NAPLES — There hasn't been a lick of legislation passed yet in 2013, but that hasn't stopped more than six dozen state legislators from filing for re-election in 2014.
Seventy-three state representatives — including Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples; Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples; and newly elected Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero — already have filed the paperwork to launch their 2014 re-election campaigns.
Seventeen other Floridians have filed the necessary paperwork for the 2014 House race. Florida House members serve two-year terms.
"This is a period of time in the election cycle that parties or candidates become recruited or there is a self-recruitment process," said Peter Bergerson, a political science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero. "The period of time between now and July is when political parties and candidates are thinking about whether (to run)."
Bergerson said candidates tend to file the paperwork early for several reasons, including the ability to then establish a fundraising committee and a re-election committee.
But with primaries morphing into the more important elections in many regions, Bergerson said the act of filing for re-election is often an attempt to "stave off any potential opponents."
"One of the first things (this does) is to dispel the rumors they may be retiring or not running again," Bergerson said.
Hudson, who filed his candidacy papers on Jan. 14, said he has made it a habit of filing for re-election shortly after winning a race.
"I like to turn around and file for the following term to show I'm going to continue," he said. "To me it's a commitment to the constituents."
That commitment is the same reason Passidomo said she got her candidacy papers in early. Passidomo filed the necessary paperwork on Jan. 4, and said she decided to do it "to get it in the hopper."
"I don't think people care," Passidomo said. "I don't think it's much of an issue one way or another."
It is an issue for candidates hoping to boost their campaign coffers. Filing the paperwork allows candidates to raise money.
But Hudson said folks running for re-election in 2014 won't be out campaigning or raising money soon. Hudson said legislators aren't allowed to raise money during the legislative session, meaning there's about four months during the two-year election cycle that candidates can't campaign. The 2013 session starts in about a month.
While Passidomo and Hudson have experience under their belt — Passidomo was just elected to her second term, Hudson his third — Rodrigues filed for re-election months before the November general election.
Rodrigues defeated two other Republicans in the Aug. 14 primary to replace Republican state Rep. Trudi Williams, who couldn't seek re-election because of term limits. He faced no opposition in August, so Rodrigues has been the area's representative-elect since August.
State election records show Rodrigues wasted no time in filing for re-election. He filed the necessary paperwork on Aug. 15, just one day after winning the election.
"My intention by filing was to make it clear that I will be a candidate in the next election," he said. "I know it's something that I enjoy, and I wanted to make it clear that I will be running."
Rodrigues said while people may criticize him for his decision, those who understand the process won't focus in on the point that he hasn't served a day yet.
"Before session begins, there's a lot of work that goes on," he said.
Bergerson said that by filing for re-election early, officials elected to their first term show they're trying to play a role in Tallahassee.
"They're letting the political leaders know ... they see this as a career for them," he said. "If someone is trying to make up their mind or is wishy-washy, they are not going to be taken seriously."
State representatives aren't the only ones getting ready for 2014. Nineteen state senators have filed for re-election and 11 people have filed their candidacy papers for the 2014 gubernatorial race.
It's not just statewide races, either, that are attracting early filers.
Naples Republican Lavigne Kirkpatrick filed candidacy papers for the 2014 Collier County Commission District 4 race. She is the only candidate to file for the 2014 Collier commission race.
Lee County election records show that, so far, no one has filed to run for local office in 2014.