Florida Primary Election: Four State House members lose seats

Florida State Capitol Building

Griff Griffitts. Rita Harris. Brad Yeager. Lisa Dunkley.

Outside of their districts or the world of political operatives, those names might not ring a bell. But after winning primary elections Tuesday, they, along with 20 other candidates, are headed to seats in the Florida Legislature.

Two dozen of Tuesday’s winners in Senate and House races do not have general-election opponents or face only write-in opponents, who typically receive only a few votes. That comes on top of 40 legislative candidates who ran without any opposition in this year’s races.

In all, 16 of the 40 Senate seats have been clinched, along with 48 of the 120 House seats.

With districts redrawn in the once-a-decade reapportionment process, all 160 seats were open this year. That is unlike most election years, when only a portion of Senate seats are on the ballot. But as usually happens, many races were decided early or are not particularly competitive.

High-profile legislative primaries Tuesday:

  • Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, defeated former Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief in Broward County’s Senate District 35. Book does not face a general-election opponent.
  • Rep. Michelle Salzman, R-Pensacola, defeated former Rep. Mike Hill, a Pensacola Republican who was attempting a comeback in Escambia County’s House District 1.
  • Former Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, won the primary in an open seat in Duval County’s House District 14. She will face only a write-in opponent in November.
  • Jacksonville Republican Kiyan Michael, who had backing from Gov. Ron DeSantis, defeated two other candidates, including former Rep. Lake Ray, in the GOP primary in Duval County’s House District 16. Michael will face only write-in opponents in November.
  • Lakeland Republican Jennifer Canady, who is married to Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady, won the GOP primary in Polk County’s House District 50. She does not face a general-election opponent.
  • Rep. Michele Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, defeated former Rep. Wengay Newton, a St. Petersburg Democrat who was attempting a comeback in House District 62 in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Some of the candidates who won their seats in Tuesday’s primaries were incumbents or other politicians with long track records. As examples, Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, won a return ticket to Tallahassee, as did Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who doubles as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

Other Senate seats were clinched by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine; Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton; Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park; and Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere. Thompson served in the Senate from 2012 to 2016 and then was elected to the House in 2018.

House candidates assured Tuesday of being sworn into their seats in November included Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka; Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto; Rep. Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City; Rep. Patricia Williams, D-Pompano Beach; Rep. Daryl Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale; and Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-North Miami. Also, former Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, is poised to return to the House after a two-year hiatus.

Meanwhile, 11 newcomers clinched House seats Tuesday. They included three in Northwest Florida; Navarre Republican Joel Rudman; DeFuniak Springs Republican Shane Abbott and Griffitts, a Panama City Beach Republican.

In Northeast Florida, Jacksonville Republicans Dean Black and Kiyan Michael punched their tickets to the House with primary wins. In South Florida, winners included Dunkley, a Sunrise Democrat, and Ashley Gantt, a Miami Democrat who defeated Rep. James Bush, D-Miami.

Other newcomers to the House after the primary will include Harris, an Orlando Democrat who defeated Rep. Daisy Morales, D-Orlando; Yeager, a New Port Richey Republican; Chase Tramont, a Port Orange Republican; and Jennifer Canady, a Lakeland Republican who is married to state Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady.