The thing about bombshell stories is you never know when they’re going to drop.
It was an ordinary late Wednesday afternoon when a friend sent me a text with the governor’s tweet about Rep. Ralph Massullo running for re-election instead of the Senate. I responded, “By golly, that’s big news!” — or something like that — and away we went.
Look. I’m a political writer. We don’t get too many biggies like this. So let us bask a little, OK?
I’m not going to say much about the details because the whole thing is still unfolding. But it’s a significant political story because of its potential to impact other campaigns already in the works and gaining momentum.
Citrus County is coming off of a tremendous legislative session, where nearly $80 million for projects are headed our way unless the governor vetoes them. Citrus County political and community leaders point the success directly at Massullo and Senate President Wilton Simpson, whose District 10 includes Citrus County.
Simpson is leaving the Senate and running for agriculture commissioner. Massullo and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, both have active campaigns in the new Senate District 11.
Meanwhile, Massullo’s Senate run brought out plenty of interest in an open House District 34 seat. Six candidates — five Republicans, one Democrat — have filed the paperwork, begun campaign fundraising and are doing the things candidates normally do.
Two of them — Rebecca Bays and J.J. Grow — are off to huge fundraising starts. Bays, in an unfortunate sense of timing, as it turned out, hosted her campaign kickoff Tuesday night. Neither one of them wanted to run against Massullo. What happens now?
Massullo, the Lecanto dermatologist (full disclosure: He’s cut into me), made the sudden announcement Wednesday after meeting with Gov. Ron DeSantis. (In case you missed it, the governor on Monday endorsed Ingoglia in the Senate District 11 race.)
The governor on Wednesday sent this tweet:
“I was able to speak with Ralph Massullo earlier today and he informed me that he intends to run for re-election to the Florida House. Ralph is a smart conservative member and I endorse his re-election.”
Got that? DeSantis announced Massullo’s re-election plans, not Massullo himself. Then the governor stepped right into the primary, as he did with the Senate race, and immediately backed Massullo. Understandable, but what of the other Republicans in the House race?
This is how Citrus County Chamber CEO Josh Wooten phrased it in responding to the Just Wright Citrus Facebook post Wednesday that broke the story:
“Looks like the Gov is trying to pick our representatives.”
Rep. Massullo is a great guy and frankly, I’m disappointed we won’t see that race this summer against Ingoglia. What a treat: Two veteran legislators, battling for votes in a new Senate district.
And regardless of what Bays or Grow do, don’t expect some of these candidates to just roll over and hand it to Massullo. So we’ll still have a House race of some type, but it just became a little quirky.
I feel for these House District 34 Republican candidates whose lives just got tossed upside down. Suddenly, this is one race to watch.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.