Flagler Democrats hope to gain House seat

“The Democratic Party has a good chance of winning back a House seat in northeast Florida from Republicans as long as the Democratic candidates don’t badly bruise one another in the primary,” Flagler County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parham told Historic City News reporters this week.

Both Democratic candidates in the redrawn House District 24 are from Flagler County, which now has a large majority of the district’s registered voters. The district also includes portions of southern St. Johns county and northern Volusia County.

Business owner Douglas Courtney, 57, faces Flagler County Commissioner Milissa Holland, 41, in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. The winner faces Republican Travis Hutson, 27, of Elkton and Michael Cornish of Palm Coast, with no party affiliation, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Flagler County Democrats say the redrawn district could produce the first legislator from Flagler County in decades.

The district covers much of the former House District 20, which elected Rep. Bill Proctor, R- St. Augustine, in 2004. He is leaving the House because of term limits this year.

The new House District 24 includes all of Flagler County, with 59 percent of the registered voters.

“This time it is an open seat,” Parham said. “I don’t see any reason a Democrat could not win the seat, and the two Democrats are out of Flagler County. I think Flagler County is the county you will have to win in order to win that seat.”

Either Democrat is likely to face a fundraising challenge in the general election. Hutson, the Republican candidate who has no primary opposition, raised $105,621 through June 30 while Holland raised $4,372, Courtney raised $2,473 and Cornish raised $1,580.

“There is no way we are going to outraise them (Republicans) in money,” Parham said, adding that Democrats will have to encourage supporters to go to the polls.

Courtney, a former Flagler County Democratic Party chairman who ran and lost against Proctor in 2008 and 2010, said the Democratic candidates won’t harm the chances of one of them getting elected.

“It’s going to be a hard campaign,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy to win.”

Courtney said he would get rid of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, known as FCAT, and use the revenue that he said is being wasted on the test to help schools. He also said he’s concerned that eliminating the Florida Department of Community Affairs in 2011 and moving its planners into another agency has reduced state oversight of regional developments that cross county lines.

While Courtney points to his experience in starting five businesses, Holland points to her six years on the Flagler County Commission including trips to Tallahassee to appear before the Cabinet on issues.

Holland, who serves on the Northeast Florida Regional Council and the board of 1000 Friends of Florida, said she’s also concerned about growth management oversight and state funding cuts to regional planning councils. She’s also concerned about how decisions made in Tallahassee, such as those involving juvenile justice and Medicaid, affect local government spending decisions.

“I believe this will be a contest of ideas,” Holland said. “I have never taken anything for granted.”

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