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Legislative field continues to shape up with new entrants in SD 33, HD 41, and HD 118

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Since we last checked in with the state of the Florida legislative field, a number of new candidates have entered the fray and brought statehouse watchers a more complete picture of what to expect next spring when both parties will dive headlong into full-on campaign mode.

Let’s take a quick look at Division of Elections filing activity around the state.

Lauren Book received a rollout fit for an instant frontrunner when she announced her bid for the SD 33 seat held by term-limited state Sen. Eleanor Sobel.

The daughter of Tallahassee uber-lobbyist Ron Book and founder of the nonprofit Lauren’s Kids, Book’s political committee Leadership for Broward has raised some $663,450 since September of last year, a figure that has no doubt been instrumental in freezing the field in the heavily Democratic district, which takes in a handful of Broward cities including Davie, Plantation, Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, and Dania Beach.

How certain are the Books of a victory? Enough to buy a new condo in Tallahassee.

As reported by our own Bill Rufty, the race to replace term-limited state Rep. John Wood in HD 41 has gotten crowded indeed as retired judge Charlie Davis filed his paperwork to run in the eastern Polk County seat.

Davis is the third Republican to jump in the race, joining GOP fundraiser Sam Killebrew and Polk Commissioner Ed Smith in the conservative-leaning seat.

Fellow retired judge Bob Doyel says he plans to pursue the seat as a Democrat, but has so far not made those intentions formal.

In HD 118, independent candidate Arthur Sosa filed to run against state Rep. Frank Artiles Monday, giving the incumbent lawmaker another opponent for 2016.

Sosa is running as part of the VoteFamily platform, which focuses on  reforming the Department of Children and Families. He is the second candidate from the group to file after Mario Jimenez, who is challenging state Sen. Anitere Flores in District 37.

The group says it will field candidates in Senate districts 35 and 39 as well as eight other South Florida House districts.

Artiles will also face the winner of the Democratic primary in his re-election bid.  Democrats Robert Asencio and Omar Rivero are running.

In HD 26, a second Democrat filed Monday to take over term-limited Democratic state Rep. Dwayne Taylor’s seat in the Florida House, setting up a primary battle for the left-leaning seat.

Former Daytona Beach City Commissioner Steve Miller joins current commission member Patrick Henry, a Democrat, and Republican Michael Cantu, a small business owner who got a respectable 47 percent of the vote against Taylor last cycle.

Miller, who works as a tax consultant, was on the commission in the early 1990s and he attempted to get back on in 2014, though a circuit judge had his name removed from the ballot for not living in the zone he was campaigning in.

In Sarasota’s HD 72, on the other hand, things have gotten less crowded as local GOP treasurer Robert Wyatt has stepped aside to make way for incumbent state Rep. Ray Pilon.

Pilon faces a challenge from Democrat Edward James, who as of the August reporting cutoff had hauled in a healthy $52,367 between his campaign fund and the New Direction Florida political committee that is supporting his run.

Back to the Senate side of the Capitol, the race to succeed state Sen. Nancy Detert, who is widely expected to forgo her last two years in the chamber to run for the Sarasota County Commission, is heating up as well.

Republican Nora Patterson jumped into the Senate District 28 race recently, making her the second candidate in the race after former District 74 state Rep. Doug Holder filed in January 2013.

Patterson is a former member of the Sarasota county and city commissions and has also served as the city’s mayor. Patterson’s long political career and name recognition undoubtedly gives her good footing in the race: Sarasota’s Bay Island Park was renamed to honor Patterson in May.

The race could change drastically, though, depending on whether Detert opts to leave the Senate early to seek local office — if she does, the race is likely to draw more familiar faces. Sarasota Republican state Rep. Greg Steube has made clear he’s interested in the seat, and would run in 2016.

If Detert holds her place, though, expect the aforementioned Ray Pilon to make a run in 2018. Manatee elections chief and former state Sen. Mike Bennett has expressed an interest as well.

Whoever jumps in will have some catching up to do on the fundraising side, though.  Holder has raised about $135,000 since he filed for the seat, and spent about $33,000. Heading into August, his campaign had $101,327 cash on-hand.

Meanwhile in the heart of the Panhandle, state Rep. Brad Drake is facing a challenge from former lawmaker Bev Kilmer in the deeply conservative, mostly rural HD 5.

The matchup sets Drake — best known for his advocacy bringing back the electric chair and firing squads as forms of capital punishment — against the equally conservative Kilmer, who introduced a bill creating the nation’s first “Choose Life” license plate.

The district, which includes the cities of Marianna, Chipley, Bonifay, and DeFuniak Springs, gave Mitt Romney 73 percent of its vote in 2012.

On the other side of the partisan ledger, Gretna City Commissioner Clarence Jackson has jumped into the race to take over the Gadsden and Leon-based minority-majority HD 8 seat held by term-limited state Rep. Alan Williams.

The deep blue seat has so far attracted Jackson, Williams’ 2014 primary foe Dianne Williams-Cox, Gadsden-based political novice Brad Johnson and nonprofit chief and Democratic operative Ramon Alexander.

Alexander is so far crushing the field in fundraising with $78,568, more than double all other candidates combined as of July.

The winner of the primary contest is virtually certain to win the general.

That’s not the case in HD 59 in southern Hillsborough County, represented by state Rep. Ross Spano.

The swing seat recently attracted its second Democrat in attorney Rena Upshaw-Frazier; classroom teacher Glonaz “Naze” Sahebzamani will also battle for the nomination.

The seat is likely to be a mid-tier target for state Democrats, depending on how fundraising progresses through the end of the year.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com 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 ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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