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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Here are the most vulnerable seats in Florida's congressional delegation

29

April

For the fourth straight election cycle, the Buzz is publishing periodic rankings of the most vulnerable seats in Florida's U.S. House delegation, which includes 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats. This is our first attempt to compile rankings since June 2015 -- and a lot has happened since then.

Thanks to newly redrawn district lines, an open U.S. Senate seat that attracted U.S. House members from both parties, a smattering of retirements, and some primary challenges to incumbents, nearly half of Florida's seats in the U.S. House - 13 out of 27 - are in some type of flux this year.

Despite the delegation's current volatility, though, only a few seats are actually at risk for a party switch in November -- the criteria we use for inclusion this list. Here are the seats we're keeping an eye on, in descending order by how vulnerable the incumbent party is to losing the seat on Election Day.


PARTY SWITCH EXPECTED
When the Florida Supreme Court enforced a mid-decade redrawing of congressional lines, three congressional districts were changed so radically in demographic and partisan composition that a party switch this fall is all but assured. Two are poised to go Democratic, while one is poised to go Republican. We're calling it a three-way tie for No. 1.
1. (tie) 2nd District (being vacated by Rep. Gwen Graham, D)
1. (tie) 10th District (being vacated by Rep. Dan Webster, R)
1. (tie) 13th District (being vacated by Rep. David Jolly, R)


Each of these incumbents has seen the writing on the wall and chosen not to run in the redrawn districts. Graham announced this month that she would forgo reelection to her now solidly Republican north Florida district in favor of weighing a 2018 gubernatorial run. Meanwhile, Webster is running in the friendlier (and newly open) Hernando County-based 11th District, though he does face a primary challenge from Justin Grabelle, the chief of staff to the district's departing congressman, Republican Rich Nugent. And Jolly, seeing a significant pro-Democratic shift in the Pinellas County-based district, is running to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
Graham's old district will have a freewheeling Republican primary on Aug. 30, while the Democrats will have contested primaries in the other two districts. In the Orlando-based seat being vacated by Webster, the Democratic field features former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and former state party chair Bob Poe. And in the district Jolly is vacating, former Gov. Charlie Crist will face off against former Defense Department official and Obama campaign adviser Eric Lynn. The winners of these three primaries will be the prohibitive favorites in November.

VULNERABLE TO PARTY SWITCH

4. 18th District (being vacated by Rep. Patrick Murphy, D)
Murphy is running for the Senate seat Rubio is vacating, leaving his competitive Palm Beach-Treasure Coast House district up for grabs. The Democratic primary pits Randy Perkins, the founder and CEO of a disaster-recovery firm, against attorney Jonathan Chane. The large GOP field includes Martin County school board member Rebecca Negron, disabled veteran Brian Mast, physician Mark Freeman, 2014 nominee and former state Rep. Carl Domino, attorney Rick Kozell and political commentator Noelle Nikpour. Whoever the nominees are, the swing nature of the district makes it likely that the contest will be competitive in November.

5. 26th District (Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R)
Curbelo, the top incumbent on our list, represents a heavily Hispanic Miami-area district that has ping-ponged back and forth between the two parties -- Republican from 2010 to 2012, Democratic from 2012 to 2014, and now Republican again. In 2014, Curbelo narrowly defeated scandal-weakened Democrat Joe Garcia, and the district's modest Democratic lean was strengthened under the new lines and could be accentuated in a presidential election year, especially if Latino voters flock to vote against potential GOP nominee Donald Trump. Curbelo has sought to distance himself from Trump and has taken some moderate stances. On the Democratic side, Garcia is back but he faces a tough -- and potentially money-sapping -- primary against businesswoman Annette Taddeo, Crist's running mate in his failed 2014 gubernatorial bid.

POTENTIALLY VULNERABLE TO PARTY SWITCH
6. 7th District (Rep. John Mica, R)
Redistricting made Mica's Orlando-Winter Park-Seminole County district more Democratic, raising the opposition's hopes of unseating a senior Republican who has faced little electoral challenge over the years. But this scenario all but evaporated when the leading Democratic prospect, Bill Phillips, withdrew from the race. Unless Democrats can pull a rabbit out of a hat before the May 6 filing deadline, Mica has likely dodged a bullet.

OPEN SEATS THAT ARE NOT EXPECTED TO SWITCH PARTIES
In addition to the 11th District seat being given up by Nugent, three other Republican-held seats are coming open - Jeff Miller's Panhandle-based 1st District, Ander Crenshaw's Jacksonville-area 4th District and Ron DeSantis' northeastern Florida 6th District. All are solidly Republican and are at essentially no risk for a party switch. One Democratic-held seat is in the same boat in the opposite direction - the Orlando-area 9th District seat being vacated by Alan Grayson, which is solidly Democratic.

INCUMBENTS VULNERABLE TO A PRIMARY CHALLENGE
Two lawmakers face primary challenges in districts that nonetheless should be safe for their party in November, regardless of who the nominee is. They are Democrats Corrine Brown in the newly redrawn 5th District (which she is fighting in the courts) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the 23rd District.

 

[Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2016 5:00pm]

    

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