Two Democrats face off in Senate District 8 primary

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As the primaries approach, two Democrats have qualified to run against a well-funded Republican incumbent for the Florida Senate seat that includes northern Brevard County and southern Volusia County.

The two Democrats are running in a Democratic primary on Aug. 23, seeking to face Republican incumbent Florida Senator Tom Wright in the Nov. 8 general election for the District 8 seat.

The Democrats are Andrea Williams, a 40-year-old nonprofit manager from Titusville, and Richard Paul Dembinsky, a 74-year-old Port Orange resident.

Wright won what was then the Senate District 14 seat in 2018 after Republican incumbent Dorothy Hukill died before the election. Republican Party leaders in both counties chose Wright, a New Smyrna Beach businessman, to run in place of Hukill.

Wright defeated Democrat Melissa Martin in the 2018 Senate election, by a margin of 56.3% to 43.7%.

Although Wright’s name did not appear on the ballot because the ballots had already been printed with Hukill’s name on them, votes for Hukill counted as votes for Wright.

Now, Democratic voters will have the next few weeks to decide who will face Wright in November.

Whoever wins the general election will represent the new Senate District 8, which includes much of what was once District 14.

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The Brevard County portion of the district includes Titusville, Mims, and Scottsmoor. In Indian River County, District 8 goes as far north as Daytona Beach and as far west as Deltona and DeLand.

State senators receive a salary of $29,697 per year and are elected to four-year terms, with two-term limits.

Democratic competitors

Williams, one of two Democratic hopefuls seeking the Senate seat, is an Astronaut High School graduate who currently lives in Titusville. She said she was running a “grassroots campaign, based on people’s needs”.

Williams said she sees the hardships Floridians face and wants to spearhead change that can ease them for average citizens.

“Florida is in crisis, America is in crisis, and I’m ready to lead the charge to improve the lives of the average person, not just those with millions,” she said.

Williams said his two biggest priorities in the Senate would be to meet the financial needs of Floridians; and protecting the human rights of women, members of minority groups and the LGBTQ community.

As a senator, she would work to codify abortion rights into Florida state law.

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“We should do it in Florida because we should all have the right to privacy when it comes to medical choices,” Williams said.

Andrea Williams

She also wants to champion environmental issues affecting the central Florida communities she would represent in office.

“I believe the environment is essential to our quality of life, our future and our tourism jobs, so we need to protect it,” Williams said.

“I would offer incentives for fertilizer runoff reduction efforts, algal bloom studies and manatee conservation initiatives,” Williams said. “Our waterways are our lifeline for the coast.”

Williams also wants to tackle inflation and cost-of-living issues that put pressure on struggling families.

While Williams has said she is a supporter of the Second Amendment, she said she wants to fight gun violence by allowing Medicaid expansion in Florida, which she says will get more money in the state to address mental health issues leading to gun violence.

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“Our economy needs to be addressed now, so the housing crisis and cost of living inflation will be my priority,” Williams said. “I will work with the (Florida CFO) to reduce rent and insurance costs, and also drive improvements in our congested supply chain.”

“People deserve a fighter who is focused on them and not the elite,” she added.

Dembinsky could not be reached for comment for this story.

Dembinsky is a perennial candidate, running for office in multiple election cycles, for more than 15 years.

Among the positions he has sought unsuccessfully over the years are Florida Governor, Florida Chief Financial Officer, Florida State Senator, and Florida State Representative. He sometimes ran as a Democrat and sometimes as an unaffiliated candidate.

In the current election cycle, Dembinsky has also filed and withdrawn from races for governor of Florida as Democratic CFO and Florida as a non-party candidate.

Dembinsky has no apparent campaign website or verified social media presence.

Campaign finance

Dembinsky contributed a total of $1,988.34 to his own campaign and spent $1,781.82 — all for his ballot qualification fees.

Dembinsky received a Notice of Failure to File from the Florida Department of State on June 28, letting the candidate know that he had not filed a campaign treasurer’s report or notification of any reportable activity. Failure to file could see Dembinsky’s campaign rack up fines from the state.

Williams raised $2,505.65 in total campaign contributions from 38 individual donations during her campaign, which represents an average donation of just over $65 per person.

Since starting her campaign, Williams has spent $2,335.27, mostly on filing fees, signs, printing and office supplies.

In the current election cycle, which dates back to November 2018, Wright raised $80,042.36 from 84 contributors, for an average donation of $952.88.

Wright’s campaign expenses for the election cycle total $38,678.65.

Many of Wright’s campaign expenses relate to event sponsorships and tickets, campaign signs, and campaign treasurer services.

Tyler Vazquez is the North Brevard Watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Vazquez at 321-917-7491 or [email protected] Twitter: @tyler_vazquez

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