, Cruz launched an ad that championed her support for abortion access.
Collins is a highly decorated Army Special Forces combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient with over two decades of service. The former Green Beret had to have one of his legs amputated due to injuries sustained overseas. Collins has been endorsed by Governor Ron DeSantis.
Last week, the GOP Senate campaign launched an ad alleging that the Cruz campaign participated in the suspicious dark money fund advertised as Hurricane Ian Response Fund. The fund did not appear in Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ “Check-A-Charity” online database that provides the financial information reported to the department from charitable organizations. At the end of the ad, Cruz is seen with her arm around fellow Sen. Ausley as the two, surrounded by a group of LGBTQ activists, proudly chant “Gay, gay, gay!”
HOUSE DISTRICT 39
Orlando-area voters in District 39 will choose between two newcomers for the vacant seat, namely, Republican Doug Bankson and Democrat Tiffany Hughes. Independent voters are likely to play a major role in the outcome of this race, as Democrats hold a nominal advantage in registration with just a 31-voter lead over Republicans.
Bankson, a six-year member and former vice chair on the Apopka City Council, has served as the founding pastor at Victory Church World Outreach Center since 1995. He also founded a K-12 private school and served as Chairman of the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce from 2010–2011.
Hughes is owner and operator of KBI Staffing Solutions. She is the child of immigrant parents from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and previously served as the President of the Orange County NAACP – the youngest president in the chapter’s history.
Over the past seven weeks, the Florida Democratic Party routed over $28,000 to support Hughes’ campaign, while Republicans sent more than $20,000 to give Bankson a boost down the home stretch, News Service of Florida reported.
HOUSE DISTRICT 69
Two veterans are facing off for the vacant House District 69 and the opportunity to represent residents in the Tampa area. Rep. Andrew Learned, a Democrat, has represented District 59 since 2020. Learned served in the Navy for eight years, including three overseas deployments, where he was recipient of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. He owns a neighborhood learning center called GradePower Learning.
Republican Danny Alvarez is an attorney who practices family law and serves as general counsel for the Tampa Police Benevolent Association. Alvarez spent six years in the Army and was a member of Silver Wings, the Army’s first and oldest parachute demonstration and skydiving team.
Republicans hold a modest 2,700-voter lead in the district with over 40,295 registered voters compared to the Democrats’ 38,493, according to Florida Politics. With 36,404 voters registered with No Party Affiliation (NPA), swing voters are likely to make the difference in this competitive race.