Most Florida Congressmen Look Safe in Tuesday's Primaries
Around the State
Florida voters hit the polls on Tuesday as they vote in the primaries. Florida’s 27 congressmen face some challenges on Tuesday but most of them are in excellent shape to retain their seats.
CD 1: Jeff Miller, a longtime congressman from the Panhandle, takes on old foe John Krause in the Republican primary. Miller should have no problems in beating Krause yet again. Democrat Jim Bryan and NPA candidate Mark Wichern await in November.
CD 2: The story here is the lack of primaries. Democrats are united behind Gwen Graham as she readies to take on incumbent Republican Steve Southerland in November in what should be one of the most competitive congressional races in the nation. NPA candidate Luther Lee is also on the November ballot.
CD 3: Freshman Ted Yoho isn’t exactly safe in the Republican primaries after upsetting Cliff Stearns in 2012. But attorney Jake Rush is his only opponent and frankly has never recovered from national stories about his vampire role-playing hobby. Rush has been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Yoho but much of his attacks have boomeranged to come back on him. Claiming Yoho has been making a big deal about the vampire story, Rush then went on Stephen Colbert’s show to talk and laugh about it. Despite working for his father, Rush is screaming nepotism about Yoho’s son working as a congressional intern. Rush’s constant attacks might do some damage but Yoho should prevail here. The winner of the primary will be a strong favorite over Democrat Marihelen Wheeler and NPA candidate Howard Lawson who supports term limits.
CD 4: Ander Crenshaw has had to work for it but he is well-positioned to beat Ryman Shoaf, a retired Navy captain. Shoaf ran a spirited campaign and is certainly one to keep an eye on in the years to come. But Crenshaw’s very well established and Republicans in the district don’t appear ready to make a change here. Whoever wins here will be a heavy favorite over two NPA candidates -- Gary Koniz and Paula Moser-Bartlett -- come November.
CD 5: Corrine Brown has drawn two Republican foes: businesswoman Thuy "Twee" Lowe and Glo Smith, a former gubernatorial aide. Smith has a slight edge on Lowe but this should be a competitive primary. Not that it matters. Brown will easily handle the Republican come November in this very secure Democratic district. One thing to keep an eye on. Some of the candidates Brown has bested over the years have taken their lumps and used the experience to move up the political ladder -- just ask Alvin Brown and Jennifer Carroll. Something like that could be in store for whichever Republican emerges here, especially if it is the polished and experienced Smith.
CD 6: No primaries here for freshman Ron DeSantis. The rising Republican star is set to take on Democrat David Cox in November.
CD 7: John Mica doesn’t have an easy out in 2014 but it does seem a little easier this time out than in 2012 when he had to battle against Sandy Adams in a rare match-up of two Republican incumbents. Mica has drawn three primary opponents: Realtor Don Oehlrich, pharmacist Kelly Shirley and retired Marines officer David Smith who has emerged as the chief challenger. Mica should be able to prevail, especially with three candidates splitting his opposition. Democrat Wes Neuman and NPA candidate Al Krulick will take on whoever wins.
CD 8: Republican incumbent Bill Posey and Democrat Gabriel Rothblatt have their parties’ nominations squared away and will battle each other come November.
CD 9: Alan Grayson should have little problem holding off Nick Ruiz in the Democratic primary as he looks to run for another term. The Republican primary is much more competitive. Navy vet Jorge Bonilla and Carol Platt from the Osceola County Realtor Association are out front with businessman Peter Vivaldi in third on the GOP side. This is a tight primary, but whoever wins will be a major underdog to Grayson in this solidly Democratic district. NPA candidate Marko Milakovich will also be in the mix come November.
CD 10: Republican Dan Webster might have beaten Grayson in 2010 and have little in common with his old foe but they are in the same boat this time out. There’s a competitive Democratic primary here but whoever wins it will be a heavy underdog against Webster in the general election. Bill Ferree, Michael McKenna and Shayan Modarres are all running hard for the nomination, but whoever wins should offer Webster little difficulty in November.
CD 11: Nothing to report about here on Tuesday. Republican Rich Nugent is running for his third term in Congress and has only drawn one foe: Democrat businessman Dave Koller. Nugent will be a heavy favorite here come November.
CD 12: Gus Bilirakis will be keeping this seat for the Republicans this year. He’s the only candidate who qualified to run.
CD 13: David Jolly won this seat in a special congressional election earlier this year. While there are no primaries here, Jolly will face a familiar foe come November in Libertarian Lucas Overby. Despite almost beating Jolly in the special elections, Democrats fumbled their chances in November with an embarrassing series of mistakes and have no candidate in this race.
CD 14: It’s two more years for Democrat Kathy Castor in Congress. She has drawn no opposition this year.
CD 15: Dennis Ross will be trying to keep this congressional seat for the GOP this year. The two-term congressman has no primary opponents. Neither does former TV reporter Alan Cohn who is the Democratic nominee here. Ross is a solid favorite to keep this seat in the GOP’s hands come November.
CD 16: No primaries here but things will be easier for Vern Buchanan in 2014 than they were in 2012. The Republican congressman has drawn a Democratic opponent in former NFL player Henry Lawrence, who just hasn’t garnered much momentum on the campaign trail so far. NPA candidate Daniel Durso, a disabled veteran, will challenge Buchanan from the right come November.
CD 17: Tom Rooney looks ready to extend his congressional career and keep the seat for the GOP. Rooney’s only opponent is Democrat Will Bronson who has run for office before, usually getting blown out in the process.
CD 18: Freshman Democrat Patrick Murphy looks much more secure than he did a year ago. He has proven a strong fundraiser and has claimed the political middle, making it hard for Republicans to flip the seat. Big names like Allen West and Adam Hasner stayed out of the race, leaving a much weaker Republican primary field. From his eight years in Tallahassee and by spending his own money, Carl Domino is the front-runner in the primary, but he is an unsteady one after losing two primary races in a row and drawing fire in recent weeks. Businessman Brian Lara has come on in recent days and so has Alan Schlesinger who has much deeper political roots in Connecticut -- where he was the GOP’s nominee taking on Joe Lieberman in 2006 -- than he does in Florida. In the second tier are Beverly Hires, Calvin Turnquest and Nick Wukoson. A lot can happen in a six-candidate primary and Domino could well be upended. But, no matter who wins here in the Republican primary on Tuesday, Murphy starts off the general election contest as a pretty solid favorite.
CD 19: Republican businessman Curt Clawson won a special election earlier this year, beating Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood by a wide margin. All three candidates are back and none of them face any primary opposition. That being the case, Clawson should have little problem keeping this seat for the GOP.
CD 20: Alcee Hastings has two primary opponents but the longtime Democrat congressman should keep his seat. Former heavyweight boxing contender Jameel McCline has garnered some attention and, despite some glaring mistakes and gaffes, has made a solid political debut. Jean Enright, who sits on the Palm Beach County Port Commission, has won much less attention. Hastings should have no problem dispatching his two primary opponents on Tuesday but a solid second place could help McCline and Enright down the road. Republican Jay Bonner won’t prove much of a factor come November in this secure Democratic district.
CD 21: Democrat incumbent Ted Deutch faces a challenge from his left in the form of Emmanuel Morel, a retired investigator for the U.S. Labor Department. Deutch should have little problem keeping his seat in Tuesday’s primary. Whoever wins faces only a write-in candidate come November.
CD 22: Democrat Lois Frankel is in great shape for a second term in Congress but there is an interesting Republican primary developing here. Artist Andrea Leigh McGee, businessman Paul Spain and businessman David Wagie should battle in a competitive primary on Tuesday, but whoever wins will struggle to be a factor against Frankel come November.
CD 23: Republicans would love to topple Debbie Wasserman Schultz in November but it simply isn’t happening in this secure Democratic district. Despite this, there is an interesting primary as two candidates who ran for the Republican nomination in 2012 -- Juan Eliel Garcia and Joe Kaufman -- engage in a competitive primary. Whoever wins will be a major underdog against Wasserman Schultz in November. NPA candidate Stephanie Anderson is also in the mix come the general election.
CD 24: Frederica Wilson has a credible challenger in the Democratic primary, as she runs for a third term, in attorney Michael Etienne who is the city clerk of North Miami. Wilson is a proven winner and should have little difficulty in knocking out Etienne on Tuesday. Republican Dufirstson Neree is making his third bid for Congress but he won’t be much of a factor in this very strong Democratic district. NPA candidate Luis Fernandez will also be on the ballot in November.
CD 25: Republican Mario Diaz-Balart will continue to serve in Congress with no difficulty. He is the only candidate who qualified to run here.
CD 26: Democratic freshman Joe Garcia is a top Republican target in November but at least he doesn’t have a primary on Tuesday. Carlos Curbelo, who sits on the Miami-Dade School Board, is the man to beat in the Republican primary, leading his GOP rivals in the money chase and having the support of the party’s leadership. But he’s drawn fire from the Democrats and fellow Republicans in recent weeks. David Rivera, who beat Garcia for the seat in 2010 but lost the rematch in 2012, is back, looking for political redemption. But Rivera has continued to draw heat on ethics and he’s run an incredibly erratic campaign, getting in late, then suspending his campaign and planning to run for the Florida House in 2016, running robocalls while insisting he wasn’t running before finally saying he was actually running in the primary. Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall has tried to run to Curbelo’s right while Joe Martinez, well-known in the area from his time on the Miami-Dade County Commission and his 2012 mayoral bid, and attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck are also in the mix but Curbelo is the favorite in Tuesday’s primary.
CD 27: The dean of the Florida delegation, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is set to continue her congressional service. She is the only candidate who qualified here.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.