Gazing Into My Election 2012 Crystal Ball
Around the State
This isn't Vegas, but I've got my crystal ball and I'm willing to make a few wagers on the Election 2012 landscape 48 hours from now. Not all the races, just the ones I think are the tightest or most interesting in Florida.
Poke a stick at me through the bars later, if you like. I'm going in:
President (the Florida vote): Barring another botched-ballot episode at the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections office, Mitt Romney defeats Barack Obama in the Sunshine State by a hair. The Obama for President push during the last week has been impressive. I'm thinking maybe even recount.
U.S. senator: Congressman Connie Mack -- the low-energy, virtually invisible "Fredo" of the Florida Republican Party, the one man who makes incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson look like he lives and breathes -- finally stops embarrassing Republicans when Election Day puts them out of their misery. Nelson soars.
CD 2: Democrat Al Lawson, the former state senator, has a better air and ground game than Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland. But some polls have the Republican ahead. Based on visibility, excitement, a better use of money generally, I'm playing my own hunch: Lawson by an eyelash.
CD 9: The always-colorful former Democratic congressman Alan Grayson had a marginally comfortable lead over his Republican opponent, Todd Long -- whom Grayson labels "an extremist." Then came an accusation from a former client who filed a claim with the IRS charging lawyer Grayson with a $2.1 million tax fraud. Grayson nevertheless parlays his slim lead into a victory.
CD 10 In Central Florida, Democratic challenger Val Demings, a former police chief, raked in plenty of cash, but she's not going to catch up to unseat Republican freshman incumbent Rep. Dan Webster. Demings can turn out the lights, Webster is a shoo-in.
CD 13: Who knows why the Democrats can't beat 81-year-old Bill Young, the longest-serving member of the House, but they plain can't. They've fielded an articulate, 38-year-old challenger who started out strong but now has fallen back. It didn't help that attorney Jessica Ehrlich only raised a third of Young's arsenal of loot. Young, from Indian Shores -- who first was elected to Congress in 1970 -- goes back for another term.
CD 18: Outdistancing all candidates in fundraising is Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West. The freshman firebrand collected $4.2 million for the three months ending Sept. 30. This is a strange new district for West, more Democratic than CD 22, where he ran before. In spite of a strong campaign and millions of dollars of his own to spend, likeable Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy of Port St. Lucie will lose this tight, nationally watched contest. West marches back to Washington.
CD 22: In fundraising, Republican former legislator Adam Hasner kept pace with his Democratic opponent, former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel. By September both had raised more than $2.9 million. Ultimately, though, Hasner won't be able to overcome the demographics of the newly drawn, heavily Democratic district he's running in. Frankel prevails.
CD 26: Republican David Rivera is considered the incumbent in this largely South Miami-Dade district, but a host of highly publicized legal and ethical issues have fractured his campaign. He's up against party-line Democrat Joe Garcia, whom he beat handily in 2010. Rivera is an energetic campaigner, and I think he'll make it close, but I think at the end of the day Garcia takes the race.
SD 8: Frank Bruno's chances of winning this seat for the Democrats have all but faded -- in spite of the money Dems have poured in. Republican Dorothy Hukill had even more. She's rock-solid in the win column.
SD 14: Interesting that anti-casino Walt Disney World and Disney's biggest foe, Genting Malaysia, both donated big to Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto's campaign. Everybody loves this guy. Forget Soto's opponent, Republican personal-injury lawyer Will McBride. Seems even the GOP pulled out on him. Soto wins big.
SD 25: Republicans threw some money -- nowhere near enough -- behind real estate agent and equestrian trainer Melanie Peterson, thinking she has a chance against the Democrat, Rep. Joe Abruzzo, in this district which includes Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington and most of western Palm Beach County. Peterson has no chance, Abruzzo cruises.
SD 34: The Legislature will be a poorer body for losing either Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff or Democrat Maria Sachs, but one of these thoughtful, savvy senators won't return to Tallahassee in 2013. What a shame. Bogdanoff wins, but not by much.
SD 35: Aventura Democrat Gwen Margolis was the first female president of the state Senate. She has three decades of experience and she wants more. Well-financed political newcomer John Couriel has given her a fight, but he's going nowhere. Margolis -- given plenty of campaign money of her own to spend -- will be around the Capitol a while longer.
HD 21: Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, holds on by the skin of his teeth against Gainesville attorney Andrew Morey. This has been an ugly one.
HD 30: Many predict the race between Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Maitland Democrat Karen Castor Dentel to be the tightest state House race in 2012. I think Dentel wins it, and it won’t be as close as predicted.
HD 34: This mainly Citrus County race pits feisty former GOP state representative-turned-independent Nancy Argenziano against a Republican incumbent, Rep. Jimmie Smith. Despite the buzz the contest generated earlier in the year, it was all wind and no storm. Smith crushes Argenziano.
HD 42: Celebration Republican Mike LaRosa won't be able to overcome the ballot name-recognition problem he has. He has to run under the name of disgraced Rep. Mike Horner who resigned his seat and dropped out of the race. Democrat Eileen Game of Frostproof may not be the better candidate, but the Dems juiced up her campaign and she looks like the winner.
HD 47: This contest in the middle of the state pits a pair of experienced politicians in Republican Bob Brooks, a former state representative, and Democrat Linda Stewart, a former Orange County commissioner. Brooks looked like a good candidate, but the demographics of the new district went against him and he faded. Stewart wins.
HD 49: Newcomers Marco Pena, a Republican, and Joe Saunders, a Democrat, are locked in a competitive race in the Orange County district. Pena has star quality. Look for him to win and fairly quickly become a force within his party.
HD 68: Former GOP lawmaker Frank Farkas goes up against a political newcomer in Democrat Dwight Dudley, for the chunk of the district that includes much of downtown St. Petersburg. Tens of thousands of dollars spent by both sides. Ultra-tight race. In spite of HD 68's Democratic lean, I'm going with Farkas.
HD 69: This open seat matches Republican Kathleen Peters with Democrat Josh Shulman for the district that includes the Pinellas County waterfront and a western track that includes Gulf Port. Look for the better-financed Peters to hold Shulman off.
HD 84: Here's a district that includes Fort Pierce and areas to the south. Both Democrat Larry Lee Jr. and Republican Michelle Miller are insurance agents. Though voter registration numbers favor the Democrat, Miller has the more positive profile and should win this one. Even the Dems don't seem to trust Lee entirely.
HD 89: Former Democratic House Speaker Tom Gustafson wants back in the Legislature, so when the first Democratic candidate dropped out of the race, he jumped in. But his campaign lacked the enthusiasm and money of Rep. Bill Hager's. Boca Raton Republican Hager dashes Gustafson's hopes.
HD 112: Democrats sing the praises of Jose Javier of Coral Gables against Republican Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a former lawmaker and brother of Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. This is a tough one to read. The district might already have had enough of the Diaz de la Portillas, but I’m going to say DLP will hold on by a whisker.
HD 120: For this district that includes all of the Keys, the Republicans fielded Holly Rachein, an aide to former House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders, D-Key West. She goes up against Ian Whitney, an openly gay Democrat who serves as president of the Key West Innkeepers Association. Rachein is in the lead and probably will stay there.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.