The really important local race that could impact the whole state....The end of qualifying _ and the lurch into the official campaign season _ has been dominated with talk about the U.S. Senate race featuring incumbent Marco Rubio as well several high profile congressional and state senate races.
Yet there's one very important race that is emerging within the shadows of the Florida Capitol.
Last August State Attorney Willie Meggs announced that he was ending a career stretching back to 1985.
Three challengers have stepped forward to challenge him: Jack Campbell, an assistant state attorney and son of late Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell, Sean Desmond, a former prosecutor under Meggs who is now in private practice, and former Statewide Prosecutor Pete Williams.
Over the course of his time in office Meggs engaged in cases that had reverberations in state politics. He aggressively investigated in the '90s whether or not legislators were accepting gifts and trips from lobbyists. The Meggs investigation into House Speaker Ray Sansom wound up forcing the Destin Republican to resign from both the speakership and the Florida Legislature.
Meggs was ultimately forced to abandon the case against Sansom, which was tied to his push for an appropriation in the budget that appeared to be benefit a Republican businessman from Sansom's area.
But because of a Meggs subpoena that probe forced into daylight the use of Republican Party of Florida credit cards by top elected officials - a topic ultimately that caused questions for a long line of politicians including Rubio, then-Gov. Charlie Crist as well as RPOF Chairman Jim Greer.
Other times, however, Meggs has resisted calls to investigate powerful people, such as in 2015 amid the outcry over Gov. Rick Scott's decision to oust Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. Meggs refused to investigate Bailey's ouster even there were allegations of Sunshine Law violations and Bailey himself alleged that the Scott administration had potentially tried to interfere with an investigation.
So how will the next state attorney handle these types of cases?
Well, it could very well depend on who wins.
In Tallahassee at least - which is where the largest concentration of votes in the race will come from - the primary focus for the candidates is Leon County's crime rate, which is currently the highest in the state.
During a recent community forum featuring the three candidates, Campbell was blunt, saying that while "you need to have the courage" to take on potential corruption cases it would not be a pressing item for him.
"We got plenty of people getting shot in the street, I’ve got plenty of people getting raped at FSU campus,'' Campbell said.
Desmond echoed that sentiment: "I think it's absolutely a duty to shine a light on everything, but if it's going to impact and take away resources from other things we need to prioritize that."
Williams, who noted he pursued corruption cases when he was statewide prosecutor, maintains that "I will be very aggressive there." But in a followup statement Williams faulted the way that Meggs' office has handled certain cases, including the unsuccessful prosecution of Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch. (The case was handled by Campbell and Williams contended that it should have been handled by an outside prosecutor instead of someone working for Meggs. Williams also contended Finch was prosecuted because he backed Williams in the 2012 election, an allegation that Campbell said was a "lie.")
Desmond and Campbell are squaring off in the Democratic primary and the winner of that race will run against Williams, the Republican nominee, in the November general election.
"Going to California"....
But apparently it's a good place for some Republicans to go and escape the heat, humidity, algal blooms, mosquitoes and raise money.
The main fundraising committee led by Sen. Joe Negron that is helping Republican state Senate candidates held a two-day fundraiser this week at the famed Pebble Beach golf course (where the daily high was in the mid-60s) located near Carmel and Monterey.
This is a recurring site for fundraisers and it's been held in this site before. But which elected officials decided to attend it? Shh. That's a secret.
A spokeswoman for Negron said he would not discuss fundraising events. But the little birds who flock to Peter Schorsch told him that joining Negron at the California event were Sens. Anitere Flores, Lizbeth Benacquisto, and Rob Bradley.
Also there was Sen. Bill Galvano, who is staying out west this week to hold a separate Napa Valley fundraiser for his own political committee Innovate Florida. The invitation promises a group dinner and private vineyard lunch tasting at the Far Niente Winery about 171 miles north of Pebble Beach.
Galvano, who was re-elected to a new term in office without opposition, said earlier this month that he decided to hold the fundraiser at the winery since he was going out west for the Pebble Beach fundraiser.
Since the end of the 2016 session Galvano has piled up a significant amount of money in his political committee.
State filed fundraising reports for March, April and May - along with paperwork on the Innovate Florida website for June - show that Galvano has collected more than $357,000. Some of the big donors include Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Medical Association.
So far in the last few months Galvano has steered money from his Innovate Florida account to other political committees - such as the one helping Senate candidates - the campaign accounts of GOP senators as well as payments to his staff, a fundraising consultant and reimbursements that Galvano has claimed. State records show that money from the account has been used to pay for hotels, meals and travel including a nearly $500 tab at The Edison in early April.