Democrats need more money if they’re going to take back Florida House, group says

Democratic candidates are getting out-raised by Republicans five-to-one.
OT_351116_KEEL_FLGOV_SCOTT KEELER (03/06/2012 TALLAHASSEE)   8. The State of Florida Capitol complex in Tallahassee.  (FOR SUNDAY STORY). FOR FILE.     TIMES PHOTO SCOTT KEELER
OT_351116_KEEL_FLGOV_SCOTT KEELER (03/06/2012 TALLAHASSEE) 8. The State of Florida Capitol complex in Tallahassee. (FOR SUNDAY STORY). FOR FILE. TIMES PHOTO SCOTT KEELER [ Times (2012) ]
Published May 19, 2020

Democrats running in down ballot races need more money. A lot more money.

According to an analysis from Forward Majority, a national organization dedicated to flipping state legislatures blue, Florida Democrats are getting out-raised five-to-one by their Republican counterparts in House races. GOP candidates have netted nearly $4.4 million; Democrats have raised about $860,000. (The numbers in the analysis run through March.)

This fall’s legislative elections hold a special significance because of the looming congressional reapportionment done after every U.S. Census. The 2021-2022 Florida Legislature will likely decide how the state draws its new Congressional maps.

If Republicans wield the same levers of power they did in 2012, the last time the state went through that process, GOP lawmakers could draw another series of maps favorable for their party.

Related: Florida Supreme Court orders new congressional map with eight districts to be redrawn

“Given the stakes ahead of redistricting, it’s very important that we put up a fight and not lose sight of these down-ballot races,” said Ben Wexler-Waite, Forward Majority’s communications director.

Wexler-Waite said even if Democrats can’t expect fundraising parity with Republicans, just narrowing the fundraising deficit to two-to-one will give swing district Democrats a much better chance come November. (Florida’s primaries are Aug. 18, so Forward Majority’s analysis includes some races that have multiple candidates from both parties.)

Many districts are truly up for grabs, according to Forward Majority. Their analysis showed that the 2018 elections featured 18 state House Democratic losses in which one or more of the following conditions was true:

∙ The Democrat won at least 45 percent of the vote

∙ Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bill Nelson carried the district

∙ Democratic governor candidate Andrew Gillum carried the district..

Democrats currently hold 46 seats in the 120-member state House. In order to take back the state House, Democrats would need to win 15 of the 18 swing districts. They’d also have to hold onto the modest gains they made in 2018, when they picked up a net of five seats.

There are some signs the Democrats could make further inroads in 2020. Several of the party’s 2018 losses were squeakers. Incumbent Democrat Patrick Henry lost the race for House District 26 by 61 votes. In the House District 89 race, Democrat Jim Bonfiglio lost by 32 votes.

But other districts highlighted by Forward Majority seem less attainable. For example, included on the list were House District 67, occupied by Republican Chris Latvala of Clearwater, and District 85, which is held by Rick Roth, R-West Palm Beach. Although both races were decided by fewer than 10 points in 2018, either would be a major coup for Democrats.

And as always, much of what happens further down the ballot will be determined by the extremely unpredictable presidential race between Democrat Joe Biden and incumbent Republican President Donald Trump.

The deadline for candidates to qualify for state Legislature races is noon Friday, June 12.