Race Analysis: Florida Senate District 20

Dennis "Mitch" Maley
The Florida Senate District 20 Republican primary features incumbent Jim Boyd and his challenger, perennial candidate John "Mr. Manners" Houman, who unsuccessfully challenged Boyd in 2020. There is no Democrat on the ballot this year, which means the winner of the primary will get the seat.

Palmetto native Jim Boyd won the seat in 2020 after then-Senate President Bill Galvano was term-limited out. Boyd was previously term-limited out of the Florida House.

A 4th-generation Floridian, Boyd is a graduate of Manatee Community College with a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. Soon after graduation, Boyd joined Boyd Insurance & Investment Services where he rose to Chief Executive Officer and co-owner.

Boyd previously served as a fire commissioner for the North River Fire District. From 1989-1993, he served as Palmetto City Councilman, Vice-Mayor, and Mayor. His uncle, Wilbur Boyd, served in the Florida House and Senate in the 1960s and 1970s, and his grandfather, Hugh E. Boyd, served in the House in the 1940s.

Boyd's signature accomplishment as a legislator was spearheading the state's acquisition of Rattlesnake Key, a mangrove island that was going to become a cruise ship terminal but will now be a state park.

In the most recent legislative session, Boyd, the Senate's point man on property insurance failed to get his most highly-prioritized piece of legislation passed and the legislature was called back for a special session, in which very little was accomplished. As a result, the state's homeowner's insurance market is on the verge of collapse, not a good look for the chamber's point man on the issue.

Boyd did manage to get four pieces of legislation passed, which you can read about here. At the end of the day, however, Boyd's legacy is likely to be one of marching lockstep with the Republican Party of Florida at every turn. 

In the most recent session, Boyd voted for all of Governor Ron DeSantis' culture war legislation from a controversial voting rights bill to the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and seemingly-punative retaliation to Disney, as well as a controversial abortion bill. Boyd also supported an anti-solar bill that was ultimately vetoed by DeSantis.

A convicted felon who successfully petitioned to have his civil rights restored, John Houman is sort of a single-issue candidate who advocates for prison reform, including decriminalizing most non-violent crimes and focusing more on education as prevention, than criminalization as punishment.

Before running against Boyd last time out, Houman unsuccessfully ran for the state senate's District 20 and 19 seats in 2016 and 2018, respectively. The Thonotosassa Republican has a somewhat rambling blog on his website where he champions a number of fringe issues including moving Florida towards a "Benefit Corporations state."

Like many Republicans, Boyd goes with the flow and while he once seemed like a Jeb-Bush era Republican, he has appeared to have no qualms fitting in with today's Trump/DeSantis brand of Republican politics. At the end of the day, Houman stands little to no chance of defeating Boyd. However, he does provide a chance for Republican voters to cast a protest vote against the direction of their state party, if they are inclined to do so.

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.

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