When qualifying for state house races ended at noon Friday, the head of the Leon County Republican Party was in a celebratory mood.
For the first time since it was drawn to its present configuration, Republicans in Senate District 3 will hold a primary in August.
Tallahassee’s Benjamin Alexander Thaddeus John Horbowy and Crawfordville’s Marva Harris Preston qualified this week as GOP candidates to succeed term-limited state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.
Montford has represented the 11-county district since 2012.
And current state Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, looks to keep it blue.
Still, the idea that the GOP will stage a primary and then offer District 3 voters an alternative vision to Ausley’s in November excites Leon’s GOP leader, Evan Power.
“It is always great to have Republican candidates advocating Republican principles,” said Power, who like many in Tallahassee, keeps an eye on the qualifying period much like a football fan does the NFL draft.
“At the end of the day we will have a Republican candidate willing to voice conservative principles and oppose Loranne Ausley’s liberal agenda,” he added.
Ausley is the only Democrat to qualify in that race. Former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox had filed to run, but his campaign was sidelined after he pleaded guilty in a public corruption investigation of City Hall and was removed from office.
Horbowy and Preston face a tough campaign against Ausley.
The district leans Democratic; Montford won his last two elections with more than two-thirds of the vote. And Ausley, a Tallahassee attorney who now has done two stints in the Florida House, has raised $380,000 for the race.
Preston reports $12,000 raised, according to campaign finance records, while Horbowy checks in with $399.
In other legislative races:
House District 9
With Ausley vacating the House District 9 seat, two Democrats have qualified to succeed her. Allison Tant and Arnitta Jane Grice-Walker will be on the ballot for the Aug. 18 Democratic primary.
Tant, the former chair of the Florida Democratic Party, has raised $297,000 for the race. Grice-Walker, an elementary school teacher who challenged Ausley in 2016, reports having $1,365 in her campaign account.
The winner will face Republican Jim Kallinger in November. He reports no money raised for his campaign.
House District 7
Two Democrats want the opportunity to challenge first-term Rep. Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe. Ryan Terrell, who lost to Shoaf last year in a special election, will face Taymour Khan in the primary.
Shoaf defeated Terrell in a special election for the House District 7 seat last June when former Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, left the seat. Gov. Ron DeSantis tapped him to lead the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Shoaf has $79,000 in his campaign account. Terrell reports $6,000, while Khan has yet to file a campaign finance report.
House District 8
The final member of the Leon County state house delegation was returned to office without opposition.
When Secretary of State Laurel Lee closed the qualifying period on noon, Democratic state Rep. Ramon Alexander was effectively reelected to a third term.
“I’ve never been a flashy person. And never will be,” said Alexander, who sounded relieved he would not have to campaign in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic.
The Florida A&M University graduate has represented Leon and Gadsden counties since 2016.
“But I think it is really important to keep your head down, keep (your) focus, and let the work you do speak for you,” said Alexander. “No lights. No camera. Just action. It’s about doing the work.”