SARASOTA -- State Sen. Nancy Detert will step down from the Legislature in 2016, confirming speculation that she will instead seek a seat on the Sarasota County Commission.
The decision means that the Venice Republican will leave the Legislature two years before she faces term limits in 2018. But it's a move that's been widely anticipated as three Republicans are already vying to take her place representing District 28: former Sarasota Mayor Nora Patterson, State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and former State Rep. Doug Holder, R-Osprey. State Rep. Ray Pilon was in the mix as well, but decided to seek another term in the House instead.
Steube said he's still interested in running for Detert's Senate seat, but there are too many variables involved with Senate redistricting starting in October to make any sort of announcement yet.
"The district will probably have to change, but I
don't know how much it would have to change," Steube said.
If Senate District 28's boundaries change, an election for the position will likely be held in 2016, though Detert's term wasn't up until 2018. Detert would be allowed to stay in the Senate until when and if she is officially elected to the Sarasota County Commission. But she would not be able to run for reelection in the Senate and for the commission at the same time.
Steube and any other candidates would have to live in the newly drawn boundaries to be eligible to run for the position.
If the district's boundaries didn't change, then Detert would only have to resign her current position if she were elected, which wouldn't be until November 2016. If she is defeated in that election, then she could keep her Senate seat until 2018.
"We just don't really know what she's going to do," Steube said.
Detert's plan to give up her seat plays into an already volatile power struggle as State Sens. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, battle for the Senate presidency in 2016-2018. Detert has long been a staunch Latvala ally.
Negron announced last month he has enough pledged votes to be president. But the whole race will be upended by the Senate redistricting special session next month and other sitting lawmakers' decisions to step out of the race. Holder said he signed a pledge card for Negron "some time ago" and expects "a very competitive race" with Patterson, whom he has worked with and considers a friend. Steube would support Negron, as well.
"We have very different political views and about the direction of where the Republican Party should go,'' Holder said.
Patterson's allegiances are unknown. Although Latvala said Thursday night he will not confirm which candidates have pledged their votes to him, he is throwing his support behind Patterson in the race to replace Detert.
State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, says Detert stepping down is a likely point in the Negron column. Senate leadership has scheduled a presidential designation ceremony for Negron at 2 p.m. Dec. 12.
First elected to the Senate in 2008 after an eight-year term in the House from 1998-2006, Detert is an outspoken moderate Republican who supports women's right to have an abortion and plays an important role in economic development policy. She sits on the board of Enterprise Florida but has been a critic of how the economic-development and jobs agency spends money.