Seven Competitive GOP-Held House Seats in Florida, Only One ‘Leans Democrat’

Voting booths set up and ready to receive voters inside a polling station in Christmas, Florida on November 8, 2016. After an exhausting, wild, bitter, and sometimes sordid campaign, Americans finally began voting Tuesday for a new president: either the billionaire populist Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, seeking to become …
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Seven of the 86 Republican-held House seats across the country that are rated as “competitive” this midterm election are in Florida.

But, according to the Cook Political Report, only one of those seats, Florida’s 27th Congressional District, represented by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27), who is not running for re-election after representing the district in Congress for 30 years, “leans Democrat.”

In addition, one Republican-held seat in Florida, the 26th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), is rated a “toss-up.”

Five Republican-held seats are rated as either “lean Republican” (FL-16 and FL-18)  or “likely Republican” (FL-06, FL-15, and FL-25).

Surprisingly, one of the 14 Democrat-held House seats rated as “competitive” is also in Florida.

That seat — the 7th Congressional District — is currently represented by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL-07), a first-term Congressman who narrowly defeated former Rep. John Mica (R-FL-07) in 2016.

Murphy’s seat is currently rated “likely Democrat” by both the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. In March, Sabato’s Crystal Ball moved the rating for Murphy’s seat from “lean Democrat” to “likely Democrat.”

With more than six times as many Republican House seats than Democratic House seats (86 to 14) considered “competitive,” Democrats have been claiming for more than a year that this mathematical advantage gives them an edge in securing the net gain of 23 seats they need to take back the majority in the House of Representatives.

Democrats will likely need to pick up two seats in Florida to reach that net 23 gains nationally.

The 2018 midterm elections are particularly important in Florida, one of the key battleground states that President Trump narrowly won in 2016.

The race for Ros-Lehtinen’s 27th Congressional District seat may well be one of the most expensive and interesting in the country, on both sides of the aisle.

On the Democratic side, 77-year-old former University of Miami president, Clinton administration Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Clinton Foundation head Donna Shalala surprised many people when she decided in March she wants to serve in Congress, a move that can best be described as a step down from her previous jobs.

But all has not gone well for the former head of the controversial Clinton Foundation.

“What might have been a smooth ride to Congress for Donna Shalala is instead turning into a demolition derby,” Politico reported just weeks after her announcement:

In an open congressional seat in Florida that represents one of the Democratic Party’s best pickup chances in the nation, fellow Democrats are bashing the former Clinton administration Cabinet secretary, accusing her of collaborating with the enemy by contributing to Republican candidates.

Two of Shalala’s seven primary opponents joined together Thursday to criticize her for personally contributing $21,500 to Florida Republicans running for state, local and federal offices over the past decade — including GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who held the seat before announcing her retirement this year.

“It was so jarring and so disappointing to see the newest candidate in the Democratic primary, Donna Shalala, has donated to the Republican incumbent last cycle, has donated in the past to the current Republican running for congress in this very congressional seat, has donated over $20,000 to anti-choice, anti-LGBT, pro-NRA, Republican politicians, and has donated $20,000 to a corporate PAC that has given $125,000 to the NRCC — an organization whose sole goal is to keep a Republican majority, and Paul Ryan as speaker,” retired Circuit Judge Mary Barzee Flores and state Rep. David Richardson said in a joint statement from which each read consecutive passages during a conference call with reporters.

On the Republican side, “Spanish language journalist Maria Elvira Salazar is running for Congress by emphasizing her attachment to Miami and casting her herself as a political outsider,” Ballotpedia reports:

Retiring incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) said she “could be the right candidate” to keep the district in Republican hands. She was endorsed by FreedomWorks and named to the National Republican Campaign Committee’s Young Guns program.

Her campaign website indicates her support for expanding background checks for gun purchases, the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and the 2017 tax bill.

Salazar worked as a journalist for Telemundo and Univision, including its Miami-based flagship station, Channel 23. She was the first Spanish-speaking U.S. TV journalist to interview Cuban President Fidel Castro. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami and her M.P.A. from Harvard University.

Two recent polls show that Salazar has a significant lead in the August 28 Republican primary over her closest rival, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro.

But, as the Miami Herald reported last month, “Whoever wins the Republican primary will face an uphill battle to keep Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in GOP hands. Trump lost the district, which includes most of Miami Beach, downtown Miami and coastal South Dade, by more than 19 percentage points, the largest margin of victory for Clinton in the country in a GOP-held congressional district.”

The 26th Congressional District, which consists primarily of Miami-Dade County, is currently rated as a “toss up” and represents the Democrats’ second-best chance in Florida for a seat pickup in the House.

First elected in 2014, Rep. Curbelo, the Republican incumbent, was re-elected by 12 points in 2016.

2018 looks to be a tougher political battle for Curbelo.

“[T]he district has gone blue in recent presidential elections, backing Barack Obama (D) in 2012 by a margin of 8 points and Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016 by 16 points. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also included the district in its list of targets for 2018,” Ballotpedia reports.

Curbelo is expected to face Democrat Debbie Mucarcel-Powell in the November general election.

Mucarcel-Powell is part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” candidate program. She has been endorsed by the congressional Progressive Caucus and is described on the “Red to Blue” website as someone who has “dedicated more than twenty years to improving access to healthcare, protecting the environment, and increasing educational opportunities in South Florida.”

Though the Cook Political report rates this race a “toss up,” Inside Elections rates it “tilt Republican.”

The Sunshine State’s 29 electoral college votes will again be up for grabs in 2020, adding greater significance not only to the eight competitive U.S. House races this cycle but also to the two high visibility statewide races.

In the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) are in a statistical tie, according to the current Real Clear Politics Average of Polls.

The governor’s mansion, currently occupied by Republican Scott, is also up for grabs.

The general election matchup in that race has not yet been determined, as both parties will hold their primary elections on August 28.

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