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More than the Presidency on the Line in Florida

November 8, 2016 - 6:00am

As has so often been the case in recent presidential elections, all eyes are on Florida as the nation chooses the 45th president on Tuesday. But there’s more than the presidency on the line in the Sunshine State. 

If Hillary Clinton carries the Sunshine State, she should start packing her bags to return to the White House. If Donald Trump wins, he has a path to victory, though he will have to tap into states that Barack Obama carried.

Polls show a close race in Florida. Democrats have a slim lead in early voting, while Trump supporters insist their candidate generates more enthusiasm than Clinton does. Clinton’s team counters Trump’s poor standing with Hispanics will hinder him in Florida. 

But there are other high stakes contests in Florida. The Democrats are trying to flip the Senate from the GOP and their chances go up considerably if Patrick Murphy beats Marco Rubio. That would be an upset, however. Most polls show Rubio with the lead, though he is not routing Murphy in any of the polls. 

There are also some important congressional races with some uncertainty after the latest round of redistricting. Three Republican congressmen -- Carlos Curbelo, David Jolly and John Mica -- are facing close races Tuesday. Curbelo runs up against an old foe in Joe Garcia in a rematch of their 2014 contest. Jolly squares off against another familiar face in Charlie Crist, the former governor and Republican-turned-Democrat who looks to extend his political career with a win on Tuesday night. Mica faces businesswoman and college professor Stephanie Murphy, a political unknown to be sure, but one who has gathered momentum in recent weeks. 

But Republicans have pickup opportunities as well. Military veteran Brian Mast has run an impressive campaign against Democrat Randy Perkins and could flip the seat Murphy holds back to the GOP. Neil Dunn is a heavy favorite to add another seat to the GOP column as he is expected to easily take the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Gwen Graham. Four years after she almost upset Republican Dan Webster, Val Demings looks to pick up the seat he has vacated after redistricting. Webster scurried north where he should easily keep the seat currently held by Rich Nugent, who is retiring after three terms in the GOP fold. 

After redistricting and some sudden retirements, there are plenty of other new members of the Florida congressional delegation. Republicans Matt Gaetz, John Rutherford and Francis Rooney should easily win Tuesday night in very red districts.  Al Lawson and Darren Soto should be able to keep two seats currently held by Democrats in their party’s column. 

At the state level, the GOP should be able to keep their majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. But the Democrats should make inroads, cutting into the Republican majorities and few expect the GOP to retain its super-majority in the House. Even so, the GOP should retain solid majorities in both chambers. 

Florida voters will also decide the fates of four proposed amendments to the state constitution on Tuesday night. Amendment 2, which expands medical marijuana in the state, is polling strong but a similar measure collapsed over the final weeks of 2014 and ended up just missing the 60 percent threshold needed to pass. However, Amendment 2 looks far more likely to pass this time out. Also on the ballot is Amendment 1 which focuses on solar equipment. The proposed amendment has drawn fire from environmental groups which insist the utilities companies are behind it. Supporters of the proposal say it will give consumers more protection and options.

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