Democrats would love to knock off Dan Webster in 2014 but the longtime Central Florida Republican leader starts off in a commanding position for a third term in Congress as his Democratic rival from 2012 stays on the sidelines.
Last year, Val Demings won the applause of Democrats across the nation as she challenged Webster. The former Orlando police chief won a great deal of attention but she came up short against Webster, taking 48 percent while the Republican incumbent took 52 percent.
Demings has left the door open to running again in 2014 but it increasingly appears to be more focused on running against Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. In truth, Demings may have had her best chance in 2012 as Webster faced redistricting, and Barack Obama and Bill Nelson provided coattails for the Democrats.
With Demings likely to pass on challenging Webster, lesser-known Democratic candidates are entering the race. Attorney Shayan Modarres entered the race earlier this week. Modarres has an interesting background but he has little chance of toppling Webster. Navy veteran Michael McKenna was originally planning to offer a Democratic primary challenge to Alan Grayson. But McKenna was going nowhere against Grayson and turned his focus to take on Webster. At the end of September, McKenna had raised less than $2,500 and burned through most of it. Neither of the Democrats appears ready to offer Webster a serious challenge.
Webster does have a challenger on the Republican side in David Allen Seeley. So far, the Republican challenger has had serious problems raising money, bringing in little more than $500 by the end of September. Webster has little to fear from this primary opponent.
With a healthy war chest, decades of winning elections in the area and little in the way of oppositon, Webster appears headed for a third term in Congress. This can certainly change if Demings or another major Democratic candidate enters the contest.
To be sure, Democrats arent out of the contest if a major candidate emerges. Central Florida is becoming more blue and, despite his solid victory over Grayson in 2010, Webster has often appeared flat-footed in recent years. His margin of victory over Demings wasnt exactly impressive and he won only 40 percent in a crowded Republican primary in 2010 despite his many years in politics.
Still, Democrats cant count on higher turnouts in 2014 with Obama not appearing on the ballot and Webster has a head start in the contest. Despite being one of the most endangered congressmen in Florida last time out, Webster appears to be headed to a much easier campaign in 2014.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.