TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Republican former Florida State and NFL football star has defeated a prominent north Florida Democratic state senator to help the GOP take supermajorities in both chambers of the statehouse, which was already dominated by Republicans.
Corey Simon, who was an All-Pro defensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles, defeated Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley, who served 12 years in the House before being elected to the Senate in 2020.
That helped Republicans flip enough seats to earn 28 of the Senate's 40 districts. In the House, the GOP gained at least 84 of the chamber's 120 seats. That gives Republicans more than a two-thirds majority in each chamber, which will make it much more difficult for Democrats to thwart the Republican agenda.
As a result of those Republican wins, Democrat Tracie Davis of Jacksonville will hold her party's only Senate seat for an area that stretches about 360 miles (579 kilometers) from the Alabama border to the Atlantic Ocean.
It also means Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis will have plenty of help to continue pushing a legislative agenda that could help his national ambitions if he runs for president in 2024. DeSantis has already earned a national following for his championing of culture war issues that endear him to conservatives.
DeSantis and the Legislature put laws into place that restrict transgender rights, crack down on protests, limit how racial issues can be taught in schools and ban discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in younger grades. They also fought President Joe Biden's administration on COVID-19 restrictions, including pushing back against mask and vaccine mandates.
The results in the legislative races were part of a remarkable midterm performance for DeSantis and other Republicans, with statewide candidates flipping many longtime Democratic counties from blue to red, including the state’s largest, Miami-Dade.
“Tonight is a monumental win in the fight to keep Florida Free!” incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said in a statement.
”These victories are a definitive win for parental rights, fiscal responsibility, access to world-class education opportunities for our students including school choice, protecting our children and the unborn, and ensuring government is never able to strip anyone of the dignity of work or their right to worship," Passidomo said.
Incoming House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said the past few years were "defined by the governor's ambition and his willingness to stoop to any low to help energize and motivate his base no matter who he hurt.”
“For the next few years I think we can expect more of the same for him, and he might even turn it up a notch," Driskell said.
While Florida ended is 2022 legislative session before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe. v. Wade and left abortion rights up to the states, Florida did pass a ban on abortion after 15 weeks and could seek even more restrictions when the 2023 session starts in March.