Special Florida Senate Primary Set for July 25

Graphic of Florida Senate seats as of April 21, 2017. (Unmodified graphic by Shabidoo used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1xMszCg)

On April 18, at Tallahassee’s Governor’s Club, Florida Senator Frank Artiles, R-District 40, was caught aiming sexist language and racial slurs towards to two Senate colleagues, Audrey Gibson, D-District 6, and Perry Thurston, D- District 33.

Soon after accounts of the conversation leaked, the Florida Democratic Party and the Florida Legislative Black Caucus demanded Artiles’ resignation.

Despite Senate Republicans standing passively loyal, Artiles resigned on April 21. To fill his seat, Gov. Scott called for the date of the primary to be July 25, 2017 and the special general election to be September 26, 2017. 

Today, special elections, like Georgia’s 6th, garner national attention from Democrats hoping to gain some insight into the political atmosphere before the 2018 midterms.

Although Artiles won his seat by 10 points in 2016, Hillary Clinton won the district by double digits. Seeing an opening to win another seat in Florida Senate currently filled with 15 Democrats to 25 Republicans, the Florida Democratic Party is channeling its energy to flipping the seat.  

Democrats are hoping local wins will reverberate nationally. As Stephen Bittel, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party said, “If we’re able to deliver a big win and take this seat back, it will send a crystal-clear message that Floridians aren’t going to stand for Donald Trump and Frank Artiles’ extreme, racist right-wing agenda.”

Republicans running to replace Artiles include former Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who resigned in May from the Florida House to pursue the District 40 Senate seat, former state senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla and attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck.

Pollster Dario Moreno has stated that Portilla has a 51 percent positive name recognition, ahead of Diaz’s 26 percent positive.

On the Democratic side, the race began with State Rep. Daisy Baez announcing her candidacy.  Despite Florida Democrats coalescing around Baez and endorsements from former Rep. Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, both running for Florida governor, Baez dropped out just 19 days after filing for the seat, citing a family health emergency.

Some speculate, however, Baez dropped out to make room for the two other Democratic contenders, Annette Taddeo and Ana Rivas Logan, after a poll by the Public Policy Polling for the nonprofit Florida Alliance, showed Baez coming in third in the primary.

According to Politico, a top Democratic official said, “We can win this seat, but not with Daisy. And she knows that.”

The poll showed Taddeo comfortably leading the pack. Taddeo, who owns a translating business and has a strong following as a Democratic pundit on Spanish broadcasts, has been on the ballot four times, though never elected.  

Second in line is Ana Rivas Logan, who served a Miami-Dade School Board Member for six years before a term in the Florida House as a Republican. Later switching to the Democratic Party, she ran for the Senate seat in 2017 but lost in the primary.

Democrats remain hopeful that they can fill the seat, but first, they have to coalesce around a candidate after the loss of Baez.

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