Twenty-one candidates have filed with the Secretary of State’s Office declaring their intent to run for governor of Florida, including a state prison inmate.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a significant lead over his Democratic challengers in polling. However, according to the Florida Secretary of State’s Division of Elections, 21 individuals are listed as active who’ve filed to run. The division’s tracking system provides an unofficial reference of candidates, and the earliest qualifying documents can be submitted to the division is May 30. The deadline for filing documents is Friday, June 17.
Two candidates who’ve filed as Republicans and aren’t considered to be serious contenders are John Joseph Mercadante and Donald J. Peterson. Neither of their websites lists their qualifications or professional experience.
Mercadante, of Miami, who qualified as a candidate for governor in 2018, argues the “current structure of Florida is not economically efficient, … we need to be focusing on spending money where it's needed … recovery is a priority.”
Peterson, of Sorrento, lists legalizing marijuana, prison reform and open carry as his platform issues.
According to the Secretary of State’s Division of Elections, Mercadante has raised $415.83 and spent $970 and Peterson has raised no money.
DeSantis has raised $87 million in campaign contributions.
Eleven Democrats have filed to run.
Three are currently elected officials with political experience. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who’s leading the Democrats in the polls, has raised the most among them at $7.1 million. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has raised $1.6 million. Also in the top three for name recognition is state Sen. Annette Taddeo.
Eight candidates who’ve filed to run as Democrats appear to have no political experience and haven’t been elected to office. Four have campaign websites, four don’t. None appear to list their qualifications for governor or professional experience. The majority of them have received no contributions; a few raised a little money and two campaigns are in debt, according to state filings.
Robert Connor, of Boca Raton, is running as a “single issue global warming candidate.” Cadance Ashley Daniel, of Jacksonville, is running to reform the justice system, arguing that she’s “a victim of wrongful prosecution.”
Jacksonville businessman David Nelson Freeman’s campaign website is a landing page that states, “coming soon.”
Vero Beach resident Alex Lundmark’ s campaign website lists gun violence and criminal justice reform as key issues.
Four have no campaign websites: Ivan Graham of Orlando, Jonathan Karns of Brandon, Robert Lee Willis of Cocoa, and Army veteran Randy Zapata of Hialeah. Willis and Zapata have campaign Facebook pages.
The primary election is Aug. 23.
Four candidates filed to run with no party affiliation, three of which don’t have campaign websites: Carlos Enrique Gutierrez, of Miami Beach; Eugene Steele, of Miami; and Kyle “KC” Gibson, of Tamarac.
Gutierrez and Steele have raised no money and Gibson’s campaign is in debt, according to state filings.
The campaign of Frank Hughes, Jr., a Tallahassee educator, is in the black.
James Thompson of St. Petersburg, who’s raised no money and has no campaign website, is listed as a write-in candidate.
Brian Patrick Moore of Spring Hill, who’s raised $26, is running as a Green Party candidate. Moore says the two party system is a tyrannical one and that he’s “a consistent advocate for the people.” Voting for a Republican or Democrat is voting “for the lesser of two evils,” he argues, according to his campaign website.
He previously ran in federal and state races as an independent or Democrat. In 2008, he ran for president on the Socialist Party USA ticket and qualified on the ballot in 12 states, according to his campaign website.
Frederick Dee Buntin, who has no campaign website, is the only candidate who filed to run for governor who is incarcerated. He’s an inmate at Dade Correctional Institution, a state prison for men located in Florida City. His campaign finance activity lists zero contributions, according to state filings.