With the two well-funded frontrunners, both male, slugging it out between them, two female candidates have joined the fray for the Republican nomination in next month’s primary for the special election in House District 7.

With Crawfordville’s Mike Watkins drawing on a war chest of more than $190,000, and Port St. Joe’s Jason Shoaf right behind with more than $119,000, the two men have far more resources behind them than do these other two GOP candidates, Virginia Fuller, of Perry, and Lynda Bell, of Tallahassee, who between them have at most a couple thousand dollars.

But both are plugging away in their bid to secure the GOP nomination at the April 9 primary, after which the winner would be all but assured of defeating Democrat Ryan Terrell in the June 18 special election.

The election in District 7, which includes Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Jefferson, Lafayette, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla counties and part of Leon County, is to succeed Halsey Beshears, who served as state rep from 2012 until earlier this year when Gov. DeSantis appointed him secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

If you are not among the county’s 2,752 registered Republicans, you won’t have a say in picking the GOP nominee, since the deadline for party changes and new registrations was Monday.

Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley said early voting, at both the Apalachicola office and the Carrabelle annex, runs daily from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. from Saturday, March 30 through Saturday, April 6.

Riley said her office began mailing out absentee ballots on March 5, and of the 490 sent out so far, 50 have been returned.

She said voters can request an absentee ballot through April 3 to be mailed out, and it must be returned by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9 to the elections office.

Lynda Bell

Bell has said she is running “on a conservative platform that emphasizes the right to life and limited government.”

The former mayor of Homestead, she currently serves as town manager of Sneads and is president of Florida Right to Life.

“I am passionate about protecting our constitutional rights, particularly the right to life since all other rights flow from it,” said Bell. “We have seen the tragic erosion of the right to life in states like New York and Virginia in recent weeks, and I can’t sit on the sidelines. Florida must continue to foster a culture where life is honored at every stage, from conception to natural death, and I will fight to protect our most vulnerable citizens in the Florida House.”

Bell served as a Miami-Dade county commissioner from 2010 to 2014, and prior to that was on the Homestead City Council from 2003 to 2009, including service from 2007 to 2009 as the city’s first female mayor.

In her news release announcing her candidacy, she wrote that she is known for fiscally responsible leadership, and that in 2015, Gov. Rick Scott appointed her to the Florida Communities Trust, which oversees and awards millions of dollars in grants to municipalities for parks and environmental projects.

“The communities that make up District 7 are home to some of the finest people I have ever known,” said Bell. “I would consider it a great honor to serve my friends and neighbors in the Florida House, fighting for our shared values of limited government and individual responsibility. It is imperative that we keep taxes low and the government off the backs of entrepreneurs who create jobs and keep our economy strong.”

Among the numerous awards she has received are the Athena Award, given by the Homestead Chamber of Commerce, and the Association of Public Administrators Woman of Distinction Award. She was also recognized with the Miami-Dade Farm Bureau Advocacy Award, and the the Miami-Dade League of Cities Helen Miller Award

Bell and her husband, Mark, married for more than 34 years, have three adult daughters and 12 grandchildren. They own and manage several real estate properties, and they teach Sunday School at Corinth Baptist Church.

To reach her email to lyndaforlife@bellsouth.net or visit www.electlyndabell.com 

Virginia Fuller

In her release, Fuller wrote that “as a former small business owner, I found the greatest obstacle to success is excessive government regulations often enforced unequally by dishonest bureaucrats. It appears that the only way to change government is from within, by electing honest non-career politicians.

“Giving a voice to you…is the reason why I have put my professional life on hold, and spend my time and resources to run for this vacant seat; Not for fame, not money, or power.”

Describing herself as “a proud naturalized U.S. citizen, as well as the proud mother of a daughter, who serves as a captain in the US Marines,” Fuller wrote that she is a registered nurse “who had established two pediatric care facilities in California of which one served children with chronic medical conditions, needing professional nursing care.

“I experienced what happens when big government gets too involved with our daily lives, and imposes too many restrictive regulations on private businesses,” she said. “That was the catalyst that shook me to the core of my self-worth and dignity, and I had to admit that being a-political and just an obedient taxpayer, was no longer an option for me.”

Fuller’s news release said she became very involved in the Tea Party movement in the greater San Francisco/East Bay region “ because I believe in the freedom and equality that our Constitution guarantees us.”

She went on to address “Why do I believe that I will be the better candidate over the two male candidates who threw their hats in the race early on?

“For one, I am a grassroots candidate who is not beholden to, or owned by any special interest group, or big money donors. Secondly, Floridians deserve leaders who are independent thinkers and vote their conviction; and I fit that label,” Fuller wrote. “As someone who wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth; who overcame life's drudgeries, with all the bumps and bruises growing up as an orphan from a very early age, as an immigrant and a black conservative, I can confidently proclaim, that I am a strong woman with integrity and character, based on Judeo-Christian values. My journey in life has thought me not to be afraid of challenges. And I am not a quitter.”

Fuller closed by writing that “with the onslaught of the liberals, pushing a socialistic agenda, and tearing down the U.S. Constitution, I want to be in this House seat, to at the minimum protect Floridians not yet born, from being slaughtered at the time of birth. You can count on me, that I will always vote my conscience and what is good for Floridians and for America.”

To learn more about Fuller, email her at info@fullerforcongress.com or visit her page on Facebook or www.Fullerforcongress.com website.

You also can learn more about Shoaf at www.jasonshoaf.com and about Watkins at www.watkinsforflorida.com