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Florida GOP gains four state senate seats

Florida Republicans gained four seats in the state Senate on Tuesday, ousting two incumbents as Democrats were eclipsed in the midterm elections up and down the ballot.

The general election marked Florida voters’ first opportunity to cast ballots in newly drawn state House and Senate seats, the result of the once-a-decade redistricting process.

Republicans, who already control both chambers of the Legislature, notched victories in several hard-fought Senate races, knocking out incumbent Democrats Janet Cruz of Tampa and Loranne Ausley of Tallahassee.

Following Tuesday’s races, Republicans’ 28-12 lead in the Senate now comprises a more than two-thirds supermajority, a status that gives the caucus a near-lockdown on power in the upper chamber. House Republicans also now have a supermajority.

Incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican who takes over following Tuesday’s elections, called the GOP’s decisive victories a “monumental win in the fight to keep Florida free.”

“With the first Black Republican since Reconstruction, the first Green Beret and one of the youngest members ever elected, we will return to Tallahassee with a supermajority and a renewed commitment to fight for access to the American Dream for all Floridians,” she said in a prepared statement.

Fifteen of the Senate’s 40 members, nine Republicans and six Democrats, were unopposed in Tuesday’s election after either winning primaries in August or facing no opposition this year.

The loss of two veteran senators, Cruz and Ausley, delivered a stinging blow to the Senate Democratic caucus in some of Tuesday night’s biggest upsets.

A steady stream of attack ads flooded airwaves and mailboxes in the closely watched contest between Cruz and Republican Jay Collins in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election.

Cruz was first elected to the Senate in 2018 after spending eight years in the House, where she served as Democratic leader. Cruz, born in Tampa, defeated Republican incumbent Dana Young in a contentious 2018 contest that then was one of the Senate’s marquee races.

Collins, who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, has a lengthy military resume that includes multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Purple Heart recipient was wounded several times in combat, with one injury later requiring amputation of one of his legs.

The closely watched race for a North Florida seat long held by Democrats proved another Achilles’ heel for Democrats, as Republican challenger Corey Simon clobbered Ausley.

Ausley, scion of a politically connected Tallahassee family who previously served in the House, was first elected to the Senate in 2020 after withstanding a challenge from Republican political newcomer Marva Preston.

While Simon is new to politics, he wields wide name recognition locally. The former Florida State University football star also played professionally, mostly for the Philadelphia Eagles, and his campaign mailers heavily featured FSU’s garnet and gold colors. Simon was tapped by Gov. Ron DeSantis to lead the Volunteer Florida state agency, a post Simon left when he launched his Senate bid.

Simon will be the first Black Republican to serve in the Senate since Reconstruction.

"As a kid, my mom fought to ensure I had access to opportunities that far exceeded the confines of our neighborhood. I got into this race to be a voice for the children and families across this district who are far too often forgotten. I want to thank them for trusting me with North Florida’s long-overdue seat at the table in the Florida Senate,” Simon said in a statement Tuesday night.

Republicans also flipped an open Miami-Dade County seat that had been held by Annette Taddeo, who left the Senate to run for Congress this year. In the race for Senate District 38, Republican Alexis Maria Calatayud edged out Democrat Janelle Perez by eight percentage points, nailing down more than 54% of the vote.

Nine new senators, seven Republicans and two Democrats, are joining the upper chamber after serving in the state House.

The list of Republicans includes Erin Grall of Vero Beach, who ran unopposed for newly drawn Senate District 29; Jay Trumbull of Panama City; Bryan Avila of Miami Springs; Nick DiCeglie of Indian Rocks Beach; Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican and former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida; Clay Yarborough of Jacksonville; and Colleen Burton of Lakeland.

In other races, state Rep. Geraldine Thompson, a Windermere Democrat who previously served in the state Senate and defeated fellow House member Kamia Brown in an August primary election, is headed back to the Senate.

State Rep. Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat, defeated Republican opponent Binod Kumar Tuesday night in a 57-42 margin.

In another high-profile race, incumbent Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, defeated state Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil, with a 55-45 split for Senate District 10 in Central Florida. Brodeur’s victory statement encapsulated the GOP’s bravado as Tuesday’s returns rolled in:

"Floridians sent a clear message tonight about who we are as a state and the values we hold dear by rejecting the radical ideologies being pushed by the fringe: Abortion without limits, indoctrination in our classrooms, lockdowns, mandates and defunding the police,” he said.

Dara Kam - News Service of Florida