Senate endorsement smackdown in Benacquisto-Merchant raceby George Bennett | June 18th, 2009
Benacquisto has a fund-raiser in Tallahassee next week with five state Senators on the host committee: President Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach, Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla of Miami, Don Gaetz of Niceville, Andy Gardiner of Orlando and soon-to-retire Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie.
Merchant has not formally opened a campaign, but Republican Sens. Nancy Detert of Venice and Paula Dockery of Lakeland say they’ll be on her team. Many insiders also predict that Sen. Alex Villalobos of Miami, who was defeated by Atwater in a GOP leadership struggle, will take sides with Merchant against Atwater’s favored candidate. Villalobos couldn’t be reached today.