First-term state Rep. Linda Chaney almost glided into re-election in June.

But after spending most of the pre-qualifying period unopposed, the incumbent Republican picked up a General Election opponent — lawyer Janet Varnell Warwick.

The two are facing off in House District 61, which covers the southwestern Pinellas County communities of Gulfport, Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach. The district mirrors that of former House District 69, which Chaney took in in 2020 from then-incumbent Democrat Jennifer Webb. Webb secured just 48% of the vote to Chaney‘s 52%.

Now, Warwick is trying to take the seat back for Democrats.

Despite her last-minute entrance into the race, Warwick has proved a credible challenger against Chaney, even though the incumbent holds a fundraising and partisan advantage in the district.

The recently redrawn HD 61 is a light shade of red, with 47% of the district voting for President Joe Biden in 2020, and 52% voting for Donald Trump. Republicans outnumber Democrats by 5,895 voters, according to data from L2. The district is made up of 49,324 registered Republicans, 43,429 registered Democrats and 37,499 nonpartisan or third-party voters.

The demographics show a likely win for Chaney, unless Warwick can appeal to a large portion of the nonpartisan voting bloc.

But Warwick’s goal is not necessarily a landslide win. She wasn’t even planning to run for office, but decided to take charge when she learned Chaney was unopposed. Like many Democratic candidates this cycle, Warwick said she wants to steer the House to address issues that impact everyday Floridians, rather than promote the recent culture war legislation brought by Florida’s GOP leadership.

As for fundraising, Chaney boasts heavy GOP support, reflected in her finance reports. The incumbent has amassed $398,356 between her campaign and affiliated political committee, Friends of Linda Chaney. That includes a $49,000 donation from the Republican Party of Florida, as well as $48,723 worth of in-kind services.

Warwick, on the other hand, has so far raised $129,266, not a bad haul with little party support.

The pair will go head-to-head for the coastal district on Nov. 8.

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