Politics & Government

Manatee, Sarasota state lawmakers looking to change jobs in 2016

MANATEE -- Politics can be like a Rubik's cube: When it comes to elections, you can't move just one square at a time.

That first local piece likely moving is state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice. She's seriously considering ending her term early to seek a Sarasota County Commission seat in 2016, which has prompted Florida House members from Manatee and Sarasota to file for her seat -- which in turn has sparked others to file for their House seats.

State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who represents part of Manatee County, says he will "definitely" run for Detert's seat in 2016 if she decides to end her term early. State Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, has already filed to run for the seat in 2018, when Detert would be unable to run again due to term limits, along with Doug Holder, a former Republican House representative who held Detert's House seat after she was elected to the Senate.

Meanwhile, Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican

Party of Sarasota and vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, has filed to run for Steube's House seat in 2016. Gruters was Detert's campaign treasurer in 2013, during her Senate reelection campaign, according to election documents, and has previously worked for Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

"If he decides to run for his House seat, I will opt out," Gruters said. "But I think the opportunity for Rep. Steube to move on is coming."

Steube has filed for reelection in 2016 in his House district, but he would have to end that campaign if he pursues Detert's Senate seat.

"I haven't spoken to her directly, but based on what I've heard and on the fact that her former treasurer is running for my seat, I think she's stepping out," Steube said.

Steube said if elected to the Senate, he'd continue to focus on protecting Second Amendment rights and reducing taxes.

Robert Wyatt, a Sarasota Republican and a trustee for the State College of Florida, has filed for Pilon's seat in 2016.

Detert's office did not return requests for comment Tuesday. Steube and Pilon would term out of their House seats in 2018. Pilon has also filed for re-election next year, in addition to the Senate seat in 2018.

Steube said he isn't sure he will run for Detert's seat in 2018 if she doesn't opt out in 2016.

"That's a ways away," Steube said. "I think it's disingenuous to current constituents -- if I had filed for the Senate seat now, and filed for re-election for my current seat."

Gruters described himself as a "strong conservative," and hinted he is interested in leadership roles in the House.

"I think I can make a real difference in communication and leadership so we don't get into that situation again," Gruters said, referring to the Senate and House disagreement on Medicaid expansion, which led to the current special session.

On the north end of Manatee County is another Rubik's cube: state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, whose district includes parts of Palmetto and Bradenton, will reach her term limit in 2016, prompting state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, to file for her seat, along with former House state Rep. Betty Reed. Rouson also will reach his term limit in 2016.

Wengay Newton Sr., a St. Petersburg City Council member since 2007, has in turn filed to run for Rouson's seat in 2016. That district is comprised of parts of St. Petersburg, Hillsborough County, Palmetto and Bradenton.

"I don't usually head down to Palmetto and that way," Newton said. "But I'm looking forward to getting to know all parts of the district."

Other lawmakers who represent Manatee in the Florida Legislature are planning to stay put.

State Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, has filed for reelection in 2016 and doesn't have an opponent yet. Boyd is the deputy majority leader and the majority whip in the House, and he terms out in 2018.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has not yet filed for re-election in 2018, but he has been tapped for Senate president during that term. He is the Senate majority leader and terms out in 2022.

Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055 or at kirby@bradenton.com. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby