Brandes, Frishe battle it out to the end in Tampa Bay

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A Republican slug fest is playing out in the Tampa Bay region as two heavily backed candidates square off in a primary that will determine the next state senator from District 22, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.

St. Petersburg state Reps. Jeff Brandes and Jim Frishe are both trying to make their way to the upper chamber to represent the Pinellas County-based district. They face each other thanks to the retirement of the district’s current seat holder and the once a decade redrawing of political boundaries.

The race has drawn particular attention inside the ranks of the Senate GOP because of an intra-party duel between Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to become Senate president in 2016. The president is chosen by a vote of the majority party’s senators.

Brandes has close ties to Negron and Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, another Negron ally.

Latvala and Frishe are allies, and Latvala even briefly considered switching races with Frishe to take on Brandes.

The seat has no incumbent because Sen. Dennis Jones faces term limits. The district includes southern Pinellas County and part of western Hillsborough County. The winner of the Republican primary will nearly certainly take office – there are no Democrats on the ballot in November.

Frishe filed to run in January 2011. Through July 20, the last period for which records are available, he’d raised $261,541, of which he’s spent $206,955

Brandes, first elected to the House in 2010, is a relative late-comer to the Senate race. He filed his paperwork in June and has relied largely on $500,000 of his own money to finance his campaign. In all, he’s amassed $591,675 and spent $356,174.

Brandes has been endorsed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, the National Rifle Association and a group of senators including Sen. Garrett Richter and Sen. Anitere Flores.

“Jeff Brandes has the right stuff to lead in the Florida Senate,” Bush said in a statement. “Jeff has the courage and real world experience to tackle the complex issues facing the State of Florida. Having Jeff in the Florida Senate will ensure the residents of the bay area have strong, principled leadership in Tallahassee.”

Frishe began his legislative career in the House, where he served from 1984 to 1990. He was elected again in 2006 and has been re-elected since.

He has collected a lengthy list of endorsements including the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Medical Association and Senate Majority leader Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican who is in line to become Senate president in 2014.

“Jim has proven his credentials as a valuable member to the conservative cause as well as a fierce defender of Tampa Bay,” Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said in a statement. “Jim brings valuable experience to the legislative process, dedication to conservative principles, and foresight we need to continue making our state a better place to live.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.