Democrats looking for pickups in Florida, Texas and Virginia
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Heading into the November 8 election, fewer than a dozen U.S. House seats across the South are in play, and most of those are the result of court-ordered redraws of congressional maps in Florida and Virginia.
If the night goes well, Democrats could pick up a net total of seven GOP-held seats — three each in Florida and Virginia and one in Texas. But if Republican incumbents manage to pull out close races, the shift could be just one seat, the 4th District in Virginia that seems certain to change hands because of the new map.
Either way, the Republican advantage over Democrats in U.S. House seats, now 116 to 38, should not budge much.
In Florida, the redraw of the map (click here to see map) should allow Republicans to pick up the 2nd District, based in the Panhandle and now held by U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who opted not to run after the district became substantially more Republican.
But Democrats are almost certain to counter that GOP gain by taking the Orlando-based 10th District, which under the new map is more Democratic.
Republican fortunes in Florida will come down to three incumbents facing tough fights for re-election — John Mica in the 7th District, which includes parts of Orlando and its northern suburbs; David Jolly in the 13th District in and around St. Petersburg; and Carlos Curbelo, in the 26th District, which includes part of Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys.
Democrats are defending a seat in the 18th District, along the Treasure Coast, which U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy gave up to run for the U.S. Senate.
In Virginia, the new map affected two Republican-held districts, the 4th and the 5th. The 4th is expected to go Democratic, but Republicans are hoping to keep the 5th.
In addition to those seats, Republican U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock , whose 10th District seat meanders from the Washington, D.C. suburbs toward West Virginia, has become a top Democratic target.
In Texas, Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd is also in a tough fight in the 23rd District, which includes a vast expanse of West Texas from the San Antonio suburbs to near El Paso. In a district with a 55 percent Latino population, Hurd is facing significant headwinds with Donald Trump at the top of his party’s ticket.
Here is a rundown of the key U.S. House races around the South:
Florida 2: With Graham stepping aside, Panama City urologist Neal Dunn should pick up this seat for Republicans over Democrat Walt Dartland, a lawyer and consumer advocate from Tallahassee.
Florida 5: This seat opened up after the incumbent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, was defeated in the primary by Al Lawson, a former state lawmaker from Tallahassee. This district was radically redrawn and now starts in Jacksonville and heads due west to Tallahassee, making it less black and more Republican. Still, Lawson is a heavy favorite over Republican Glo Smith.
Florida 7: 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. He faces political newcomer Stephanie Murphy, a college professor and former national security professional who has benefited from more than $3 million in outside funding poured into the race by Democrat-aligned groups.
Florida 10: This Orlando-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. Democrats nominated former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who should carry this seat over Republican Thuy Lowe.
Florida 13: This swing district in the Tampa Bay area features a high voltage smackdown between David Jolly and 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. The redraw of Florida’s map added a portion of St. Petersburg with a large minority population to this district, making it more Democratic. Facing long odds, Jolly first opted to run for the U.S. Senate before deciding to try to keep his seat.
Florida 18: This seat, which includes part of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, is a classic swing district. With Murphy out, Democrats selected Randy Perkins, a multimillionaire businessman from Delray Beach, while Republicans went with Brian Mast, an Army veteran who lost both his legs while serving as a bomb disposal specialist in Afghanistan. Both are political newcomers.
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, Curbelo, faces a rematch against the man he beat by less than 5,800 votes in 2014, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.
Texas 23: This massive district, which stretches across a vast expanse of West Texas from the San Antonio suburbs to near El Paso, has changed hands in the last three elections. The incumbent, Hurd, is that rarest of creatures, a black Republican representing a majority Latino district. His Democratic challenger is the man Hurd beat in 2014, former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego. Hurd’s winning margin last time was just 2,400 votes, indicating just how equally divided this district is.
Virginia 4: A new map drawn by a federal court added Richmond and Petersburg to this southeast Virginia district, making it substantially more Democratic. The incumbent, Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, left this seat to run unsuccessfully in the redrawn 2nd District, leaving an open seat that’s ripe for a Democratic pick-up. Republican Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade will face off against Democratic State Senator Donald McEachin, also of Henrico County. A win by McEachin would add a second African-American congressman to the state’s delegation.
Virginia 5: Democrats have hopes of taking this seat, which is open because of the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt. But this district, which stretches through central Virginia from the North Carolina border to the Washington, D.C. suburbs, has a Republican lean. GOP State Senator Tom Garrett from Buckingham County is facing Democrat Jane Dittmar, the former chair of the Albermarle County Board of Supervisors.
Virginia 10: This district starts in the western D.C. suburbs and stretches out to West Virginia. Although Comstock won handily in 2014, this is a district full of suburban swing voters who Democrats are hoping will be turned off by a Trump-led GOP ticket. She faces Democrat LuAnn Bennett, a real estate developer who is the ex-wife of former U.S. Rep. Jim Moran.