by: Jeremy Wallace|Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
March 22, 2016
A mini exodus continues in the Florida House of Representatives, as legislators who were thought to be running for re-election seek higher office.
Since the start of the final week of the annual Legislative session, three House members who had filed for re-election have changed their minds and are now running for the Florida Senate.
Sarasota Republican Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, became the latest, filing this week to run in an already crowded GOP primary to replace Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice. During the final week of the Legislature, which ended on March 11, Reps. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, and Ed Narain, D-Tampa, also both filed to run for Senate seats.
Rodriguez is running against Miami Republican Miguel Diaz de la Portilla for a newly reconfigured District 37. Narain is jumping into the race to replace Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, in District 19. Narain is running against former Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, in the Aug. 30 Democratic Primary.
Three other members of the House who have filed for higher office since the start of the month as well. State Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, followed through on earlier announced plans to run for the Florida Senate instead of seeking re-election. He filed at the start of March to run against Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, in a newly redrawn District 40. State Rep. Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake, filed to run for the Florida Senate in a newly redrawn District 11, which already had state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, running in it.
Finally, State Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, had filed to run for the Florida Senate, but on Monday officially filed to withdraw from that race to instead run for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Florida Panhandle. U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, announced earlier this month he would not seek re-election.
More changes could be coming still given that State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, has said he is not sure he will run again for the Senate in the new District 20, which includes parts of Pasco, Hillsborough and Polk counties. If he opts not to run, at least three current state representatives could run for the seat.
Pilon said for him the late decision to get in the Senate race in Sarasota was because of redistricting. The Florida Supreme Court redrew all of state’s 40 Senate districts in late December. He said he needed to see what the district would look like before committing to the race. When it was clear the Legislature would not seek to appeal the decision on the districts, the Legislature was already in session. Pilon said he wanted to wait until after the session finished before filing.
Pilon is facing current Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, former Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice, and a former Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson in the Aug. 30 Republican Primary.
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