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Strip Club Owner, Longshots and Familar Faces Qualify

Campaign season officially began Monday for a slew of state offices – with a longshot candidate for governor, a Tampa strip club owner and a few familiar contenders for legislative seats among the first to file qualifying papers.

Flanked by her parents, Miranda Rosenberg, 23, was the first in line for Monday’s noon opening of qualifying. Rosenberg, a recent Harvard graduate, is running for the Senate District 25 seat being vacated by Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach.

Rosenberg plunked down a $1,187.88 check to run as a no-party candidate.

“I’m running because politics shouldn’t be a mud-wrestling match, it’s not a sports game where one team loses and one team wins,” said Rosenberg of Palm Beach. “I’m running for the people of District 25 and because Florida’s future needs a voice. This is a future I’ll be living in.”

As an independent, Rosenberg will go directly to the November ballot. Republican Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale and Democrat Rep. Kelly Skidmore of Boca Raton also qualified for the seat Monday. Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, is expected to emerge this week as a Bogdanoff primary challenger.

Right behind Rosenberg to qualify: Miami’s Farid Khavari, a no-party candidate to succeed Charlie Crist as governor.

Khavari, who said he has authored nine books, is an economist whose campaign is anchored on a plan to create a state bank that would provide 2 percent fixed mortgages, low-interest credit cards, and create jobs and reduce debt. Khavari, 67, said he earlier intended to run as a Democrat but when presenting his plan to party leaders, “they simply ignored it.”

“My economic plan proposes 1 million new jobs for Florida….we’ll be able to put people back into their homes,” said Khavari, whose initial investment was a $5,210.92 qualifying fee.

Michael Arth, a Deland urban designer and landscaper, joined Khavari on the list of no-party qualifiers for governor. None of the major party candidates had officially filed by late Monday afternoon, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Qualifying ends at noon Friday. Along with first-time candidates, several lawmakers filed for re-election, and a couple of former legislators officially emerged seeking to make a come-back. Rep. David Simmons of Altamonte Springs, term limited out of the House in 2008, filed to run for Central Florida’s Senate District 22, where Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, is exiting because of term limits.

Rep. Irv Slosberg, a Democrat who left office in 2006 to run unsuccessfully for state Senate, is looking to return to the Palm Beach-Broward county House District 90 he held for six years.

“I love public service and I feel there’s a lot of work to do in the state,” said Slosberg, known for the self-described “schlepper” shoulderbags he distributed as a campaign gimmick in earlier races. Slosberg was among the candidates who schlepped to Tallahassee and the Division of Elections Monday to file papers.

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, made the seven-hour drive from his hometown to qualify, rather than mail in the forms.

“You just want to make sure you get this right,” Pafford said. “I didn’t want to find out Friday that I hadn’t crossed all the t’s or dotted the i’s, literally.”

With Gov. Charlie Crist shaking up Florida politics with his no-party-affiliated U.S. Senate campaign, Rosenberg was among at least eight no-party candidates who filed to run for the Legislature.

Perhaps the best known: Joe Redner, the Tampa strip club owner who filed to challenge Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz, who also qualified to run for the seat she was elected to only in February. Redner, the politically active owner of Mons Venus, has run unsuccessfully for Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County Commission, but is making his first bid for statewide office.

Along with the no-party contenders, two Tea Party candidates filed Monday – with Alejandro Fernandez running for Miami-Dade County’s House District 119, now held by term-limited Rep. Juan Zapata, and Henry Llorella, running for the Florida Keys’ seat held by incoming House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders.

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