As the 2022 primary draws to a close, several storylines have emerged at the local, state and federal levels:
- The three-way Republican primary for state House District 16 is wild. Jacksonville Beach City Councilman Chet Stokes brought a wheelbarrow full of cash to the race and seeks to overwhelm his opponents with TV, radio and social media advertising.
Former state Rep. Lake Ray is a mild-mannered candidate who is asking voters to go with experience and a steady hand. Ray raised a respectable amount of campaign dollars. Then three weeks ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis threw a hand grenade into the middle of things when he endorsed political newcomer Kiyan Michael, an “Angel Mom” who has made public appearances with DeSantis on illegal immigration over the years.
Michael’s fundraising has understandably picked up since the governor’s endorsement, including a $50,000 donation from the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee, but she’s still behind her two opponents in dollars raised.
It’s been a brutal affair, and it’s probably a tossup as we head to the wire next Tuesday. Give a slight edge to Michael because she has the late momentum that only a big-deal endorsement can deliver.
- The governor also took the unprecedented step of publicly supporting several local school board candidates across the state. While school board races are technically nonpartisan, DeSantis’ involvement has resulted in clear partisan divides emerging in the dynamics of several races around Florida.
In Duval and Clay counties, DeSantis intervened on behalf of newcomers April Carney and Erin Skipper. Carney, who is running against incumbent Elizabeth Andersen in Duval, and Skipper, who is running against incumbent Janice Kerekes in Clay, both received significant jolts in momentum and will be tough to beat. Before the governor’s endorsements, the incumbents would have been considered the favorites.
- A few months ago, the new Congressional District 4 did not exist. CD4, which includes all of Clay and Nassau counties and half of Duval, was created by the Legislature at the insistence of DeSantis during the recently completed and hotly debated redistricting process in Tallahassee.
The creation of the solidly Republican “DeSantis District,” which replaces what used to be a solidly Democratic Congressional District 5 represented by Al Lawson, led to a mad scramble of candidates considering a run for Congress. It was shaping up to be a colossal battle among several high-profile contenders.
Ultimately, the race turned out to be a bit of a dud. State Sen. Aaron Bean managed to consolidate the support of leaders throughout the region and now appears to be headed to a comfortable primary victory, based upon recent polling from Florida Politics.
The common theme among all three storylines is DeSantis, who continues to stand as the dominant player in Florida politics at all levels. Expect that theme to continue through the 2024 presidential race.