Republican dominance in the Sunshine State and intraparty primary contests left many Democrats looking for new jobs in 2023, but some GOP members were also sent searching for other employment.
Of the 16 federal and state elected officials not returning to office that City & State Florida identified, 12 were Democrats. Ten of those lost races while two others saw the writing on the wall and parachuted out before the storm.
So what’s next? Here’s what those former officeholders are doing or saying about their plans for the future:
This Democrat’s ousting marked one of the Senate Republicans’ biggest victories. She is continuing to work at her husband’s law firm, Hollimon P.A., as well as being chair of the South City Foundation, a group that advocates for mixed-income housing opportunities and offers community health and wellness programs in Tallahassee’s South City neighborhood.
After losing a congressional race to Maxwell Frost, the Democratic former Orlando state senator has launched a second career as a filmmaker. He has posted behind-the-scenes videos and photos of his film in progress on his Facebook account. One video included a three-minute breakdown on how he and his crew is filming a car crash scene for the project.
The Republican former Pinellas state senator, who was term limited, advocated staunchly for insurance, criminal justice, transportation and housing reform while in office. He isn’t leaving those issues to rest, as he is launching the Florida Policy Project, a nonprofit, bipartisan “Do-More-Than-Think-Tank” meant to work with Florida’s government for long-term policy changes.
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James Bush III
The Miami state representative lost his reelection bid after receiving ire from his own Democratic Party for his support of legislation dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by its opponents. While he no longer is in elected office, he has still been engaged with his community, attending community panel events and Christmas toy drives using the “former state Rep.” moniker, according to Facebook posts.
The recently defeated Democratic state senator took no time to throw her hat into the race for a seat on the Tampa City Council. Her pitch: That Cruz will work to unify other city council members and Mayor Jane Castor (whose partner, lobbyist Ana Cruz, happens to be her daughter).
After her double digit loss to Marco Rubio, the Democratic former congresswoman from Orlando has not publicly announced her next steps. She did tweet goodbye to her constituents and supporters on Jan. 1.
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The six-term South Florida Democratic congressman retired this election cycle. He is now the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest Jewish advocacy groups in the United States, headquartered in New York.
After losing to fellow Republican state Rep. Webster Barnaby by just 30 votes, Fetterhoff has been silent about her plans for the future. In her Aug. 27 concession post on Facebook, she said she “will continue to advocate and work hard to improve the quality of life we enjoy here in Volusia County in whatever capacity God has in store for me next.”
The former state agriculture commissioner and unsuccessful candidate for governor has said she’s not taking a future political office run off the table. For now though, she plans to work with Democrats in Washington as an expert on Florida to ensure a Democrat is sitting in the Oval Office in 2025, according to her interview on Deeper Dive with Dara Kam, a City & State podcast.
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The former state Senate Democratic leader has entered a hotly contested race for mayor of Jacksonville that is almost sure to go to a runoff. There are currently seven party-affiliated candidates running to succeed outgoing Mayor Lenny Curry, as well as three independent ones.
Carlos Guillermo Smith
Despite a close loss during the general election to Republican Susan Plasencia, the former Orlando House member has stayed true to his promise so far that he is “not going anywhere” with his political advocacy. He has recently attacked conservatives daily on social media and in interviews with the press, whether it be criticism of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who is living temporarily in Orlando, or Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Lawson’s 34 years in elected office came to a close after he was forced into a redistricting-caused showdown with fellow U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Republican. The 74-year-old lawmaker penned a goodbye letter to his constituents and the community in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, but did not go into detail about what the next step in his political career will be. Lawson has, however, previously worked as a lobbyist.
While her national political profile reached an all-time high during her involvement with the Jan. 6 Committee, the Democratic congresswoman from Central Florida decided not to run for reelection this time around after her seat had been redistricted to lean more Republican. She’s made the political rounds, blaming Democrats such as Demings for her party’s woes during the 2022 midterms. There’s speculation she will challenge U.S. Sen. Rick Scott in 2024.
The Miami city commissioner resigned his seat following a rule requiring him to do so to run for another office. According to the Miami Herald, he has been hired by a London-based consultancy firm Longevity Partners, which advises governments and private real estate interests. He could be eligible to lobby the city he represented in two years.
Nicknamed “Rep. Absentini” by members of his own caucus for his poor attendance record in the Florida Legislature, Sabatini has kept his political career alive after a congressional primary loss by becoming chairman of the Lake County Republican Party and general legal counsel for the Lee County Republican Executive Committee.
Stargel, of Lakeland, lost her bid for Congress, but she may have already had a hand in getting revenge on one of her opponents: Polk County Republican Party Chair J.C. Martin was ousted from his role after he served as campaign manager for Demetries Grimes, one of Stargel’s opponents.