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Former lawmaker Bev Kilmer challenges Brad Drake for Panhandle House seat

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

When Rep. Brad Drake agreed to step aside and allow Rep. Marti Coley to finish out her tenure in the House after 2011 redistricting, he probably figured her former HD 5 seat was all his for four terms.

But Bev Kilmer has announced she will not extend Drake the same professional courtesy Coley received when she and Drake were drawn into the same district.

Kilmer, a former fellow Republican state representative, filed paperwork to run for the deep-red Panhandle House seat on Wednesday, according to Division of Elections records.

Kilmer’s candidacy was first noted by Legislative IQ powered by LobbyTools.

Kilmer represented a similar district from 1999 until 2005 before leaving the Legislature to pursue the congressional seat then held by Democrat Allen Boyd.

Boyd trounced Kilmer by 62 percent to 38 percent margin in a 2004 presidential cycle that saw Republicans gain three seats nationally.

Drake has represented the broad mid-Panhandle seat since 2014. HD 5 takes in 4 1/2 largely rural counties: Holmes, Jackson, Walton, and Washington, plus part of Bay.

The first-term legislator is on his second go-around in Tallahassee, previously serving from 2008-2012 in a different incarnation of HD 5 altered by redistricting.

Drake is perhaps best known for his support for bringing back the electric chair and firing squads as form of capital punishment, an idea he says he got from a constituent at a local Waffle House.

“I say let’s end the debate. We still have ‘Old Sparky.’ And if that doesn’t suit the criminal, then we will provide them a .45-caliber lead cocktail instead,” Drake said in a 2011 statement back.

Drake defeated relative political novice Jan Hooks in a GOP primary last year 76 percent to 24 percent, but Kilmer is poised to bring considerably more campaign cash to bear in the 2016 contest along with her substantial experience in the House.

Kilmer will likely look to appeal to the district’s coastal areas for support, including Seaside and Santa Rosa Beach, since there isn’t much room on Drake’s right flank. He is popular with the inland, rural aspect of the district, where Republican nominee Mitt Romney took 73 percent of the vote against President Barack Obama in 2012.

A plurality of the population lives in such I-10 metropolises as Marianna, Chipley, Bonifay, and DeFuniak Springs.

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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