As Florida’s population continues to rapidly grow and new generations become more distanced from production agriculture, Florida Farm Bureau’s mission becomes more important. With most of Florida’s population growth occurring on the coasts and in urban metro areas, the difference between the number of state lawmakers who represent urban municipalities and rural, agricultural producers will continue to grow.
This is where the influence of our county Farm Bureaus, our grassroots members and our political action committee can make a difference as we continue to educate lawmakers and the public on the important role agriculture plays in Florida’s economy and to feed our state, the country and the world.
In the primary, FarmPAC-supported candidates won 32 races and lost only six. In the general election, FarmPAC-supported candidates won 59 races and lost six. When the dust cleared on the 2016 election season, ninety-one percent of FarmPAC-supported candidates are now elected members of the Florida legislature. 79 percent won their contested election, 14 percent were elected unopposed and only 7 percent lost their election.
Across the state, several Champions for Agriculture, pro-agriculture legislators and candidates faced tough elections, due to continual shifts in Florida’s voter demographics as well as the redrawing of the state’s Senate districts due to the 2015 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court.
Here are a few FarmPAC-supported candidates that won tough Senate races in November:
- SD 3: A Champion for Agriculture, 2014 Legislator of the Year and the Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Bill Montford won re-election in his 11-county district.
- SD 8: Republican Keith Perry topped Democrat and former state Sen. Rod Smith in the Gainesville-based Senate race by less than 12,000 votes out of 226,675 votes cast.
- SD 17: Champion for Agriculture Debbie Mayfield grabbed 62 percent of the vote on the Treasure Coast to beat Democrat challenger Amy Tidd.
- SD 18: House Majority Leader Dana Young won a tough battle in the Tampa area over Democrat Bob Buesing and two minor party candidates, topping Buesing by nearly 16,000 votes.
- SD 22: Champion for Agriculture and 2015 Legislator of the Year Sen. Kelli Stargel won re-election in a newly drawn district in Polk and Lake counties by less than 16,000 votes over Democrat Debra Wright.
- SD 23: Republican Greg Steube defeated Democrat Frank Alcock by a vote of 59 to 41 percent.
Here’s how a few FarmPAC-supported candidates in the House fared:
- HD 21: Republican Chuck Clemons beat Democrat Marihelen Wheeler in the Gainesville-based seat by a vote of 54 to 46 percent.
- HD 39: Champion for Agriculture Rep. Neil Combee beat Democrat Victor Sims in the Polk County-based seat 62 to 38 percent.
- HD 40: Rep. Colleen Burton beat Democrat Shandale Terrell 59 to 41 percent in the Polk County-based seat.
- HD 41: Republican Sam Killebrew topped Democrat Bob Doyel by 4,000 votes out of more than 73,000 votes cast in Polk County.
- HD 42: Rep. Mike La Rosa beat challenger Benny Valentin 55 to 45 percent.
- HD 56: Champion for Agriculture Rep. Ben Albritton won re-election in the Polk County-based seat 65 to 35 percent.
- HD 79: 2016 Legislator of the Year and Champion for Agriculture Rep. Matt Caldwell won re-election in Southwest Florida by besting Democrat and NPA challengers and taking 51 percent of the vote.
- HD 85: Farmer, long-time Farm Bureau member and former Florida Farm Bureau Vice President Rick Roth won his Palm Beach County-based seat over Democrat Robert Simeone by more than 13,000 votes, taking 58 percent of the vote.
- HD 120: Rep. Holly Raschein won a tough re-election battle in the Florida Keys by taking 57 percent of the vote over Democrat challenger Dan Horton.
Congratulations to these legislators, all FarmPAC-supported candidates and all of the state lawmakers who won their elections. We look forward to working with you during the 2017 legislative session. For more information on the 2016 elections, please contact Florida Farm Bureau’s Legislative office in Tallahassee at 850.222.2557.