Senate Primary Contest Draws Near

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY AUG 26, 2016

Editor’s Note: Second of a two-part story. Read about candidates Nora Patterson, Ray Pilon and Greg Steube in yesterday’s edition of SRQ Daily.

The contest for state Senate this year has proven the most contested and hardest to predict. Five Republicans—Doug Holder, Rick Levine, Nora Patterson, Ray Pilon and Greg Steube—fight in a primary right now, and until polls close next Tuesday, few political observers will guess who might appear on the November ballot this year.

Holder, who was term-limited from the state House in 2014 after eight years there, has been running as the free market conservative—and doing so relentlessly. “I’ve had very little sleep and a great deal of coffee with a little Red Bull sprinkled in,” Holder jokes. Endorsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and an ally of Gov. Rick Scott, Holder has eyed this seat for years and hopes his record as a conservative voice in Tallahassee pays off. Central to his message, his work on behalf of Scott with the plan to create 700,000 jobs in seven years; in the six years since Scott’s election Florida has seen 1.2 million new jobs. He promises to keep state government more efficient than Washington. “We have term limits. We have part-time pay. We have a balanced budget that is constitutionally required. The federal government has none of those things,” he says. Additionally, Holder has committed to stop sanctuary cities in Florida and stopping any benefits from going to immigrants in the US illegally, and he would like to emulate Texas-like tort reform here. 

Levine, CEO of Potomac Financial, runs as the political outsider. Never elected to a previous office, he instead runs on a 40-year private sector career, much of that in financial services. “Being in the personal service business and helping people have their problems solved, that’s the key thing,” he says. “My job is to find a solution that is doable.” Following the path of CEOs-turned-pols like Gov. Scott, he feels the current Florida Legislature needs an outside perspective, noting the body couldn’t even draw legal boundaries for this district that wouldn’t be thrown out of court. But he’s been disappointed that even campaign attacks have avoided him. While Levine is frustrated that career politician opponents don’t have the same professional limitations impacting his own campaign—Levine can’t solicit donations from clients, and financial firms donating to a campaign have to make note of potential conflicts of interest—he hopes voters are impressed he has largely self-funded the race. And at least other candidates have heard his message at forums. “I'm the one who is laying out the agenda,” he says. “They are following me based on their postcards.”

The Republican primary for state Senate District 23 is August 30. The victor will face the winner of the Democratic primary, either Frank Alcock or Frank Cirillo, in the November general election.

Photo by Norm Schimmel.

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