The race to replace Rep. Jayer Williamson, who opted not to seek re-election, attracted two Republicans who have bankrolled much of their own campaigns, setting up a clash between the GOP’s business-friendly wing and its vocal, Donald Trump-supporting cohort.
Joel Rudman is a Navarre family doctor who is backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Williamson himself. He’s added $238,000 through Aug. 5, helped by a personal loan of $80,000, and spent $170,000.
He’s up against Mariya Calkins, a former legislative aide to ex-Rep. Mike Hill, a Pensacola Beach Republican. She is married to Santa Rosa County Commissioner James Calkins. Born in the former USSR, Calkins describes herself as “pro-life, pro-gun and pro-Trump” on her campaign’s Facebook page.
She’s raised $176,000 for her main campaign account, with nearly $80,000 coming from herself, and spent $162,000. But her political committee has raised another $79,000, with $15,000 coming from Olson Management, a land development company, and spent $40,000, mostly on direct mail and printing services.
Calkins has been endorsed by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican running for a U.S. House seat.
Sabatini and Hill are known for ultra-conservative stances, especially on social issues, and have clashed with House leadership. Sabatini routinely called House Speaker Chris Sprowls a “Republican in Name Only.”
In endorsing Rudman, Williamson said the district needs a “workhorse” who can advance policy ideas rather than a “showhorse.”
“Regurgitating the same three or four talking points over and over doesn’t get policy passed,” he told WUWF.
Calkins sought to tamp down controversy earlier this month when a 2013 video surfaced of her and her husband at a New Year’s celebration in Russia, singing the Russian national anthem. On the video, Calkins says of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin that “he’s not smiling. He’s a tough man.”
The video was first reported by the Pensacola News-Journal. She explained she doesn’t admire Putin or support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
District 3 covers all but the coastal stretch of Santa Rosa County, bordered by State Road 98 on the south and then reaches into rural Okaloosa County by the Georgia border. Santa Rosa County and the towns of Navarre, Milton and Pace anchor the district, comprising 85% of the voting age population.
The winner won’t automatically win the seat, but shouldn’t face much of a challenge in the Nov. 8 General Election. Write-in candidate Sandra Maddox hasn’t raised any money for her campaign.