Tampa Bay Times: “Florida Democrats challenging more legislative seats this year”

With signs pointing to Democrat-friendly climate this election cycle, there is good news and not so good news for Florida Democrats eager to grow their influence in the Florida legislature.

The good news is Democrats are competing in significantly more legislative races than four years ago – at least 15 more Florida House seats and twice as many Florida Senate seats. The filing deadline is not until June, but 30 percent more Democrats have filed for the Florida House since the last off-year election of 2014.

It reflects Democratic energy and enthusiasm on the ground, also demonstrated by swelling attendance at local party meetings, Democratic clubs, and protest events, as well as recent special election wins.

“This year, our local Democratic party’s are working with Indivisible, Women’s March and Never Again chapters to recruit quality local candidates to run in seats that Democrats have not contested in years,” said Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

The bad news for Democrats? Because Democrats have had so little influence in Tallahassee for so long, they have a feeble bench of candidates from which to draw and far, far less money to compete than Republicans.

Look through the campaign reports of competitive or potentially competitive Florida House seats, and the Republican candidates consistently have three or four more money on hand than their Democratic challengers. The multi-million dollar Florida senate races are harder to judge because so much of the spending comes from political committees rather than the campaigns themselves.

Tampa Bay is home to what could be the most vulnerable Republican state senator in Florida, Dana Young, of Tampa, but Democrats appear poised to have an expensive and bruising primary between Bob Buesing and Janet Cruz.

Still, Democrats can’t take advantage of a wave election year if they don’t have candidates in place to ride the wave if it happens. And the more seats Democrats contest, the more resources Republicans will have to spend on defense rather than offense.

“Democrats across the state are building progressive networks that are working together to recruit Democrats to take on out of touch Republicans, because in this election, with our newly recruited candidates, no seat is safe,” Penalosa said.

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