Backroom Briefing: Who Wants to Be a Candidate?

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Democrats have turned to billboards to attract candidates for remaining open and uncontested congressional and legislative seats.

With filing deadlines for congressional races next week and for the State House and Senate in just under two months, the Florida Democratic Party on Wednesday launched a targeted recruitment effort using billboards and digital ads in Polk, Madison, Miami-Dade and Seminole counties.

“We are already competing in more races compared to 2022 but it is our goal to field candidates in every seat across the state and give Republicans a run for their money,” Party Chair Nikki Fried stated in a release.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Evan Power sniped that Democrats are having to use billboards because their “radical agenda” has turned off Floridians.

“While (Nikkie Fried) is lighting her limited campaign cash on fire, Republicans are growing our registration lead, flipping local elections, and delivering for Florida’s citizens,” Power posted on X, formerly Twitter.

The Dems plan to boost the outdoor and digital ads over the next couple of weeks in advance of the qualifying period for legislative races, which begins at noon on June 14 and runs through June 20.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a former RPOF chairman from Spring Hill, tweeted online that Fried was recruiting for “unwinnable races.”

Florida Democrats also are calling for candidates to contest GOP incumbents in congressional races. The qualifying period for congressional races runs from noon Monday to noon on April 26.

Dems are seeking candidates to run against U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, in North Florida’s District 2; U.S. Rep. John Rutherford in District 5 in Northeast Florida; and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, in District 12, which is north of Tampa.

“We all know someone who should run for office, and if there have ever been a time to step up and lead, it’s now,” Florida Democratic Party Candidates and Campaigns Director Danielle Hawk said in the release.

The Democrats noted they don’t have candidates in 27 of the 120 state House districts. They’re also seeking contestants for four Senate races — including District 1, where former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, thus far is unchallenged for the Panhandle seat. Republican Senate incumbents who lack a Democratic challenger include Sens. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach; Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills; and Bryan Avila, R-Miami Springs.


Florida Commerce Secretary J. Alex Kelly already has a funding priority for the 2025 legislative session: Money for the proposed “Supply Chain Innovation Grant Program.”

“We’ve got to go back next year and try to build out the funding,” Kelly told the Select Florida board on Friday. Select Florida was established to continue international business-recruitment efforts after the Enterprise Florida agency was eliminated last year.

The creation of the grant program was included in a department bill (SB 1420) passed during the 2024 legislative session this spring, which has not yet been sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis. But the measure did not include any funding and isn’t addressed in the state budget.

“We at least got the statute. We got the structure that the program created. And we’ll pursue the funding for it next year and just try to gather a bigger broader group of partners for that,” Kelly added.

The grants are to be for infrastructure projects linked to advanced air mobility, such as vertiports still being developed for vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Under the grant program, the commerce agency would work with the Department of Transportation to review and select projects “that create strategic investments in infrastructure to increase capacity and address freight mobility to meet the economic development goals of the state.”


Senate President-designate Ben Albritton, who will take over as leader of the upper chamber following the November elections, said he doesn’t expect his Republican caucus to lose its 28-12 seat majority this fall.

“How sure am I that we’re going to come back with the 28 we have right now? Don’t bet against us. I’m that sure,” the Wauchula Republican, who’s chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a video posted by Florida’s Voice on Friday.

The political committee had a little more than $20 million on hand as of March 31, eclipsing the campaign warchest on the other side of the aisle.

The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee had just over $1 million available by the end of March, according to state Division of Elections records. The committee is chaired by Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Sunny Isles Beach Democrat who will take over as the Senate Democrats’ leader after the fall elections.


Miami Gardens Democrat Christopher Benjamin, an attorney who is leaving office early to run for a Miami-Dade County Court judge position, a year ago was among the last legislators to file an annual financial-disclosure form.

This year, he was the first to submit the paperwork to the state Commission on Ethics, beating the July 1 soft deadline by nearly three months.

Benjamin’s April 8 report showed that his net worth was in the red by $292,937 as of Dec. 31, 2023. The figure, primarily attributed to home and student loans, reflects a $7,000 improvement from the previous year.

Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a term-limited Republican from Indialantic, filed her financial information four days later.

Mayfield showed a net worth of nearly $5.47 million as of March 31, an increase of $1.78 million from June 1, 2023.

The Form 6 report requires lawmakers to generally list assets and liabilities over $1,000, along with sources of income for the prior year.

Last year, nearly one-quarter of the 160 members of the Florida Legislature missed the July 1 deadline to submit the annual reports to the state Commission on Ethics. But no sweat — lawmakers have given themselves and other elected officials a two-month window to electronically submit the reports before $25-a-day fines may be imposed. The maximum penalty is $1,500.


“One of America’s finest public servants, Adele’s cherished husband and a devoted father and grandfather has left us for his celestial home. He strongly believed that ‘a public office is a public trust’. What a legacy! Godspeed Bob Graham.” — 1000 Friends of Florida (@floridafriends) on Wednesday.

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