Local Senate race heats up
Oct 17, 2011
The following article was published in the Daytona Beach News Journal on October 17, 2011:
Local Senate Race Heats Up
By Derek Catron
Say the race for the state Senate seat in Volusia County-dominated District 7 is the most competitive in Florida, and you won’t get much of an argument.
It’s the only race to have both a Democrat and Republican actively raising funds for next year’s campaign.
Even though all 40 state Senate seats will be up for grabs in 2012 because the Legislature is drawing new political boundaries, the District 7 seat being vacated by Ormond Beach Republican Evelyn Lynn because of term limits stands apart.
Three candidates are registered and actively raising funds for the race: Volusia County Chair Frank Bruno, a Democrat, and Republicans Dorothy Hukill, a four-term veteran of the state House, and Marion County School Board member Jackie Porter. Together, they’ve raised more than $380,000, based on campaign finance reports posted on the state’s web site last week.
There are other races that have more candidates and plenty of candidates who’ve raised more money, but no other race features a choice from both major political parties.
Of course, it’s still early; official qualifying won’t be until June. And until the once-a-decade reapportionment process is completed, candidates can’t be sure of which district they’ll be living in when new boundaries are drawn during the Legislative session that begins Jan. 10.
For those reasons, “it isn’t so surprising,” said Stetson political science professor Wayne Bailey, though the number of competitive races was smaller than he would have guessed.
Having noncompetitive races doesn’t help foster a functional democracy, Bailey said. He hopes lawmakers will abide by the spirit of last year’s constitutional amendments calling for fair legislative and congressional districts.
“If those amendments take effect, I think it will help rebalance the playing field,” he said.
Hukill was surprised but not daunted by the idea that her race looked to be the only competitive one so far.
“I like campaigning, so it doesn’t matter to me,” the former Port Orange mayor said. “We give voters a very clear choice. I think it will be a fair and competitive race.”
Hukill has raised the most money for the race so far, with more than $161,000 in contributions, based on reports through Sept. 30. Porter, a retired business owner, totaled $100,000 for the race — all of it coming in the form of a loan from herself.
In a sign of just how dominant Republican fundraisers have been, Bruno’s total of nearly $119,000 ranks behind only one other state Senate candidate from his party — District 31 incumbent Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood — yet he still trails Hukill and wouldn’t even rank in the top 10 among Republicans.
The biggest war chests have been accumulated by Republicans who don’t even have competition from the Democrats: Denise Grimsley of Sebring ($640,535), Don Gaetz of Niceville ($399,510), Lizbeth Benacquisto of Loxahatchee ($346,999) and Bill Galvano ($305,159) of Bradenton.
Still, Bruno was pleased with his performance so far. After lending his campaign $11,000 and getting more than $9,000 from the state Democratic party, he still raised more than $97,000, all of it within the last quarter.
“I can’t believe the amount of support from across the county,” he said. “Everybody has been there. I feel very blessed.”