The qualifying period for candidates officially closed at noon on Friday, locking the ballots for the upcoming slate of 2018 elections in Southwest Florida.
With the petition’s counted and fees paid, qualifying is now over for those running for office in Southwest Florida. Here is a look at the local and statewide races that are likely to have an impact.
In what will likely be one of the most expensive races the country will see in 2018, Gov. Rick Scott will square off against two-term incumbent Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate. After a noticeable dip following the Parkland school shooting, Scott has bounced back in recent months, holding a consistent if thin lead over the sitting senator in recent polls.
The seat that Scott will be vacating is also expected to be hotly contested. The Republican gubernatorial primary is essentially a two-man race between Agricultural Commissioner and state-political veteran Adam Putnam verses Trump-endorsed Congressman Ron DeSantis. Putnam recently faced criticism after it was revealed that many concealed permit holders had not been given one of the three required background checks due to a breach of procedure by an employee in his office. Despite this, Putnam has pulled ahead significantly in recent polls and it remains to be seen if an endorsement from the President will be enough to push DeSantis ahead of the political veteran.
Meanwhile, a crowded field of Democrats are vying to earn the right to challenge as nominee and win the governor’s office for the first time since 1998. West Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene was a late entrant to a field that includes former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor Bob Graham, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine, and Orlando businessman Chris King.
Freshman Congressman Francis Rooney will face his first re-election challenge for the right to represent the Florida’s 19th District from the winner of the Democratic primary between David Holden and Todd Truax. Much has been made of the “Blue Wave” phenomenon, with the opposition to President Donald Trump in-theory creating opportunities for Democratic candidates to win victories in what would otherwise be deeply-red districts. Whether the midterms will yield a shift to the left for Florida remains to be seen, but idea of the wave certainly seems to have an impact on the willingness of Democratic candidates to run. In 2016, only FL-19 and Florida House District’s 79 and 105 fielded Democratic candidates in legislative races. This year, a surprising amount of races are not only seeing Democratic challengers for seats that are traditionally deeply red, but there are even primaries in some of these races on the blue side of the ticket for the first time in over a decade.
In Florida Senate District 28, incumbent Republican Kathleen Passidomo will face Democratic challenger Annisa Karim. Karim ran unsuccessfully for Collier County Commission in 2016.
In the Florida House, the current representative for District 76, Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, will face the winner of what looks to be a three-way Democratic primary between Neilson Ayers, David Bogner, and Narcissus Magturo. The incumbent for District 78, Heather Fitzenhagen-R is running against Parisima Taeb-D, an Iranian-American doctor and a graduate of Stoneman Douglas High School, where the Parkland shooting took place earlier this year. In HD-79, the winner between Republicans Stephen Roach and Matt Miller is facing Mark Lipton-D for Matt Caldwell’s current seat. The race in HD-80 is seeing incumbent Byron Donalds-R run against Jennifer Boddicker-D and Dustin Lapolla-NPA. In HD-106, incumbent Bob Rommel-R is facing Sara McFadden-D.
For State Attorney, a pair of Republicans are vying for the position, with assistant state attorney Amira Fox facing off against former prosecutor Chris Crowley.
In Collier, Crystal Kinzel-R, who was appointed Clerk of Courts by Gov. Scott on Wednesday after the death of incumbent Dwight Brock will face fellow Republican Donald Berry. The incumbent county commissioner for District 2 Andy Solis-R will face architect and planner Brad Schiffer-R. In District 4, incumbent commissioner Penny Taylor will have to run against challengers Stephen Jaron-R and Gary Petit-Dor -D.
Jory Westberry will hold the seat for District 1 of the Collier County School Board, qualifying unopposed after incumbent Kelly Lichter chose not to run again. Jen Mitchell will face Kathy Ryan for the District 3 seat with incumbent Erika Donalds, who is also the wife of State Rep. Byron Donalds, choosing not to seek reelection. District 5 features a three-way race between Darlene Alvarez, Mary Ellen Cash, and two-term incumbent Roy Terry.
In Lee County, incumbent Cecil Pendergrass-R will face Bill Taylor-NPA in the race for county commissioner in District 2, while Brian Hamman will retain his seat in District 4 unopposed. District 1 incumbent for the Lee County School Board, Mary Fischer will run against Charles Dailey. District 4 will see former board member Don Armstrong face Gerri Ware, Debbie Jordan, and Louis Navarra. Incumbent Pamela Lariviere will run against Gwynetta Gittensand and Jon Shudlick in District 5, while Betsy Vaughn, Karen Watson, and Lori Fayhee will face off in the at-large District 6.
Primary Election: August 28
Registration Deadline: July 30
Early Voting: August 18-25
Florida is a closed primary state. Only members of a party will be able to vote in a partisan primary unless there are no other qualified candidates. Party affiliation must be updated by the registration deadline.
General Election: November 6
Registration Deadline: October 9
Early Voting: October 25-November 3
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