As many as seven seats could be in play after a court-ordered redraw
By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
GAINESVILLE, Florida (CFP) — The weather may not be the only thing that’s hot this summer in Florida.
Thanks to new House map ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, as many as seven of the state’s 27 U.S. House seats might be in play as the filing period for congressional races begins June 24.
Republicans appear poised to take away one seat that’s now Democratic; Democrats are likely to capture two GOP-held seats. Further complicating the mix are the departure of four sitting House members who are all running for an open Senate seat.
Although Florida is a quintessential swing state, Republicans hold a 17-10 advantage in the congressional delegation, thanks to maps drawn by the GOP-controlled legislature.
The Supreme Court struck down the previous map on the grounds that it violated a state constitutional amendment prohibiting gerrymandering. The new map ordered by the high court had a domino effect on districts statewide, although it put relatively few safe seats into play.
Here are seven seats to watch in November:
Florida 2: This seat, anchored in the Florida Panhandle around Tallahassee, is currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham. The court removed a chunk of black voters and part of Tallahassee from the district in order to redraw the adjacent 5th District, making what had been a swing seat substantially more Republican.
Graham, the only Democrat to take away a Republican seat anywhere in the South in 2014, looked at her odds and decided not to run again. The GOP seems poised to pick up a seat here.
Florida 5: This seat, which belongs to Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, was the primary offender in the Supreme Court ruling that the House map was unconstitutional. As drawn by legislators, it began in Jacksonville and snaked down to Orlando–at one point, the width of a highway–to maximize its black population.
Over Brown’s strenuous objections, the justices ordered an extreme makeover; the district now starts in Jacksonville and heads due west to Tallahassee, making it less black and more Republican. But Brown is running again, and it remains to be seen whether the changes will be enough to sink her. She faces the additional hurdle of two Democratic primary challengers in the reconfigured district.
Florida 7: Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica is running again in this district in suburban Orlando. But he now has some of the Democratic voters who used to be in Brown’s 5th District, making this district much less safe that it was. The question will be whether any brand-name Democrats will file to take on the 11-term lawmaker. If not, he’s probably headed back to Washington.
Florida 10: This Orland0-area district, now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, was made substantially more Democratic in the redraw–so much so that Webster opted to run for re-election in the adjacent 11th District, where U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent is retiring. This seat will most likely flip Democratic.
Florida 13: This swing district in the Tampa Bay area, now held by Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, was also redrawn to add a portion of St. Petersburg with a large minority population, making it more Democratic. Rather than try to defend it, Jolly opted to run for the U.S. Senate.
The big name in this race is former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat who is trying to make a political comeback after losing the governor’s race in 2014. Crist would seem to be the favorite here, although his recent lack of electoral success should give Republicans some hope.
Florida 18: This seat, which includes part of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, is a classic swing district now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Murphy is giving it up to run for the U.S. Senate, which has put this seat at the top of the GOP’s target list. Depending on who emerges from crowded primaries on both sides, this race should be a toss-up come November.
Florida 26: Like the 18th District, this seat, which includes southwest Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys, has gone back and forth between the parties in recent cycles. The incumbent, Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, is likely to face a rematch against the man he beat in 2014, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, although Garcia is going to have to get past Annette Taddeo in the primary.
In what was seen as a major snub of Garcia, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fundraising arm of House Democrats, is backing Taddeo, a party leader from Miami who was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2014.
Democrats need to make a net gain of four seats in order to secure a majority in the Florida delegation. If the 2nd, 10th, and 13th districts flip as expected, that would give Democrats a net gain of one seat. So they would have to defeat Mica, keep Brown’s seat and take the toss-up seats in the 18th and 26th districts in order to flip control their way.
That would seem to be a tall order, although the unpredictability of the presidential race could make the improbable probable.