Coming up Thursday: forums for the Florida House and Senate primary elections

In our overwhelmingly conservative county, it’s likely that whoever wins the Republican primaries in August will go on to represent us next year – be it on the Board of Collier County Commissioners, in our county Constitutional Offices, in the state legislature or in the US House of Representatives.

There will be a lot at stake in Rick Scott’s last two years as governor, including such issues as tax cuts, education funding, fracking legislation, growth incentives, medical marijuana and spending to protect the environment and protect the Everglades.

So I encourage all Collier voters, especially those leaving town for the summer, to attend as many candidate forums as you can so you can be an informed voter in the August elections. It’s not too soon to become informed, and there’s no better way to do so than by seeing and hearing the candidates in person.

In this post, I’ll tell you about the forums to be held this coming Thursday, April 7, and the candidates who were invited to participate in them. In future posts, I’ll be writing about other important elections that will take place in August.

Another reminder
As I’ve written before (see here, here, here and most recently here), because Florida is a closed primary state, only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican Party primary. The last day to change or register your party affiliation if you want to vote in a party primary in August is August 1. But don’t wait. Do it now … and while you’re at it, request a vote-by-mail ballot.

Florida Senate – District 28
If you live anywhere in Collier County, you live in newly-drawn Senate District 28. Current Senator Garrett Richter, who has served the maximum eight-year term, is vacating his seat, and current House Representatives Matt Hudson and Kathleen Passidomo are vying to succeed him.

It will be a hard-fought and expensive race. Passidomo has Ricther’s endorsement, but Hudson has the money advantage, having raised $418,500 through 2/29 to Passidomo’s $244,100.

Hudson had a 20-year management career at Walgreens and subsequently became a licensed real estate broker. He has lived in Golden Gate Estates since 1990. His campaign website is

Passidomo is an attorney who has lived in Naples since graduating from Stetson University College of Law in 1978. Her campaign website is

As with all races, our challenge as voters is to identify differences between the candidates. Both Hudson and Passidomo received A grades on the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Report Cards each year they’ve been in office, indicating that both voted nearly lock-step with the Chamber’s position on Florida Business Agenda bills.

I also compared their votes (Hudon’s here; Passidomo’s here) on what Vote Smart calls “Key Votes” between 2011 (Passidomo’s first year) and 2016 and found that they voted the same way in all but a few cases:

2011 – HB 1127 – Abortions. Hudson voted Yay, Passidomo was they only House Republican who voted Nay. Bill passed House 81–37.

2012 – HB 277 – Prohibits abortions during the third trimester. Hudson voted Yay; Passidomo voted Nay. Bill passed House 78–33.

But Passidomo voted for seven other “key” anti-abortion bills, according to Vote Smart, and most recently voted for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

2015 – SB 290 – Authorizes concealed carry during emergency evacuations. Hudson voted Yay; Passidomo did not vote. Bill passed House 86–26.

2016 – HB 1325 – Revises various economic incentive & tax refund programs. Hudson voted Nay; Passidomo voted Yay. Bill passed – House 79 – 39. (The bill gives impact fee waivers to certain companies.)

As of now, only Republicans have filed to run for this Senate seat. If that remains the case, all qualified voters regardless of party affiliation will be entitled to vote in the August primary.

Florida House – District 106
If you live in coastal Collier County, you live in District 106 and have been represented by Kathleen Passidomo since 2011. Find your district here.

Like the Senate race, with the incumbent not running for another term, this is a wide open election. So far, two Republicans, one No Party Affiliation (NPA) and no Democrats have filed to run.

Lavaigne Ann Kirpatrick (R) is a former Registered Nurse and current candidate for a Master’s in Public Administration at the University of South Florida. She ran unsuccessfully for the Board of County Commissioners twice, losing to Fred Coyle in 2010 and to Penny Taylor in 2014. She reported $1,000 in contributions through 2/29. Her campaign website is

Robert Rommel (R) sold the mortgage company he co-founded and moved to Naples in 2002. He now co-owns three restaurants – two in southwest Florida, one in New Jersey. He has raised $48,700 through 2/29. His campaign website is

Brandon Smith (NPA) ran unsuccessfully for the Congressional District 19 seat in 2012, receiving less than two percent of the votes and losing to Trey Radel. He has raised $15 through 2/29. He doesn’t have a campaign website; his campaign Facebook page is here.

Florida House – District 80
If you live east of I–75, you probably live in District 80 and have been represented by Matt Hudson since 2007. Find your district here.

As in District 106, with the incumbent not running, this election should be interesting. So far, two Republicans have filed to run; no Democrats or NPAs.

Joe Davidow (R) is a practicing attorney in his own law firm, Willis & Davidow. He received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and law degree from St. Thomas University. He was one of six candidates in the 2012 Republican primary for Congressional District 19, receiving two percent of the votes and losing to Trey Radel. He has raised $28,100 through 2/29 and his campaign website is

Byron Donalds (R) serves on the Board of Trustees for Florida Southwestern State College, formerly Edison State College, having been appointed to the post by Governor Scott. He has an undergraduate degree from Florida State University in Finance and Marketing. Like Davidow, Donalds ran unsuccessfully in the CD 19 Republican primary, but won Collier County with 28 percent of the votes. With CCPS School Board members Kelly Lichter and Erika Donalds (his wife), Donalds is a founding Board member of the Mason Classical Academy Charter School, where he now serves as Board Vice President. He has raised $90,000 through 2/29. His campaign website is

I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough that you will join me Thursday to hear what these candidates have to say – both to us and to each other.

When: Thursday, April 7
4:00 – 5:30 PM – House Districts 80 and 106
6:00 – 7:30 PM – Senate District 28

Where: Hodges University, John White Community Room, 2655 Northbrooke Drive, Naples

Moderated by former Naples Daily News editorial page editor Jeff Lytle. Free of charge, open to the public, first-come seating.

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at, “like” me on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Scroll to Top