a red, white and blue sign with the words election on it

Before a qualifying period concluded on June 14, Key Largo resident Jose Peixoto withdrew his name for the county commission’s District 5 seat to challenge Republican incumbent state Rep. Jim Mooney in the August primary. 

Peixoto was shown as qualified for the District 120 race for a brief moment on the Florida Division of Elections website. By the time a noon deadline approached, Peixoto’s name was taken off the site as a candidate for District 120. 

“We don’t know,” Peixoto told Keys Weekly on June 17. He said he became aware five minutes before the noon qualifying deadline. 

“It’s some inside work, I think. We have lawyers looking at it, so I can’t say anything more at this time.” 

Keys Weekly reached out to the state elections office regarding Peixoto’s disqualification. Mark Ard, director of external affairs for the Florida Department of State, told the Weekly in a statement on June 20 that Peixoto was notified his oath of office was incomplete which disqualified him.

“Regardless of the erroneous posting which has since been corrected, candidates are not officially qualified until ballot certification is issued no later than seven days after the close of the qualifying period. He will not be certified as qualified,” Ard said.

Peixoto, who ran for county commission in 2020 and 2022, told Keys Weekly on June 14 he believes he had a better chance of winning Florida’s District 120 seat, which represents the Florida Keys and a portion of Miami-Dade. 

a man in a red shirt and a red hat
Jose Peixoto.

“I think I have a great chance, especially in South Miami-Dade because I’m Spanish,” Peixoto said. “A great percentage of those voters are Spanish.” 

Mooney was qualified as of noon on June 14, according to the Florida Division of Elections. A former Islamorada mayor, Mooney is seeking a third term representing the Keys in Tallahassee. Mooney has served as Republican Committee whip for the past two sessions. 

Democrat Michael “Erika Rose” Travis, of Key West, filed for candidacy last July. Travis is qualified to run against Mooney in the general election. 

Even with Peixoto’s exit, the race for the county commission’s District 5 will see three Republicans vying for the seat in the August primary. Incumbent Holly Raschein, the county mayor; Melissa Ptomey, Tavernier mother of two and local business owner; and Paul Wunderlich, Key Largo resident, have officially qualified. The winner will go on to take the seat with no challengers from other parties.

Voters throughout Monroe County vote for all county commissioners.

Raschein said the county is at a pivotal point amid the ongoing hurricane evacuation model talks, ROGO, transit and infrastructure, among other issues. She believes experience is important in the race. 

“Right now, experience counts and we gotta keep moving in the right direction,” Raschein said. “I will spend the next two months sharing the vision and taking in thoughts and input from everybody.”

A former state representative who served eight years, Raschein was appointed in 2021 by Gov. Ron DeSantis to fill the remainder of the late county commissioner Mike Forster’s term. In 2022, she was elected to the board of county commissioners. Raschein, the government relations director for AshBritt, sits on a variety of boards including the Florida National Parks Association, Florida Association of Counties, Florida Keys Healthy Start Coalition, and the Greater Miami and the Keys chapter of the American Red Cross.

The state of the coral reefs, the fisheries and economy are other big-ticket items for Raschein. 

a woman in a blue dress posing for a picture
Holly Raschein.

“None of this works without a middle class. If you ask some people, the middle class is gone already. I can’t take that for an answer,” Raschein told Keys Weekly. 

Ptomey officially announced her campaign for District 5 on June 14. She owns an environmental consulting firm and Island Music School on Plantation Key. She co-founded the Florida Keys Young Republican Club. She formerly worked at the county Planning and Environmental Resources Department. 

Ptomey said her campaign will focus on curbing over-development and its numerous

detrimental impacts, cutting annual county spending and promptly fixing citizens’ problems. 

“As an environmental consultant and former research diver with thousands of dives, I’ve seen the Keys from the land, the sea and underwater, and I know these islands are in

dire straits,” Ptomey said.

She was also critical of Raschein’s vote of support for the proposed Publix and workforce housing project in Tavernier. 

“Raschein didn’t listen; instead, she voted to approve it,” Ptomey said. “Working with local residents and community organizations, we were able to get the Florida Department of Commerce to stop the commissioners’ plan.”

Raschein told Keys Weekly in February the project’s 86 new workforce housing units would have a huge effect on the Upper Keys.

“We’ve heard from all those entities, whether it’s the sheriff’s office, the school district and the hospital, that they’re able to hire good employees who are ready to hit the ground, but they end up not making it through the final process because there’s no affordable, safe space to live,” Raschein said. 

Ptomey said she will be focusing on innovative workforce housing strategies. 

“The county’s current efforts for affordable housing are a total failure,” she said. “We need a completely new approach, and I’ve got one.”

a woman in a blue shirt and black jacket
Melissa Ptomey.

Peixoto told Keys Weekly on Monday that Ptomey’s entrance into the race to challenge Raschein also factored into his decision to withdraw from the race. 

“I think she (Ptomey) has a better chance,” Peixoto said. “She’s a female. She knows a lot about the issues.” 

Wunderlich, the Key Largo resident who recently launched his candidacy bid, didn’t immediately respond to comments regarding his campaign. 

The only other contested race for county commission is between Democrat Chris Massicotte  and Republican incumbent Jim Scholl for District 3, which covers the west part of Key West. As for Monroe County School Board, the only contested race is between Zach Bentley and Yvette Mira-Talbott for District 2. 

All candidates for supervisor of elections are qualified. Republicans Sherri Hodies and Margaret Romero will face off in the Aug. 20 primary. The winner will go against Democrat Ron Saunders in the November general election. 

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures in Western New York. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 5-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club. When he's not working, he's busy chasing his son, Lucas, around the house and enjoying time with family.