Election Highlight 4-23-16

You may have noticed that our last few weekly newsletters have featured a highlight on tight races in local elections in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, and Pasco Counties, as well as close races for Florida House seats. This is part of a series we are running to inform our clients and contacts state and local races they should keep their eyes on.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be continuing these highlights, focusing on State House and State Senate elections. For both chambers we will only be covering the seats in the Bay Area Legislative Delegation (BALD), which is our regional delegation made up of legislators from the eight counties in the Tampa Bay area. These 40 legislators make up 25% of the legislature and have significant influence that is important to advancing regional legislative priorities. We will be separating this highlight into multiple parts, with this week’s highlight focusing on the State House seats up for election Polk, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties.

Election Day will be here sooner than you think. The Florida Primary will be held on August 30, 2016, followed by the general election which will be held on November 8, 2016. We hope you find these highlights informative and useful. If you have any questions or would like more information on particular candidates please feel free to contact us.



District 73
The District 73 seat covers eastern areas of Manatee and northern areas of Sarasota counties.

The Candidates
Representative Greg Steube is leaving his seat in the Florida House in order to pursue a seat in the Florida Senate. Running for the open seat are two Republicans named Joe Gruters and Steve Vernon. There is one Democrat filed in the race named James Golden, however, he has done very little fundraising.

Joe Gruters (R) is a fourth generation Sarasota Resident. He attended St. Martha’s and graduated from Florida State University majoring in Finance, Real Estate, and Multinational Business operation. Joe currently works as a Certified Public Accountant and is the co-founder and CEO of Audit Confirm, a technology company serving Accountants and financial institutions. Joe has worked on a grassroots level for many Republican organizations, including the Young Republicans, the Republican Party of Florida, and as Congressman Vern Buchanan’s Campaign Manager.

Steve Vernon (R) moved to Florida 15 years ago and is a US Marine Corps Veteran who served during the Vietnam era. He earned his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Illinois, and a Masters of Business Administration from DePaul University in Chicago. Professionally, he worked as a Contract Negotiator for IBM and as a Section Chief for the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC).

The Fundraising
Joe Gruters had his best fundraising month so far in March, adding $12,400 in new contributions to bring his total donations up to $119,539. Gruters’ primary opponent Steve Vernon continued to lag far behind, with $9,675 in total contributions after he added $2,230 in new donations. Democrat James Golden raised no money in March, leaving his total contributions at $100.


District 41
The District 41 seat is located in Polk County, and covers a region from Eagle Lake to Davenport.

The Candidates
Representative John Wood is unable to run for reelection to the District 41 seat due to term limits. There are two Republicans running for the open seat named Charles Davis and Sam Killebrew. The two Democrats vying for the seat are Robert Doyel and Nicolas Garcia, who to date has not raised a competitive amount of money.

Charles Davis (R) is a native of Winter Haven. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Trevecca Nazarene College in 1970, and his master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Florida. Davis served as a member of the judiciary for 32 years. He was first elected as a Polk County Judge in 1982, then Tenth Circuit Court Judge in 1984, where he served as Chief Judge from 1995 until 1999, when he was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to the Second District Court of Appeal. Davis also served on the Winter Haven City Commission and as Mayor of Winter Haven.

Sam Killebrew (R) is a Republican fundraiser who has filed to run for the District 41 seat. He is the founder of Killebrew Inc., a utility construction and site development company. He is running to make government more efficient and business friendly.

Robert Doyel (D) is the youngest of 10 kids and the first in his family to graduate from college. He served as a Navy Officer during the Vietnam War, and went on to earn his Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma. He was elected to the Circuit Court in 1994 and served for 15 years. He is running to create high-wage 21st century jobs and to add more transparency and accountability to state government.

The Fundraising
Republican Sam Killebrew raised $950 last month for a $67,650 monetary contribution total. He also has $51,000 in loans. Charles Davis, another Republican, raised $2,100, giving him a $37,970 monetary contribution total. Democrat Robert Doyel raised $13,250 for a $31,125 total and has $10,000 in loans. Democrat Nicolas Garcia raised $275 for a $3,705 total.


District 72
The District 72 seat covers western Sarasota County, along parts of the coast from southern Sarasota to northern Venice.

The Candidates
Representative Ray Pilon is leaving the District 72 seat to pursue a seat in the Florida Senate. Running for the seat as a Republican is Alex Miller and as a Democrat is Edward James III.

Alex Miller (R) became the CEO of her family owned company Mercedes Medical at the age of 31. Mercedes Medical is a medical supply distribution company based in Manatee County. Miller has served on the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board since 2012, she resigned this position in March in order to run for the House. Miller earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Rhode Island and a Master’s in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University.

Edward James (D) is a 5th generation Floridian and Sarasota native. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing his master’s degree at Florida State University. Edward worked as a staffer on President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, afterwards he moved to Silicon Valley to work for Google. Edward was inspired to run after the legislature failed to expand Medicaid in 2015. His other priorities include film incentives and creating opportunities for young graduates in Florida.

The Fundraising

Democrat Edward James III continued to raise large sums, earning another $7,536 in monetary contributions this month. This brings James to $84,108 total. Republican Alex Miller, who entered the race early in March, show $4,000 in new contributions on her first campaign finance report. Sara Blackwell, who filed March 31, raised no money.