An out-of-district Republican filed Friday to run against Saint Petersburg Democratic Rep. Dwight Dudley in House District 68.
According to Federal Elections Commission records, Joseph “JB” Bensmihen had been running for the South Florida congressional seat currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel before filing for the Pinellas County-based Florida House district.
Florida House rules require lawmakers to live in the district they represent, but proof of residency isn’t required until they assume office.
Bensmihen, the former CEO and owner of Boca Home Care Services, is the first challenger to file against Dudley this cycle. Through the end of March, the incumbent had just under $35,000 on-hand in his campaign account.
When he was running for the U.S. House, Bensmihen was able to raise $107,408 between the start of April 2015 and the end of March 2016. He won’t be able to transfer any of that money to his Florida House campaign, however.
HD 68 leans toward Democrats, though has potential to be competitive. Voter registration statistics from 2014 show Democrats have about 3,000 more registered voters than Republicans in the district.
Dudley got a tough challenge in his 2014 re-election campaign when he faced Republican Bill Young II, the son of deceased U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.
Young and Dudley were neck and neck in fundraising through Election Day, each raising around $245,000, though Dudley held on win with 53 percent of the vote in November.