You might want to call them instant winners.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, a dozen Florida Senate candidates appeared to win their elections when the qualifying period ended without them drawing opposition.
Newcomers Lauren Book and George Gainer were among those candidates who did not draw an opponent.
Gainer, a Bay County Republican, ran unopposed in Senate District 2. That race was expected to be hotly contested and deemed one to watch by political observers. But in March, Rep. Matt Gaetz dropped his state Senate bid to run for Congress instead. Gaetz is one of the several Republicans who qualified to run in Florida’s 1st Congressional District.
Book is a well-known South Florida Democrat, having spent years trying to bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse. She is the daughter of lobbyist Ron Book. She is expected to win her bid to represent South Florida in Senate District 32.
Gainer and Lauren Book are the only newcomers who won their races after running unopposed. The remaining candidates all will return to the Senate after they failed to draw an opponent.
Audrey Gibson won re-election in Senate District 6; Perry Thurston won re-election in Senate District 33, and Oscar Braynon won re-election in Senate District 35. Braynon is set to become the Minority Leader in 2016.
On the Republican side, Aaron Bean won re-election in Senate District 4; Rob Bradley won re-election in Senate District 5; David Simmons won re-election in Senate District 9; Wilton Simpson won re-election in Senate District 10; Tom Lee won re-election in Senate District 20; Bill Galvano won re-election in Senate District 21; and Denise Grimsley won re-election in Senate District 26.
Galvano and Simpson are both believed to be in line for the Senate presidency.
Candidates had until noon Friday to qualify to be on the ballot. State elections officials said they expect all of the candidate qualifying information to be finalized by Friday evening.