Florida Politics: Fentrice Driskell heads into re-election with confidence

Driskell will be the first Black woman to lead House Democrats if she is re-elected.

Florida House Democratic Leader-designate Fentrice Driskell can likely head into her re-election bid with confidence, as she faces Republican newcomer Lisette Bonano for North Tampa House District 67 — an overwhelmingly blue seat.

In May, Driskell was unanimously elected to lead House Democrats for the 2022-24 term. Driskell, a lawyer, will be the first Black woman to lead the Caucus if she is re-elected.

Driskell was first elected to the House in 2018, defeating then-incumbent Republican Shawn Harrison by 7 points. She has since held on to the seat with ease, running unopposed in 2020.

Bonano, an Army veteran who considers herself a “constitutional conservative,” filed to run against Driskell last November, launching her campaign to promote traditionally conservative platforms in hopes of unseating Driskell, a progressive Democrat,

Even though she got a head-start on the campaign trail, Bonano is up against an uphill battle against Driskell in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 15,000 voters. According to L2 voter data, the district is composed of 40,559 Democrats (41% of the electorate), 25,620 Republicans (26%) and 32,979 nonpartisan or third-party voters (33%).

The northern Hillsborough County district, which was formerly House District 63, also showed its Democratic lean in 2020, where 59% of the district went to President Joe Biden, and only 39% voted for former President Donald Trump.

And that advantage is reflected in fundraising.

The incoming Democratic leader has amassed $504,835 between her campaign and affiliated political committee, How We All Win. Bonano, on the other hand, has only collected $15,217 — including a $10,000 donation from the Florida Republican Party back in September.

Democrats are betting on a win for Driskell — after all, she is the third member to be named Democratic Leader-designate in the next Legislature.

Driskell stepped into the role amid a transitional period for House Democrats, less than six months away from what was expected to be a difficult Election Day.

Democrats elected her in a vote called to replace Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Tallahassee Democrat who was in line to lead the caucus during the 2022-24 term until he scrapped his House re-election bid amid sexual harassment allegations. Alexander had been elected to replace St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond, who dropped his House re-election bid to run for Congress before withdrawing his candidacy amid an unfavorable redistricting plan.

Over a year ago, Democrats elected Driskell as caucus leader for the 2024-26 term, giving her an opportunity to lead the House minority for four years.

But it won’t be until Nov. 8 when Florida finds out if Driskell will officially carry on the torch.

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