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PHOTO COURTESY THE FLORIDA CHANNEL/FLORIDA SENATE MAKING TOUGH DECISIONS — The Florida Legislature is in session in this screenshot from a Florida Channel broadcast of a May 2022 special session convened to address property insurance and building safety. While Floridians are welcome to visit the Capitol in Tallahassee and watch the proceedings live, The Florida Channel, which broadcasts online, gives people from all over the state the opportunity to watch the Legislature deliberate live. You can visit The Florida Channel’s website at thefloridachannel.org.

Read more election coverage in The Beacon‘s Voter’s Guide to the Primary Election here.

At the state level, redistricting has altered which districts voters live in. In at least one Volusia County race, Democrats don’t have a candidate qualified to run.

U.S. House District 6

Two districts make up West Volusia’s representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The first is District 6, which encompasses a chunk of Central Florida nearly as far north as St. Augustine. In West Volusia, this district includes Seville, Pierson, DeLeon Springs and DeLand.

Qualified candidates for this race include Palm Coast Republican Charles Davis, Ormond Beach Libertarian Joe Hannoush and incumbent Republican Michael Waltz. Waltz, who previously worked in the George W. Bush administration as defense policy director, is a former Green Beret and a former Fox News contributor. Waltz first took office in 2019 and was re-elected in 2020.

Waltz has been endorsed by the Volusia County Republican Party.

Hannoush ran for a seat in the Florida House in 2020, but was beaten by incumbent Republican Tom Leek. Leek received more than 65,000 votes, while his Democratic challenger, Sarah Zutter, received more than 36,000. In that race, Libertarian Hannoush received 2,407 votes.

While two Democrats — Richard Thripp and Matt Bell — filed to run for the seat, neither qualified.

U.S. House District 7

Florida U.S. House District 7 once only included Seminole County, but the large district now begins around Orange City and Deltona, and goes south to include DeBary, Sanford, Lake Mary and the northern outskirts of Orlando.

The busy race for this seat has 12 candidates —eight registered to run as Republicans, four as Democrats and one as a write-in candidate.

Republicans filed to run are Erika Benfield, Brady Duke, Ted Edwards, Cory Mills, Rusty Roberts, Anthony Sabatini, Armando Al Santos and Scott Sturgill.

Mills recently received an endorsement from the Volusia County Republican Party.

Several of the Republican candidates have come under fire for controversial statements or business.

Mills, according to an article in Florida Politics, co-founded the company PACEM Solutions. PACEM produces tear gas, among other products, some of which was employed during protests in the U.S., as reported by Florida Politics, and in Hong Kong in 2020, as reported by the Miami New Times.

Another Republican, Sabatini, has repeatedly tried to pass laws loosening gun regulations and restricting health care for transgender youth.

Benfield, the only Republican in the race with ties to Volusia County, previously served on the DeBary City Council. According to her campaign website, she considers herself a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump.

As for Democrats in the race, the four who qualified to run are Tatiana Fernandez, Karen Green, Al Krulick and Allek Pastrana.

While Fernandez and Pastrana would be newcomers to Congress, havin gnever rKrulick previously ran unsuccessful bids for Congress in the 1990s. Green, meanwhile, is the vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

Write-in candidate Pompey Cardon is also in the running.

Florida State Senate District 7

Races for Florida’s Legislature are heating up, too.

Four candidates have qualified to run for the Senate seat that represents the northern tip of West Volusia — from Barberville north, including Pierson and Seville — up north to include Palatka and St. Augustine.

Two are Republicans, including incumbent Travis Hutson, and two are write-in candidates, Weston Adwell and James David Higbee. Hutson has served in the Florida Senate since 2015.

Former professional golfer and wrestler Gerry James is Hutson’s Republican opponent. He has referred to Hutson on social media as a “RINO,” or Republican in name only.

Florida State Senate District 8

This Florida Senate district includes nearly all of West Volusia, from Barberville all the way south through Deltona. Three candidates have qualified for this race, Democrats Richard Paul Dembinsky and Andrea Williams, and incumbent Republican Tom Wright.

Dembinsky has unsuccessfully run for various positions at the state level dating back to a 2006 bid for Florida governor. Since then, Dembinsky has run multiple times, for the Florida House, Florida Senate and the position of chief financial officer as an Independent or Democratic candidate.

Wright, meanwhile, was selected by a Republican Party panel after the previous state senator died after the qualifying period ended. He has served one term in office since 2018.

Florida House District 27

West Volusia’s representation in the Florida House of Representatives is split in two, between Districts 27 and 29. District 27 represents northern West Volusia, as well as the western fringes of DeLand and much of Orange City and Deltona.

Just one candidate qualified for this would-be-race — Republican Stan McClain. McClain lives west of Volusia County, and currently represents District 23 in the Florida House. Thanks to redistricting, part of his district will now include West Volusia.

As the only qualified candidate, McClain will be automatically elected.


Florida House District 29

The rest of West Volusia, including DeLand, Lake Helen and much of Deltona, is represented by District 29. Qualified candidates for this race include Republicans Webster Barnaby and Elizabeth Fetterhoff and Democrat Rick Karl.

Barnaby, who represents Southwest Volusia, and Fetterhoff, who represents the DeLand area, both currently serve in the Florida House. Thanks to redistricting, the two are now competing against each other.

Karl, an attorney who lives in DeLand, has not run for office before, but his father, Fred Karl, served as a state legislator in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and a member of the Florida Supreme Court.

West Volusia voters will have the opportunity to vote in a number of other state-level elections, too. In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat is up for grabs, and 11 candidates qualified to run against the sitting senator. Those candidates include four Democrats, four write-in candidates, two candidates not affiliated with a party and one Libertarian.

The next governor of Florida will also be decided by voters, and 10 candidates qualified to run against incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis. Prominent among them are Democrats Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried.

Make sure your voice is heard!

The deadline to register to vote, update your voter registration or change parties ahead of the Aug. 23 primary election is Monday, July 25.

Everyone, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the primaries, but Florida is a closed primary state. That means voters unaffiliated with a political party can’t vote in partisan primary races. Races like those for the School Board, DeLand mayor, Deltona mayor and Volusia County Council are nonpartisan, but many state-level races, like the race for U.S. House District 7, are partisan. Only Republicans will be able to vote for Republican candidates. Libertarians, for example, won’t have a say in that race until the general election in November.

The deadline to request a mail ballot is Saturday, Aug. 13. You can request a mail ballot by visiting the Volusia County Supervisor of Elections website, volusiaelections.org, or by calling the office at 386-736-5930.


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