The apparent upset loss of Rep. Chris Dorworth, a Lake Mary Republican in line to become state House speaker in 2014, led Friday to the emergence of another Central Florida Republican as likely leader of the chamber that year.
Rep. Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican just elected to his third House term, is gaining support from fellow Republicans for the post.
Dorworth, who is now trailing Democrat Mike Clelland by 123 votes after provisional ballots were counted Thursday by Seminole County elections officials, has released his supporters to find a new leader, said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.
“Nobody has done more for other members than Chris Dorworth,” Gaetz said. “But we have to make a decision in a state of great sadness.”
Crisafulli, 41, is a real-estate broker and in the agribusiness, who most recently was chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, and also served on the House Redistricting Committee. He is a descendant of Doyle Carlton, Florida’s Democratic governor from 1929-1933, and Vassar Carlton, a Florida Supreme Court justice in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“We need to look at what’s next,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, another Crisafulli supporter. “Steve’s got depth and he’s a work horse, not a show horse.”
Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is set to take over the House reins at the Legislature’s organizational session later this month. Although Dorworth’s defeat looks almost certain, Weatherford has not publicly unveiled any plans for succession.
The Dorworth-Clelland contest is expected to be subject of a recount by elections officials Sunday. But House Republicans said Crisafulli is likely to be named Dorworth’s successor by no later than Monday.