Florida Democrats capture two key House seats
By Vanessa Gezari, Tamara Lush and David Adams, Times Staff Writers
SARASOTA — In three congressional races with national implications, Democratic candidates won in two Tuesday while a Republican edged ahead in the third.
In South Florida's 16th District, where Republican Mark Foley resigned in disgrace a month before the election, Democrat Tim Mahoney won a close race with Foley's last-minute replacement, Joe Negron.
In the 22nd District, Democratic State Sen. Ron Klein defeated Rep. Clay Shaw, a Republican who has held the seat for 26 years.
In the 13th District seat vacated by Katherine Harris, Republican Vern Buchanan clung to a slim early lead Tuesday night over retired banker Christine Jennings, suggesting a bruising primary and widespread frustration with the war in Iraq may be no match for a Republican businessman running in a traditionally conservative district.
The 13th District race was closely watched nationally as a sign of the challenge facing Republicans this year.
President Bush won the district by nearly 10 percentage points in 2004, yet polls this fall showed that 60 percent of voters in the district saw the country heading in the wrong direction.
Sally Tibbetts, Buchanan's press secretary, said: "He ran a campaign on the issues, and his stance on the issues resonated with the voters."
In Foley's district, which cuts through the heart of Florida, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and encompassing parts of eight counties, Mahoney and Negron ran a truncated and strange race, marked with scandal and confusion.