Nearly two hours after Beth Sweeny signed in at the Secretary of State’s office Tuesday, she waited at a counter while Division of Elections officials looked over her campaign’s paperwork and gave her the OK. She had qualified as a candidate for Florida Senate District 6.
Sweeny will compete with three others in a Jan. 27 Republican primary for a special election to fill the seat left open when John Thrasher resigned to become president of Florida State University. The St. Johns School District lobbyist had previously worked for former state Sen. Rhonda Storms and said she has spent the past eight years advocating in Tallahassee for people and schools.
“I know the process, I know the people, I can hit the ground running,” Sweeny said while waiting for her paperwork to be processed.
In the GOP primary, Sweeny is running against state Rep. Travis Hutson, who last month transferred $300,000 from his House to his Senate campaign account, and state Rep. Ronald Renuart, who recently lent his campaign $50,000.
“It’s gonna be tough but I believe grass-roots efforts is what win campaigns,” said Sweeny. “So, I look forward to knocking on a lot of doors in the next month.
Dennis McDonald also qualified Tuesday for the Republican primary. McDonald is a member of the Flagler County Tea Party. He ran for the County Commission in 2012 and 2014. The winner of the January primary will face Democrat David Cox in April.
Cox said he was encouraged to run for the Senate after losing in November to Congressman Ron DeSantis in a congressional district that nearly mirrors Senate District 6 and receiving nearly 100,000 votes.
Like Sweeny, Cox thinks a grass-roots effort can prevail in a special election when voter turnout is expected to be low.
I think a candidate who is on the ground working hard every day is what makes a difference (in the race), not cash,” said Cox who expects fewer than 12,000 voters for the April 7 special election. “The battle will be over turnout; making sure people participate in the process.”
Senate District 6 is considered a Republican seat. It stretches through four counties along the Atlantic Coast from St. Johns through Flagler and into Volusia County and west into Putnam County.
Voter registration gives the GOP a 42 to 32 percent edge. Thrasher won re-election in November with 58 percent of the vote. Gov. Rick Scott easily won St. Johns and Putnam counties with more than 60 percent of the vote and carried Flagler and Volusia with 48 percent. In the 2012 election, President Barack Obama received 39 percent of the district’s vote.