TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Ahead of Election Day, Florida's candidates have one last week to prove they’re in or out. It's the midterm qualifying week in Tallahassee.
The five-day window allows congressional, legislative or other state-level candidates a chance to submit their paperwork and prove to state election officials they qualify to be on the ballot.
Candidates and surrogates lined up Monday in the Department of State Elections Office to file the necessary papers. U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., was among them, putting in his qualifications for Florida's revamped Second District.
"I wanted to start off the first day in case something goes wrong with paperwork," Lawson said. "I can remember the time I was out in Denver, trying to file paperwork and the plane crashed, and so we were trying to get on the bus to get back here."
The congressional level will likely be a hotbed of political action this year.
Challengers are probable in all of Florida’s now 28 districts.
Tough primaries are also possible in places like the 15th District, where GOP state Sen. Kelli Stargel and former Secretary of State Laurel Lee will square off.
The 27th District has two well-known South Florida Democrats squaring off, Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell and state Sen. Annette Taddeo.
Associate Politics Professor Hans Hassell at Florida State University said redistricting is likely fueling the heavy interest. New boundaries mean incumbents might be more vulnerable, spurring interest.
"There is a well-documented incumbency advantage which is usually two to three percentage points in congressional elections," Hassell said. "This is a situation where there isn't, maybe, as big of advantage because the incumbent hasn't been the representative of those individuals."
The situation is a bit different at the state level.
In the Senate, at least 12 candidates — more than a quarter of the chamber — lack opponents. That includes the incoming Republican Senate President, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo.
In the House, 28 are without challengers.
Hassell said things might change this week. Those lacking support for Congress may look to the Legislature for a chance to serve.
"What often happens is the party will say, 'Hey, we need somebody to run in this seat. Will you go be a good party soldier?'" Hassell said.
Candidates have only until Friday to file and qualify. Florida's primary election is Aug. 23. The midterm election is Nov. 8.