Albritton challenged by Proia for State Senate seat

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on Oct 22, 2022.

OUR POSITION: Republican Sen. Ben Albritton seeks a return to the Florida Senate in District 27 against Democrat Christopher Proia, a first-time candidate.

Christopher Proia fully realizes the challenge he faces. The 40-year-old, first-time political candidate is challenging powerful Republican Sen. Ben Albritton for the right to represent District 27 in the Florida Senate. The district includes Charlotte and DeSoto counties.

“I jumped in (the race) at the last minute,” Proia admits. “I was talking to a candidate for the U.S. House about how many open seats that had no Democrat challenger. It lit a fire. I want to show people there are Democrats in this part of Florida and give people an alternative to extremists.

“I want to show them a blue-collar guy like me can do this.”

Proia, born and raised in Fort Myers, said he has been a laborer all his life but he wants to get more serious about politics.

“Twenty-five years of GOP control in Florida is enough,” he said. “Things need to change.”

Proia said he has only raised about $3,000 and realizes Albritton’s huge bankroll will likely overwhelm him.

“I’m counting on women who want to protect abortion rights to vote for me,” he said.

He said he tried to debate Albritton and thought they had a face-to-face planned in Nocatee, but Albritton did not show up. Proia and Albritton have never met.

“I talked to some reporters who said (Albritton) does not call them back either,” Proia noted.

The Daily Sun has had the same experience.

We were unable to set up editorial board interviews with either Albritton or Proia, although the Democrat did return calls and interviewed over the phone.

We are disappointed that Albritton seems to have taken the same route as other Republican candidates in Florida and that is to eschew town hall meetings, debates and newspapers’ editorial board interviews. We made repeated calls to Albritton’s offices and cellphone and talked with an aide once who said they would get a message to the senator.

Yet, we never heard a word back. He failed to return calls or acknowledge a request to meet with our editorial board.

We find this insulting considering we have given Albritton free space in our newspaper several times during his tenure to write an opinion piece that is circulated to thousands in his district.

Albritton has been a popular candidate because of his farming background and the fact he is a fifth generation Floridian. He is said to be in line for the Senate presidency in the near future.

He is a past board member and president of the Peace River Citrus Growers Association, past board member and Chair of the East Charlotte County Drainage District, and a current grower member of Florida Citrus Mutual, according to his website.

He was elected to the Florida House in 2010 before going on to win election to the Senate.

Albritton has been a champion for farmers and has said he believes water quality issues are one of the greatest challenges he deals with in the Senate.

During his time in the Legislature, Albritton has received numerous awards for his work with citrus growers and farmers and for his conservative views.

Because we were unable to schedule a face-to-face interview with either candidate, The Daily Sun will forego any recommendation as to who to vote for in this Senate race.

Proia said he intends to “learn the ropes” and continue a political career if he loses. We appreciate that and the fact that he said “you can call or text me anytime.”

That is more than Albritton will say.