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Thad Altman files for House seat in 2018, shifts Space Coast politics

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State Sen. Thad Altman became just the second person to file for the state House in 2018 this month, when he filed for the HD 51 seat currently held by term-limited Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

An innocuous move at first blush, it could throw off the intricate math behind state Rep. Eric Eislanugle‘s bid for the 2021-22 speakership.

Altman, a Rockledge Republican, terms out in 2018.

State Rep. Tom Goodson, who terms out in 2016, recently filed for the HD 51 seat, opting to serve out his final two years in his hometown of Rockledge rather than the Titusville-based HD 50 seat he represents now.

Goodson’s move was designed to protect state Rep. Rene Plasencia, who first took office this year after ousting incumbent Democratic state Rep. Joe Saunders in the tempestuous HD 49 seat that favors Republicans in midterm years, but elects Democrats in presidential cycles.

Plasencia was expected to transition into his new seat, hang on safely in Goodson’s R-leaning HD 50 seat, and be a vote in the bank for Eisnaugle, a fellow Central Florida Republican.

Altman’s move complicates things.

Though he filed for the HD 51 seat for 2018 in deference to Goodson, Altman may find himself with nowhere to land in the Senate after the Legislature redraws the maps later this year. His current SD 16 seat has been the subject of speculation since adjoining districts were, according to a recent consent agreement, illegally gerrymandered to favor incumbent Republican state Sen. Joe Negron.

If Altman’s seat is radically altered this fall when the Legislature meets for Special Session C, he will almost certainly change the date of his HD 51 filing from 2018 up to 2016, throwing a wrench in the cogs of House Republicans hoping to keep Plasencia alive without a tough fight from Democrats in a district many locally call the “UCF seat,” where turnout is expected to be high and liberal-leaning next year.

Should Altman file for a 2016 run in HD 51, Goodson would likely retreat back to his HD 50 seat for his final term, leaving Plasencia the odd man out in the “Altman shuffle.”

Plasencia would go head-to-head against Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, who would love nothing more — except perhaps to run unopposed — than to avenge the fallen Saunders, for whom Smith was a legislative aide in Tallahassee from 2013-2014.

Depending on legislative mapmakers he may get the chance to do just that in 2016, as well as indirectly strike a blow at Eisnaugle — loathed by Orlando-area Democrats for his stark conservative views on social issues — and his aspirations for speaker.

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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