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Monday, Oct 15, 2018
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Arthenia Joyner considers 2020 comeback in Florida Senate

Former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democratic icon, is considering a 2020 run for her former District 19 Senate seat now held by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.

"I'm giving it serious thought," said Joyner, 75.

She was Tampa's first black female lawyer and a prominent civil rights activist, then served in the state House and Senate from 2000 until her 2016 Senate term limit.

A primary between Joyner and Rouson, 62, would match two of the leading black political figures on their respective sides of Tampa Bay. The winner would be a lock to win the seat in a district drawn to elect a minority senator.

But it could turn into an Tampa vs. St. Petersburg battle, as did the 2016 primary between Rouson and two Tampa candidates, former Reps. Ed Narain and Betty Reed.

The Hillsborough candidate has an advantage: More than two-thirds of the district's Democrats live there.

But in 2016, Rouson, 62, narrowly won because Narain and Reed split the dominant Tampa vote.

The contest resonated with the historical Hillsborough-Pinellas rivalry.
Pinellas Democrats say Joyner, when she held the seat, paid too little attention to the St. Petersburg side.

But Rouson has riled fellow Democrats including Joyner by siding with Republicans on issues including gun rights and school vouchers, getting favors for his district in return. In 2016, the NRA and a GOP-linked political committee sent out mailers backing him.

One possibly significant question: Will the primary be open to Republican voters?

If so, it might help Rouson.

Only registered party members can vote in Florida's closed primaries, unless there are no candidates of other parties. Then others can vote.

But even the presence of a write-in candidate, who doesn't pay filing fees or go on the ballot, keeps the primary closed. That "write-in loophole" has allowed bogus write-in candidates to manipulate primaries.

Joyner, who's on the state Constitution Revision Commission, opposed a proposed amendment to close the write-in loophole, but said it has nothing to do with her possible 2020 race – she voted against the measure last year before she began considering the 2020 race.

"I don't play games with my integrity," she said.

In explaining her opposition to eliminating write-in candidates, Joyner said "primaries are to allow parties to choose candidates who exemplify their values and ideology" without outside interference from other parties.

Narain has said he might run again, but Joyner said, "If I decide to run, I'm not going to defer to anybody."

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