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Where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay area 2016 House races

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Three of the five Senate races in Hillsborough or Pinellas County feature an incumbent running without opposition. In a fourth race – the one for Senate District 18 – Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young has no challenger yet, although a Democrat is expected to file next week.

As of April, SD 19 is the only Bay area seat with more than one candidate. The majority-minority seat covers parts of west Hillsborough and the southern tip of Pinellas, and is somewhat analogous to the seat currently held by termed-out Democratic Sen. Arthenia Joyner, though the newly redrawn lines excised the chunk of Manatee County represented by Joyner and moved it into neighboring SD 21.

First-term Democratic Rep. Ed Narain currently leads the fundraising race over his colleagues, former Democratic Rep. Betty Reed and termed-out HD 70 Democrat Darryl Rouson, in the three-way race. As of March 31, Narain had raised more than $104,000 for his Senate run, and has about $72,000 of that money on hand. The total far outpaces Reed’s $14,581 on-hand total and Rouson’s $10,666. The St. Pete Democrat hasn’t brought in a single contribution since the days before the 2016 Legislative Session began.

If Narain can keep it up and make it through the August Democratic primary, he likely won’t face much of a challenge on Election Day as Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1 in the district.

Bay area House races are shaping up similarly. Republican Reps. Jake RaburnJamie Grant and Chris Sprowls are running unopposed, as are Democrats Janet Cruz and Dwight Dudley, and while incumbent Republican Reps. Dan Raulerson and Larry Ahern have challengers, they both hold substantial fundraising leads and likely won’t face much trouble holding onto office.

It may take a couple months before the same can be said about South Pasadena Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters or Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala, as both candidates drew challengers last week, but each of them will more than likely make the safe list due to their strong fundraising efforts and GOP-leaning districts.

Two sitting lawmakers may be starting to sweat, however: HD 59 Republican Rep. Ross Spano and HD 63 Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison.

Spano is currently facing Democrats Rena Upshaw-Frazier, an attorney, and Golnaz Sahebzamani, a schoolteacher, in his re-election effort and as of April has fallen behind in fundraising.

Since filing for the seat in August Upshaw-Frazier has been able to raise more than $73,000, including a $13,070 haul in March. The Tampa Democrat still trails Spano in overall fundraising, but her $69,500 on hand total heading into April puts her more than $15,000 ahead of the incumbent. Sahebzemani is no slouch either, finishing March with $20,500 on hand.

Over in HD 63, Harrison has a comfortable lead in fundraising but the nature of his seat makes it hard to say he’ll cruise in November. Former Democratic Rep. Mark Danish was once just another underfunded HD 63 candidate, and it hasn’t been long enough to forget how that turned out.

As of March 31, the Tampa Republican had about $92,000 on hand compared to $42,000 for Democrat and Tampa City Council Member Lisa Montelione and about $16,000 for Mike Reedy, also a Democrat. Montelione has her sights set on ejecting Harrison from the Legislature, and has put out news releases calling him out, including one bashing him for voting in favor of a controversial abortion bill. If she makes it through the primary race against Reedy, Harrison may find himself in a tough fight – especially if he gets no help from Republicans further up the ballot.

The area’s three open House seats look like they’ll be decided in the Democratic Primary for District 61 and 70, currently held by Reps. Narain and Rouson, and in the Republican Primary in District 60, currently held by Rep. Dana Young.

Democrat Sean Shaw looks to be pulling away in his second attempt at the HD 61 seat, and St. Petersburg City Councilman Wengay Newton is virtually tied in fundraising with fellow Democrat Dan Fiorini in the HD 70 contest, but the Republican Primary race between Jackie Toledo and Rebecca Smith in HD 60 getting red hot.  Toledo filed for the seat in January and was able to pull in a decent chunk of money in her first two months, but her lead evaporated once Smith, the founder of A.D. Morgan Corp, entered the race and brought in more than $80,000 in her first month.

After loaning her campaign $25,000 last month, Toledo finds herself with about $64,000 on hand after three months in the race, about $16,000 short of Smith’s $80,000 total after one month.

Democrat David Singer and no party candidate John Lingelbach have also filed to run in HD 60, though neither candidate has reported any contributions, and would face long odds in the GOP-leaning district.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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