Panhandle Senate races see veteran lawmakers facing right-wing challenge on guns

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The two state Senate GOP Primary races in Florida’s western Panhandle offer up two veteran lawmakers looking to fend off challenges from two new candidates running to their Right.

In Senate District 2, term-limited Rep. Jay Trumbull of Panama City is seeking to make the leap to the upper chamber. But he’ll have to overcome the hurdle of Destin resident Regina Piazza.

Trumbull served in the House since 2014, most recently as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in charge of piecing together the state’s budget. Piazza is a former Air Force member and now works for Classical Conversations, a Christian homeschooling program.

On her campaign website, Piazza highlights her opposition to red flag laws, which allow law enforcement to confiscate the firearms of a person deemed a threat to themselves or others after receiving a warrant from a judge. Florida passed such a law as part of a gun control and school safety bill after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in 2018 that left 17 dead, including 14 children. Trumbull voted in favor of it.

Trumbull, though, has been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and has raised $460,000 and spent $264,000 as of Aug. 5, mostly on advertising. Piazza has raised about $60,000, including a $30,000 personal loan, and spent $48,000, mostly on printing, advertising and consultant fees.

The race could feature a geographical tussle within the district. Each candidate comes from a population center on opposite sides of the district — Trumbull from Panama City in the east, and Piazza from Destin in the west. Panama City’s Bay County and Destin’s Okaloosa County make up 66% of the voting age population. The rest comes from the surrounding counties of Washington, Walton, Holmes, Calhoun and Jackson.

The winner of the District 2 Primary will take on Carolynn Zonia, a Democrat who has raised $12,000 and spent nearly $5,000, in the Nov. 8 General Election.

In District 1, incumbent Sen. Doug Broxson of Gulf Breeze is unlikely to be troubled by the challenge from John Mills, who has raised $5,300 through Aug. 5, including $3,500 he loaned his campaign. Broxson has raised nearly $270,000 but spent just $33,800.

The Democratic opponent awaiting the winner of the Primary, Charlie Nichols, has raised even less, $2,200, with $2,100 coming from a personal loan. Most of it was spent on the qualifying fee of $1,782.

Mills is opposed to the gun control measures in the school safety law passed in 2018, which Broxson also supported and has touted the endorsement of Gun Owners of America, a gun rights organization.

The district is made up of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, along with a swath of rural Okaloosa County.

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