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Amid legislative turnover, new House candidates reach for safe GOP seats

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

As ever in the term limits era, the makeup of the Republican House majority is set to shift in terms of personnel, if not necessarily in degree of dominance.

As the very House-inflected state Rep. Matt Gaetz seeks to take over his father state Sen. Don Gaetz‘s spot in the Legislature’s upper chamber, a Walton County commissioner has filed to replace him in his deeply conservative District 4 seat.

Commissioner Wayne Harris filed paperwork to run on June 10, according to the Florida Division of Elections. Harris is currently serving out his second term at the county level, which he said he always intended to be his last.

“I want some new blood to come in and take over,” Harris recently told the Northwest Florida Daily News.

To say that HD 4 favors Republicans would be like saying the Kim family does well in Pyongyang precincts — the seat is the most Republican by voter registration (57.5 percent) in the entire state, and many Democrats there vote for GOP candidates, too. Mitt Romney took 73 precent of the vote there in 2012.

The district is home to Eglin Air Force Base, one of the nation’s largest military installations.

So far Harris’ is the only hat in the ring to replace the younger Gaetz.

Republicans figure to retain possession of a House seat of some import along the Space Coasts, too, if by less gaudy margins: the race to succeed term-limited state Rep. Ritch Workman in Brevard County’s  HD 52 continues to heat up as GOP candidate Monique Miller becomes the third “R” to join the race.

Brian Hodgers and Robert VanVolkenburg had previously opened campaign accounts and continue to pursue the seat, which breaks down 46/29/22 along Republican, Democratic and no-party lines.

So far Hodgers leads the way in fundraising, with nearly $80,000 in the bank between campaign contributions and loans, with VanVolkenburg reporting just shy of $15,000.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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