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Write-in candidates qualify in two Southwest Florida state Senate races

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Southwest Florida will have closed primaries in two state Senate races, after write-in candidates filed to run for office in the waning days of the qualifying period.

Lizbeth Benacquisto will face Jason Maughan in the Senate District 27 Republican primary. On Tuesday, Cape Coral resident Dakota Austin Eads filed and qualified to run for the seat as a write-in candidate. That decision closes the Aug. 30 primary, meaning only registered Republicans can vote in the primary.

Benacquisto is well-liked in the district and has built up a significant war chest for her re-election bid. State records show she has raised nearly $254,000 and had nearly $154,000 cash on hand.

The Fort Myers Republican is a close ally of Senate President Designate Joe Negron, and is expected to have a prominent role in the Florida Senate in the coming years if she’s re-elected.

On Thursday, Benacquisto rolled out a campaign team of nearly 200 community leaders, advocates and supporters, including Sen. Bill Galvano, who is in line for the Senate presidency; Sen. Garrett Richter, who can’t run again because of term limits; Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson; and Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann.

Maughan is a political newcomer. The Sanibel Island Republican is an attorney, and has said he plans to focus his campaign on water issues in the state of Florida.

In nearby District 28, two write-in candidates have qualified for the race to replace Richter, thereby closing the Aug. 30 primary between Republicans Matt Hudson and Kathleen Passidomo.

MaryKathryn Johnson, who lists her address as St. Petersburg, and Raymond Mazzie, who lists his address as Tallahassee, qualified for the Senate District 28 race. State records show Mazzie qualified on Wednesday, while Johnson qualified on Thursday.

Hudson will face Passidomo in the Republican primary to replace Richter.

Hudson, who has spent the past two years as House Speaker Pro Tempore, can’t run for re-election again because of term limits. Passidomo is foregoing a re-election bid to run for the state Senate.

Both Southwest Florida state Senate districts are solidly Republican districts. No Democrat filed, or qualified, in either race.

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