A North Florida Senate district controlled by Democrats for decades is in the crosshairs of incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Republican who is pouring money into a contest that has surprisingly become one of the most contentious legislative races in the November elections.
Rep. Loranne Ausley, a scion of one of Tallahassee’s most prominent families, was elected to two stints in the state House before launching a bid in Senate District 3, an open seat currently held by term-limited Sen. Bill Montford.
Ausley long was considered a shoo-in to win the sprawling district, which includes the capital city and 11 largely rural counties, stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Georgia border. In addition to Leon County, where Tallahassee is located, those counties are Franklin, Gulf, Taylor, Wakulla, Calhoun, Gadsden, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison and Hamilton.
Democrats make up nearly 53% of the district’s roughly 338,000 registered voters, while Republicans comprise about 30%, according to a state Division of Elections report issued before the August primary elections.
But Simpson, who takes over as Senate President after the Nov. 3 election, is funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to back Republican candidate Marva Preston, a veteran law-enforcement officer and ordained minister