DCCC Not Inclined to Play Much in Florida in 2014
Around the State
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) tipped its hand on Monday, showing little optimism that it will be looking to defeat Republican congressmen from Florida with the exception of Steve Southerland.
The DCCC came out with its list of 35 “red to blue” and “emerging races” congressional contests where they hope to topple Republican incumbents. Democrats clearly have their targeted states lined up as they hope to win back Congress from the GOP with multiple Republican incumbents in Arkansas, California, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania already in their sights.
But the DCCC clearly doesn’t have much hope of making progress in Florida. The DCCC put Gwen Graham in the spotlight, naming her to the “red to blue” list of Democratic candidates who have the best chances of knocking off Republicans.
Graham was the only candidate in Florida the DCCC was playing up on Monday. Like Southerland, Republicans Dan Webster and Vern Buchanan were targeted by the Democrats back in 2012. Webster eeked out a narrow win over Val Demings while Buchanan easily handled Keith Fitzgerald.
It’s telling that neither Webster nor Buchanan is currently being targeted by the DCCC. Both of those Republicans appear early favorites for November.
Demings probably represented the Democrats’ best hope of taking down Webster. She kicked around running again against Webster but ultimately opted to run for Orange County mayor. That left Webster with a far weaker field of opponents. It’s hard to imagine the likes of Bill Ferree, Michael McKenna and Shayan Modarres beating Webster who has been winning elections in Central Florida for decades.
The DCCC also isn’t showing much love for either of Buchanan’s Democratic opponents. Henry Lawrence might have played 13 years in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders, playing in three Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls, but the DCCC isn’t ready to promote him to the political big leagues yet. Nor is the DCCC ready to call up Mitch Mallet despite his service on the Democratic State Committee.
The DCCC’s rankings also don’t bode well for some of the party’s congressional hopefuls across Florida. Alan Cohn has an interesting background as a TV reporter but he’ll need help to be competitive against Dennis Ross, and the DCCC isn’t particularly bullish on his chances. Wes Neuman has an impressive background and is a policy wonk but he has serious ground to make up if he wants to beat John Mica.
Other races look even less competitive. Bill Posey will easily handle either Gabriel Rothblatt or Corry Westbrook and Rich Nugent isn’t losing sleep over Dave Konner’s challenge. Tom Rooney will beat Will Bronson -- again. Two Democrats have already lined up to challenge Ted Yoho but he won’t have much problem with either Aquasia Johnson McDowell or Marihelen Wheeler. The same holds true of the two Democrats -- David Cox and Andrew Scott -- looking to beat Ron DeSantis. Jeff Miller’s beaten Jim Bryan before and will easily do it again come November. Whoever wins the Republican primary to replace Trey Radel will take on Democrat April Freeman in the general election.
Despite the Fair District amendments, there simply aren’t many competitive congressional races in Florida, as the DCCC’s announcement on Monday makes clear. Democrats have only two promising chances to pick up congressional seats in Florida: Graham against Southerland and Alex Sink against David Jolly in next week’s special election. There won’t be many other opportunties in Florida to cut into the Republican majority -- and the DCCC clearly knows it.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.