SARASOTA -- A 21-year-old University of South Florida student has filed to run for Sarasota's seat in the state Senate, against local political powerhouses state Rep. Greg Steube, former Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson and former state Rep. Doug Holder.
Frank A. Cirillo, running as the sole Democrat in District 23 against the three experienced Republicans, said he was motivated to run after he interned in the Florida Senate two years ago.
"While I was interning at the Senate I became very jaded by the practicality I saw there," Cirillo said. "There was no drive for real new ideas."
Cirillo said he serves as solicitor general in student government at USF and has worked on two local campaigns. He majors in political science and economics and will graduate in May.
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Though he lists a Tampa address currently, he said his mother lives within the district in Sarasota. His mother is a teacher and his father is a real estate agent.
The boundaries for Florida Senate districts were redrawn last year. The new District 23 includes all of Sarasota County and part of Charlotte County.
State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, lives in the dis
trict, but decided to run for the Sarasota County Commission instead of re-election to the Senate.
Steube, Patterson and Holder have already built up strong campaign warchests. Steube boasts about $231,000 in campaign funding, which was switched from running for re-election to his House seat after Detert announced she would not run for re-election.
Joe Gruters, a candidate for Steube's House seat, Donald Trump's Florida campaign chairman and chairman of the Sarasota GOP, is Steube's campaign treasurer.
Holder has raised about $177,000 and Patterson has raised about $155,000.
Cirillo brought up Steube's failed campus-carry gun bill as an example of what he would fight against in the Senate. He also listed the misuse of Amendment 1 funds meant to protect Florida's environment and the Legislature's decision not to expand Medicaid in 2015 as motivating issues.
"I want to fight for Florida's future," Cirillo said. "I would say the state Legislature is not doing a good job."
Cirillo acknowledged some might say he's young and inexperienced, but he said it could be an asset for his campaign in the current political climate.
"Because I'm so young I don't have any vested interest," Cirillo said. "I'm not part of the good-ole-boy system in Tallahassee."
Cirillo said he'll try to compete with his Republican opponents' levels of funding as the sole Democratic candidate so far. He said he plans on running a mostly grassroots campaign.
"I'll be able to run the old-fashioned way: By going out there and meeting voters personally," Cirillo said.
The entry of a Democrat into race means the winner of the seat will not be determined by the Aug. 30 primaries but rather in the general election Nov. 8.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby