Democrats need to pick up 24 seats if they take back the U.S. House from Republicans. How does Florida play into that? Heading into the November election, Republicans own a 16-11 edge in the Sunshine State.
Noon Friday was the deadline to qualify for those running for the U.S. Congress, so now the Democrats’ table is set.
First, the good news for two Democrats. Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach saw the deadline come and go without anyone qualifying to run against them.
That means they won re-election Friday with nary a vote cast.
In three other districts, Democrats face only a primary challenge. They win those, too.
The remaining 22 of Florida’s 27 U.S. House seats are competitive — in the sense that both major parties have fielded candidates — but that doesn’t mean they’ll be close.
In truth, there are only a handful of races that experts believe to be vulnerable to switching parties. The good news for Democrats is that most of those flippable seats are currently held by Republicans.
For example, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, is retiring, leaving an open contest for Florida’s 27th district, which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.
Here are all of the races that Tampa Bay Times staff writer Louis Jacobson rated “highly vulnerable,” “vulnerable,” or “potentially vulnerable.”
Democrats across the country will try to pin their rivals to the historically unpopular president, hoping purple districts shift in their favor. That could make a difference in purple districts where Republican representatives won in 2016 but out-performed Trump.
Vulnerable seats in the 2018 Florida midterms
Democrats still need to work to defend Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park. But six seats currently held by Republicans may be up for grabs.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the keys for her party are defending Murphy and Charlie Crist, D-St.Petersburg. Pelosi said they hope to flip the seats held by Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, Brian Mast, R-Palm City and Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast.
DeSantis’ district is more conservative than the rest — Trump won the 6th by 17 points. But his run for governor leaves the race open.
A dream scenario for Democrats would be to win most of those races. Flipping all six would go a long way in the party’s hope to pick up 24 seats nationwide and reclaim control of the House.
“Florida is key,” Pelosi said.
At the same time, Florida Democrats will be working to retain the Senate seat held by Bill Nelson, who faces a formidable challenge from Gov. Rick Scott.
These are all candidates who qualified by Friday’s deadline for federal office:
Times Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary contributed reporting.