Primaries pitted incumbent against incumbent in some Senate, House primaries; several tight races

Shevrin Jones, Lauren Book are winners; trouble for conservative Dems

By: and - August 24, 2022 12:24 pm

The Florida Capitol. Credit: Michael Moline

Primary day in the Florida House and Senate, both rejiggered during redistricting this year, placed a number of sitting senators and members against each other, produced some nail-biter outcomes and upsets.

Incumbent Webster Barnaby will likely face a machine recount in the GOP primary in HB 29 in Volusia County. Results as of Wednesday gave him 7,446 votes against 7,417 votes for fellow House member Elizabeth Fetterhoff — 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent. Redistricting had cast the two into the same district.

Barnaby is known for filing a Texas-style six-week abortion ban last year but it didn’t go anywhere.

The winner will face unopposed Democrat Rick Karl, former director of Daytona Beach International Airport, in November.

And in SD 15, Orange County House member Geraldine Thompson defeated Kamia Brown, the House minority leader pro tempore and the new chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, in the Democratic primary. Thompson had 29,270 votes, or 53.22 percent, against 25,728, or 46.78 percent, against Brown. No Republican has filed for the seat.

In both cases, the two women were House members who wanted to move to the 40-member Senate chamber.

In a similar case, State Rep. Tracie Davis, a Democrat representing part of Duval County, defeated candidate Reggie Gaffney to become the Democratic nominee for Senate District 5. Davis had received more than 30,000 votes, while Gaffney received almost 16,000 votes.

In the general election in November, she will face Republican Binod Kumar, who was unopposed, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Shevrin Jones — having made history as the first LGBTQ+ member of the Florida Senate in 2020 — routed all his Democratic opponents in the primary election for the state Senate race.

Jones, a Democrat representing parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, amassed about 68 percent of the vote Tuesday and was reelected to a second term in Senate District 34. In fact, he was the only senator who had three contenders in a Senate primary race, including himself.

“My focus has always been about people, and that’s where it will always be,” Jones told the Florida Phoenix via text message.

“I think people saw that I am genuinely interested in them and their needs and well-being. That’s what people voted for and I’m grateful for their support,” he added.

State Sen. Shevrin Jones. Credit: Florida Senate

Jones doesn’t face any Republican challengers in the general election, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

One of the candidates, who had run against Jones in 2020, had drawn criticism for past comments that were labeled homophobic, according to Florida Politics. Jones condemned Erhabor Ighodaro, a former public school teacher in Miami-Dade, for comments he’d made in 2020, saying “there is an image that God says a marriage should look like,” according to the news outlet.

In other Senate races, Senate Democratic leader Lauren Book beat back a challenge in her primary election in SD 35, earning 37,923 votes, or 60.33 percent of the total cast, against Barbara Sharief, who won 24,936 votes, or 39.67 percent. Sharief was Broward County’s first Black female mayor and identity politics reportedly played a role in the race. No Republican has filed for the seat.

In addition, some lawmakers may lose their seats.

House member Travaris McCurdy of Orange County trailed fellow House member Bruce Antone by 85 votes out of 9.925 in the Democratic primary in redistricted HD 49, or 29.45 percent to 28.59 percent in a four-candidate field. There is a Green Party candidate in the general election, Robin Denise Harris.

In HD 109, Miami lawyer Ashley Gantt ousted retired teacher James Bush III in the Democratic primary. Although first elected to the House in 1992, with interruption forced by term limits, Bush had sided with Republicans on matters including Florida’s15-week abortion ban. Gantt had 7,200 of the votes cast, or 51.59 percent, against 6,755, or 48.41 percent. No Republican has filed for the seat.

Michelle Salzman, the Republican incumbent in state HD 1 ended former Rep. Mike Hill’s effort to regain the seat he’d lost to her two years ago. She won 65.02 percent of the vote to his 34.98. She’d emphasized issues including infrastructure, safety, and education while Hill was known for pushing social issues including an abortion ban, according to the Pensacola News-Herald. There’s no Democrat seeking the seat in the far west Panhandle.

Another close race emerged in the Democratic Primary for HD 35, in Orange and Osceola counties, where 69 votes separated the top candidates. Rishi Bagga, a civil attorney, won 4,033 votes, or 38.72 percent, against Navy veteran Tom Keen, with 3,964 votes, or 38.06 percent. Real estate agent Tahitiana Munoz-Chaffin brought up the rear with 23.22 percent of the vote. The winner will face Republican House member Fred Hawkins, who won 52.2 percent of the vote in his party’s primary.

In another tight race in HD 93 in Palm Beach County, Katherine Waldron was ahead of Shelly Lariz Albright by 149 votes out of 14,857 cast as of Wednesday morning. That gave Waldron, a businesswoman, 31.22 percent of the vote against 30.22 percent for Albright, a church youth minister, in a four-candidate field. The winner will face Republican Dr. Saulis Banionis in November.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.