FL primaries elevate LGBTQ candidates in the Legislature; Yoho aide gets GOP nomination to replace him

Florida 2020 primary election. Polling place in Tallahassee, FL. Credit: Diane Rado

The Florida House and Senate will get a little gayer as a result of Democratic primary races Tuesday that have propelled a Black gay man and a Black lesbian into the chambers.

In a field of six contenders for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 35, Shevrin Jones led with more than 43 percent of the vote, although there were in-person and by-mail votes yet to count.

The field included Daphne Campbell and state Rep. Barbara Watson and featured attacks on Jones’ sexuality.

“Even if you didn’t vote for me, I will still represent you. I look forward to doing good work in the next four years,” Jones told supporters, according to a Miami Herald report.

Meanwhile, Michele Rayner, running in House District 70 in Tampa Bay, had 31 percent of the vote in a four-candidate field, enough to claim victory. She’s unopposed in the general election.

Jasmen Rogers-Shaw, another Black lesbian and a community organizer, led incumbent Anika Omphroy by 422 votes out of 23,940 cast in the Democratic primary in House District 95 in western Broward, but that didn’t include mail-in or provisional ballots.

All three had won endorsements by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, and out gay state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, of Orlando,  hailed the developments on his Twitter feed, writing:

“Anti-LGBTQ Democrats were resoundingly defeated, some even thrown out of office tonight in Florida on the same night we elected the 1st Black Lesbian to the FL House @micheleforfl & FL’s 1st LGBTQ State Senator @ShevrinJones!!”

In House District 88, in Palm Beach, Democratic incumbent Al Jacquet was losing to public housing official Omari Hardy in another race tinged by anti-gay rhetoric (Hardy was raised by two mothers and Jacquet aimed a homphobic slur his way, according to published accounts).

Hardy had about 42 percent of the vote against 26.5 percent for Jacquet in a five-person field.

In other notable races, Kat Cammack, an aide to retiring Congressman Ted Yoho in Florida’s Congressional District 3, secured the GOP nomination to replace him with roughly 25 percent of the vote in a 10-candidate primary. The Associated Press called the race at a little after 9 p.m. ET.

The crowded race was connected to a recent drama in Congress. Yoho is the lawmaker who called New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), a “f—–g bitch,” within earshot of a reporter while in Washington, D.C.

In Congressional District 15, the voters turfed out incumbent Ross Spano, with the AP calling the race for Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. Panhandle Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz had endorsed Franklin against Spano amid an investigation into a personal loan Spano made to his 2018 campaign.

The vote margin as of close to 10 p.m. was 1,553 votes.

Allison Tant, the former chair of the Florida Democratic Party, won nearly 78 percent of the vote in her Democratic primary for House District 9, which includes Tallahassee. In the general election she will face Jim Kallinger, a former House member who serves as president of the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition.

In Senate District 29 Tina Polsky overwhelmed former House member Irv Slosberg in the Democratic primary with some 70 percent of the vote. She had endorsements from the AFL-CIO and Ruth’s List.

Senate District 9, in Seminole and Volusia counties, labor lawyer Patricia Sigman won more than 50 percent of the vote in a five-candidate field. She’ll compete in November against state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

Democratic community organizer Angie Nixon was leading incumbent Kimberly Daniels in House District 14 in Jacksonville, roughly 60-40 percent, but with mail-in and provisional votes yet to count. There’s a write-in candidate in that district but no Republican in the general election.

In Senate District 27, GOP House member Ray Rodrigues had nearly 75 percent of the vote against fellow Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen. Gaetz had endorsed Rodrigues.

In Senate District 39, Democratic state House member Javier Fernández was leading Daniel Horton-Diaz, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, by 5,308 votes out of 29,078 cast in their primary as of 11 p.m. ET.

The Phoenix wrote earlier that it would be unlikely that Democrats would shift control of either chamber in the Florida Legislature, even though the Democratic Party hopes to eat into GOP majorities.