An all-female contest to succeed state Sen. Jeff Atwater could be one of the Democratic Party's few opportunities to convert a Republican seat.
Alternatively, an independent candidate could dash those hopes and keep Senate District 25 in GOP hands.
Those are two scenarios shaping up in one of this fall's more interesting legislative races -- a three-way contest featuring Republican Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, Democratic Rep. Kelly Skidmore and NPA candidate Miranda Rosenberg.
The third possible outcome -- a Rosenberg victory -- is the longest of long shots. Yet the 23-year-old native Floridian with a modest bankroll figures to tap into this year's anti-incumbent vein and attract young voters in a district that has a high share (26 percent) of independents.
"Bogdanoff has said she would vote whichever way leadership wanted her to vote. Skidmore votes to the left of the Democrats. I don't want to advance any particular party agenda," says Rosenberg, a cum laude Harvard graduate who is working on a book about grass-roots politics.
While Rosenberg tries to position herself somewhere in the moderate middle, Bogdanoff and Skidmore offer contrasting stands.
"There's a clear distinction on social issues," says Skidmore, a two-term state representative. "I don't believe people want us to force women (seeking abortions) to have ultrasounds. I would vote to end the ban on gay adoptions."
More critically, the Florida Democratic Party believes the SD 25 race is the key to blocking a veto-proof majority by Senate Republicans.
With Democrats likely to lose Charlie Justice's seat on the West Coast (Justice is running for Congress), Senate Democrats figures that a Skidmore victory on the East Coast will keep the GOP one vote shy of gaining a two-thirds advantage.
"A two-thirds majority is bad for public policy, bad for debate and bad for industry. Rules are waived and the minority is essentially silenced," Skidmore says.
Both Bogdanoff and Skidmore are giving up "safe" state House seats to vie in the more closely contested Palm Beach-Broward County Senate district, where voter registration is narrowly split 38 percent Republican and 36 percent Democratic. It went for Barack Obama in 2008.
If Skidmore wins, she would have to move back into SD 25. The Boca Raton-based lawmaker currently lives about a mile outside the Senate district, though she owns a rental home there. Florida law only requires that legislative candidates live in their district upon being sworn into office.
"I will be happy to move back in. I pay taxes in the district and have lived there almost my entire life. This is not a carpetbagger situation," said Skidmore, who has represented House District 90 since 2006.
Bogdanoff agrees that there's a "clear choice" between her and Democrat Skidmore, and that their differences go beyond social issues.
"She's voted for tax increases and has always advocated for more revenue. I've never voted for a tax hike," said the Fort Lauderdale Republican, who was first elected to represent House District 91 in 2004.
As chair of the House Finance and Tax Council last session, Bogdanoff she said took a leading role in pushing the jobs bill, which provides $220 million in tax incentives to Florida businesses.
For her efforts, Bogdanoff earned the endorsements of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida.
Internal polling suggests that Bogdanoff's anti-tax message is resonating in a year when voters are swinging away from social issues. And insofar as issues become nationalized, generic ballots are giving Republicans a decided edge this fall -- effectively padding the GOP's 2-point registration advantage in SD 25.
While the Democratic Party pumps resources into the district, Republicans reportedly are readying ads that, among other things, call out Skidmore's votes against doubling homestead exemptions and against budgets that reduced legislators' salaries.
As for Rosenberg, Bogdanoff, believes the NPA candidate could hurt Skidmore
"Miranda has no record and will attract those who are fed up. She may draw more from (Skidmore) because a lot of people are frustrated with what's going on in Washington," Bogdanoff said.
Indeed, polling across Florida shows NPAs pulling away more Democratic votes this year than they did in 2008.
But Skidmore discounts Rosenberg's candidacy.
"This is a serious race, and my sense is that Miranda is doing this on a lark. That's not good for the (political) process," Skidmore said.
Reach Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.