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State Senator Wilton Simpson’s Surprise Challenge

State Senator Wilton Simpson’s Surprise Challenge

It’s been a tumultuous week for State Senator Wilton Simpson. It was all a little confusing, but in the end, Simpson’s luck held.

Old Vs New Map
Old Vs New Map

Simpson is in line to be the Senate president in 2020. But a new court ordered redistricting map put that in jeopardy. Due to the court order, every Senate seat is up for re-election in 2016. If not for the court order, only the odd numbered district would have been up for re-election. And, this is where things get interesting for Simpson.

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While all the seats are up for re-election this year, in order to insure staggered terms in the future, the court ordered a lottery or random assignment of odd and even districts. Even districts would get a two year term to begin in 2016 and odd numbered districts would get a four year term.

A random number generator was used by the Auditor General’s office in Tallahassee to assign the new district numbers to the 40 senate districts. After the lottery ended, Senator Simpson ended up with an even numbered district, Senate District 10.

This was important because Simpson was first elected in 2012. Had he drawn an odd numbered district, in 2020 he would have served 8 full years which is the maximum allowed by term limits. That would have prevented Simpson from becoming Senate president in 2021 because he would have termed out. By drawing an even district, he can run in 2016, get a two-year term, then because he will have only served 6 years as of 2018, he’d be allowed to run for another four-year term that would take him through 2022 and that allows him to serve as Senate president in 2021 and 2022.

Unfortunately for Simpson, the political twist and turns this week didn’t end there.

Representative Jimmie Smith had declared himself a possible Senate candidate in 2016. In addition, Senator John Legg, who’s District 17 was changed drastically by the new maps, was considering running in the newly created District 10. Both Smith and Legg told those following the drama that they would not run against Simpson if the Eggland’s Best farmer had, with the new numbering, the chance to be the future Senate president.

But, Senator Legg changed his mind. He announced Tuesday he would run against Simpson despite his previous promises.

Being in Hernando County, we didn’t know a lot about Senator Legg. So, we went to former State Representative Rob Schenck for his first hand perspective. “I’ve worked with both and consider each a friend. But, I’m 110% behind Wilton Simpson. Wilton is a leading member of the legislature and what he can do for Hernando County — his ability to impact Hernando County far exceeds Senator Legg,” said Schenck. “Anyone who doesn’t support Wilton doesn’t have Hernando County’s best interest at heart.”

After talking to Schenck, it was amazing at the people who came forward to support Senator Simpson. Here’s a partial list of the people we talked to and what they said:

“I’m surprised Senator Legg is running against Simpson. Both are very good people. I’ve had more interactions with Senator Simpson and I’d have to support him because as Senate president he’d be a better choice,” said Sheriff Al Nienhuis.

Commissioner Jeff Holcomb, “Simpson has done a great job for Hernando County and representing us in Tallahassee.”

“John Legg is a good man. But, Wilton Simpson is the person for this job. He is a local, hardworking businessman, who is personable, has political credibility, a strong reputation of character and commitment, and as Senate president can do more for Hernando County,” said Jim Kimbrough, SunTrust Bank.

Commissioner Jim Adkins, “He’s been a big help. I’ve had good dealings with him in Tallahassee. He has been instrumental in improvements to the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport including, $1.3 million for upgrading runway lighting, installation of an air traffic control tower, and many other projects.”

“I can vouch for Senator Wilton Simpson 100%. He has done more for Hernando County than any other legislator in recent history,” Gary Schraut, Hernando County Realtor.

Don Barbee, Hernando County Clerk of the Court, “He (Simpson) is a tremendous legislator.”

In fact, in all our conversations today, it was impossible to find anyone that would say anything remotely negative about Senator Simpson. And in politics, that is highly unusual.

If Legg is going win this new district, he’ll have to do it outside Hernando County.

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Samuel M. McCall attended Auburn University and has an MBA in Accounting. He currently lives near Tampa, Florida with his wife. They are fans of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Lightning. And, during football season you'll hear Sam yelling "War Eagle" around the house on Saturdays which sometimes startles the two Rotti's, Ruger and Lyric. Sam's favorite read, "To Kill A Mockingbird." Favorite movie, "Unforgiven." You can follow Sam on Twitter @Dixiehighways

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