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Politics

Where Things Stand in Florida's 27 Congressional Races

October 24, 2016 - 6:00am
Stephanie Murphy, Randy Perkins, John Mica and Brian Mast
Stephanie Murphy, Randy Perkins, John Mica and Brian Mast

With two weeks to go until Election Day, most of the congressional races across the Sunshine State are not getting much in the way of attention. They simply can’t compete with the presidential race or even the Senate contest between Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy. 

Regardless, there are plenty of new faces headed to Congress after redistricting and a wave of retirements. But most of the competitive congressional races in the Sunshine State were settled in the primary. There are only a handful of truly competitive races left in Florida’s 27 congressional districts and one of them is already in the books. Still, there might be a surprise or two shaping up in the final days of the campaign.

Here’s where things stand in the congressional races across Florida. 

CD1: After his big win over Greg Evers and a crowded Republican primary field, Matt Gaetz looks headed to Congress. Gaetz hopes to replace fellow Panhandle Republican Jeff Miller in a very secure GOP district. Democrats have a candidate in attorney Steven Specht, a veteran of the Air Force, but he’ll be hard pressed to beat Gaetz. Outlook: Secure Republican. 

CD 2: With Gwen Graham headed to the sidelines after a single term, the Republicans should be able to flip this North Florida seat. Dr. Neal Dunn prevailed in a nasty primary over Mary Thomas and is a heavy favorite here come November. The Democrats have a candidate in  attorney and Marines veteran Walter Dartland who edged Steve Crapps in a close primary. Dartland is putting signs up and doing a few media appearances but he has a long way to go to make this competitive. Libertarian Rob Lapham and write in candidate Antoine Roberts are also in the mix. Regardless, Dunn is the man to beat in this strongly GOP district. Outlook: Secure Republican. Pickup for the GOP.

CD 3:  Republican Ted Yoho is running for a third term in North Florida and he is the favorite in November when he faces businessman Ken McGurn who is running on the Democratic line while Tom Wells is running with no party affiliation. Even with some of the more Democratic leaning parts of Alachua County now in the district, McGurn will have a hard time making up ground since Clay County is very Republican. To his credit, McGurn has put a good fight so far with a memorable TV spot and Yoho is not exactly a prolific fundraiser. Yoho’s still a heavy favorite but McGurn has offered more of a fight than experts expected in this red district. Outlook: Secure Republican. 

CD 4:  Ander Crenshaw’s retirement was a surprise but Republicans should be able to keep this seat with ease as former Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford easily the primary. He is a heavy favorite in November against engineer and Navy veteran Dave Bruderly on the Democratic line and Gary Koniz who is running yet again with no party affiliation. Danny Murphy is running as a write in candidate. Outlook: Secure Republican. 

CD 5: Al Lawson scored a big win in the primaries when he ended Corrine Brown’s 24 years in Congress.  Glo Smith, who Brown easily dispatched last time out, is back again on the Republican line but she will be an underdog against Lawson even if she hopes to pick up votes around Jacksonville. After previous tries in 2010 and 2012 fell short, Lawson looks headed to Congress. Outlook: Secure Democrat. 

CD 6: Ron DeSantis should be heading for a third term in Congress after his primary win over two Republican rivals. Businessman Bill McCullough was a surprise winner on the Democratic side but he will need a perfect storm to upend DeSantis here. That simply hasn’t happened and looks unlikely to develop in the next two weeks.  Outlook: Secure Republican.  

CD 7: This race is shaping up to be a close. Democrats are building some momentum here against longtime Republican Congressman John Mica. Stephanie Murphy, a college instructor and businesswoman, jumped in at the last moment giving the Democrats a candidate. So far, Murphy has impressed and the DCCC is going to bat for her. Polls show a close race and some even have Murphy ahead.  This could be a race where Trump dooms a Republican congressman. If Mica retires in 2018 or 2020, Democrats will be far more engaged here. Even if Mica is a new face to more than a third of voters here, he did close strong against Sandy Adams in a rare matchup of two congressional incumbents battling in the GOP primary back in 2012. This one looks close, something that few would have predicted back at the start of the summer. Outlook: Toss Up.  

CD 8: Republican Bill Posey looks headed for another term on Congress. While she didn’t exactly shine in her ill fated 2014 campaign, environmental activist Corry Westbrook is running on the Democratic line. Bill Stinson, a former NASA engineer, is running with no party affiliation here on the Space Coast. Unless there’s a major shake up, Posey should be headed back to Congress with a clear win in two weeks. Outlook: Secure Republican.  

CD 9: Darren Soto looks headed to Washington. The longtime Central Florida legislator benefited when  Alan Grayson decided to forego running again for Congress to try for the Senate but he got blown out by Patrick Murphy. Dena Grayson, the congressman’s wife, lost out to Soto as she tried to replace her husband in Washington. Soto should be fine in November even as he faces engineer and Navy veteran Wayne Liebnitzky, the Republican in the race. Outlook: Secure Democrat.  

CD 10: Democrats are poised to pick up this Central Florida seat. After the dust settled on redistricting, Republican Dan Webster scooted north as some top Democrats jumped in. Val Demings gave Webster a scare in 2012 and she’s back for another congressional bid. Demings was a big winner in the primaries, impressing as she easily beat Bob Poe and Geri Thompson. She’s looking like a future star for Democrats and there’s little chance her ascension will be halted in November. After losing out to Glo Smith in the Republican primary to run against Corrine Brown two years ago, Thuy Lowe is back for another congressional try but she’ll have a hard time in November against Demings. Outlook: Secure Democrat.  Pickup for the Democrats. 

CD 11: After three terms in Congress, Rich Nugent bowed out but the GOP should easily keep this seat. After redistricting turned his district blue, Dan Webster moved north to run here and beat Nugent’s preferred candidate in the primary. Dave Koller, who lost to Nugent last time out, is the only Democrat in the race and he’ll have a tough time being competitive after getting blown out in 2014.  Matt Schnackenberg had been running on the Libertarian line but failed to qualify. Still, voters looking for a candidate outside the major parties have an option in tea party activist Bruce Riggs who is running with no party affiliation. Webster should be able to keep this seat red with ease. Outlook: Secure Republican. 

CD 12:  Republican Gus Bilirakis is hoping for a promotion in Washington, wanting to move up to chair the Veterans Affairs Committee now that Jeff Miller is retiring. Standing in his way is attorney Robert Tager who is running as a Democrat. Tager has some impressive legal experience in the region but he’ll have a hard time upending the incumbent in this solidly Republican district. Bilirakis should have little to worry about in November. Outlook: Secure Republican. 

CD 13: When Marco Rubio jumped back in the Senate contest, he moved this race from a sure thing for Democrats to a closer contest. On the Democratic side, Charlie Crist chased Eric Lynn out of the race and looked likely to have an unlikely political comeback following his defeats in 2010 and 2014. Over on the Republican side, Mark Bircher, who lost to David Jolly in the primary back in early 2014, was trying for a second run for Congress. But with Rubio running for Senate again, Jolly got out of that contest and easily beat Bircher in the rematch. Redistricting made this seat far more hospitable for Democrats but this will be a close contest. Crist is the favorite here even as Jolly tries to distance himself from Donald Trump. This is a district which backed Barack Obama and that should help Crist in his latest comeback attempt. For his part, Crist is now showcasing Obama’s support in TV ads. Outlook: Leans Democrat. Possible pickup for the Democrats.  

CD 14: While her district was slightly changed by redistricting, Democrat Kathy Castor should be headed for another easy win. There was some talk Mike Prendergast would try for a rematch of his 2010 loss but he stayed out. Eddie Adams, who has run for this seat numerous times before, didn’t qualify this year. This leaves businesswoman Christine Quinn as the Republican candidate to challenge Castor. Quinn has some strengths as a candidate but she’ll need a perfect storm to make this race competitive. With two weeks to go, that’s not likely. Outlook: Secure Democrat. 

CD 15: At one point in the redistricting process, Dennis Ross was a possible casualty as the Legislature drew up new maps. Now he is a heavy favorite to keep this seat for Republicans. Businessman Jim Lange is challenging Ross on the Democratic line but he’ll need a major wave to topple the congressman in November. Ross is out with TV ads and looks to be cruising to a wing here on Election Day. Outlook: Secure Republican.

CD 16: Now cleared of ethics charges, Republican Vern Buchanan should be headed for reelection. He faces attorney Jan Schneider who won the Democratic primary. Buchanan has bested far better known candidates over the years and is a heavy favorite to keep this seat for Republicans. He shouldn’t have any problem come November. Outlook: Secure Republican.

CD 17: Tom Rooney is a heavy favorite here even as he walked back his support of Donald Trump. Rooney faces Democrat April Freeman, who scooted north after getting demolished by Curt Clawson in 2014, and John Sawyer, who is running with no party affiliation. Unless something drastic happens, Rooney should win big. Outlook: Secure Republican.

CD 18: With Patrick Murphy leaving this seat after two terms to run for the Senate, this will be one to watch in November. Both sides are focusing on this race and the attacks have been flying. Randy Perkins easily won the Democratic primary while veteran Brian disabled veteran Brian Mast stressed his conservative credentials to win on the Republican side, upending Rebecca Negron. Nurse and Navy vet Carla Spalding pulled out of the GOP contest to run with no party affiliation. Nurse Marilyn Holloman is running as a write-in candidate. Mast and Perkins both impressed on in the primaries and this will be a close one in November. If Murphy has coattails, that could help Perkins but, as of now, that’s not guaranteed. Outlook: Toss-Up. Possible pickup for the GOP.  

 CD 19: Businessman and GOP fundraising powerhouse Frances Rooney, who served as ambassador to the Vatican, was a big winner in the primaries as he looks to replace Curt Clawson who is retiring from Congress. With this being a secure Republican district, Rooney will be a heavy favorite in November over Democrat Robert Neeld and write in candidates David Byron and Timothy Rossano. Outlook: Secure Republican.

CD 20: This is a very secure Democratic district so longtime incumbent Alcee Hastings has an easy assignment this November. The longtime congressman faces Republican Gary Stein, a businessman who has run for office before without much in the way of success. Attorney Michael Steinberg is in the mix as a write in candidate. Hastings represents a very blue district and won’t have much to worry about this time out. He’s safe.  Outlook: Secure Democrat. 

CD 21: Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch switched districts after the Legislature drew up new maps but neither Florida Democrat has a heavy load this election cycle. Frankel is running against Republican businessman Paul Spain who she beat by 16 percent two years ago, a pretty good election cycle for the GOP. Spain’s back for a rematch but it’s telling that he tried to run up north in CD 18 before turning his eyes back to a rematch with Frankel. Mike Trout is running for Congress for a third time with no party affiliation. Frankel might not be as secure as Deutch but she should prevail with ease. Outlook: Secure Democrat.

CD 22: Ted Deutch has built an impressive winning streak in South Florida over the years and things don’t look any different this time out. Republican Andrea Leigh McGee, an artist who ran for Congress before, will face Deutch in November but the incumbent congressman has little to fear from her. This heavily Democratic district will remain blue and Deutch will continue his rise up the Democratic caucus ranks with no problem. Outlook: Secure Democrat. 

CD 23: Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had a bad year for the most part but the South Florida congresswoman bounced back nicely against Tim Canova in the Democratic primary. Whatever her problems at the DNC, Wasserman Schultz has remained popular with Democrats back home and is headed back to Congress. Joe Kaufman is back for a third run for Congress. He wasn’t able to be competitive in 2014, a good year for the GOP, and shouldn’t be much of a factor this time out either.  Businessman Don Endress and educator and businessman Lyle Milstein are running with no party affiliation. Even with her various missteps this year, Wasserman Schultz should easily head back to Congress. Outlook: Secure Democrat. 

CD 24: Frederica Wilson is headed back to Congress. With no opponents in the general election, she won a fourth term with her big win in the primary. Outlook: Democrat Victory.  

CD 25: Republican Mario Diaz-Balart faces Democrat Alina Valdes, a doctor and educator, in November. Diaz-Balart should be able to extend his time in Congress but Valdes, who hasn't had much help from the Democrats, is not a bad candidate, a real fighter as Dems play a long game in South Florida, hoping to reel in Cuban-Americans who have traditionally backed the GOP. Even with his vocal displeasure about Donald Trump, especially on immigration, Diaz-Balart should be able to fend off Valdes. Outlook: Secure Republican. 

CD 26: This South Florida district has one of the more interesting contests in the state. Democrats had been drooling over picking up this seat as Republican Carlos Curbelo faces a far more hostile race after the latest redistricting effort -- but things are changing. For his part, Curbelo has tried to claim the center and has been one of Donald Trump’s loudest Republican critics. Despite losing to Curbelo two years ago, former Congressman Joe Garcia is back, narrowly edging Annette Taddeo in the Democratic primary. This will be one to watch come November. One thing helping Curbelo could be Marco Rubio running for a second term. Rubio remains popular in Miami Dade -- the only county where he beat Trump in March’s presidential primary -- and that could help boost Curbelo. Another thing keeping Curbelo in the mix is Garcia’s tendency to shoot himself in the foot. Even with Curbelo refusing to back Trump, he has some major Republican figures backing him. Paul Ryan campaigned in Miami with Curbelo last week while Jeb Bush is also helping out the freshman congressman. Outlook: Toss-Up. Possible pickup for the Democrats.  

CD 27: Democrats are putting a few chips in this South Florida district, hoping they pay dividends in the years to come. They don’t expect to beat longtime Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen but they do want to start moving this district their way in the hopes of picking up this seat when she retires. Ros-Lehtinen remains fairly popular and ran over her GOP opponents, taking more than 80 percent in the primary. But businessman Scott Fuhrman is not a bad candidate for the Democrats. He’s run a solid campaign so far and has no problem going on the attack. Ros-Lehtinen should be able to hold this seat for the GOP but this district will become more competitive if she bows out in the next election cycle or two. Still, there have been polls showing Ros-Lehtinen with a lead in the high single digits, a little closer than she’s used to.  This district will be far more competitive when Ros-Lehtinen, the dean of the Florida delegation, heads to the sidelines. Outlook: Secure Republican.

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