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Florida’s congressional seats: Which ones could flip?

For the seventh consecutive election cycle, the Tampa Bay Times has assembled its list of most vulnerable House seats in the Florida congressional delegation.
Sunlight shines on the U.S. Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sunlight shines on the U.S. Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. [ PATRICK SEMANSKY | AP ]
Published Jul. 22, 2022|Updated Jul. 22, 2022

This year, Florida has thoroughly redrawn its congressional districts due to the once-a-decade redistricting process, while also adding a new seat due to population growth.

Under a plan spearheaded by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the GOP is poised to gain at least three seats at the Democrats’ expense, and possibly more. Currently, the Republicans hold 16 seats in the Florida delegation, while Democrats hold 11. With the wind at their backs in the current political environment, the GOP could end up with a 20-8 advantage after Election Day.

The newly drawn map has also decreased the number of highly competitive districts, which is shaping our biennial efforts to handicap Florida’s most competitive House districts. While a number of seats in Florida’s delegation are expected to flip parties, those flips will be in fairly lopsided districts rather than closely divided ones. On balance, there are more seats this year that are pretty safe for one party or the other than in the map’s previous iteration.

Related: Florida redistricting map: How will your new district look — and vote?

For the seventh consecutive election cycle, the Tampa Bay Times is assembling its list of most vulnerable House seats in the Florida congressional delegation, based on reporting with state and national observers. As always, we have rank-ordered the seats in descending order, from the most vulnerable to a party switch to the least vulnerable.

Nationally, as well as in Florida, the Democrats face a difficult midterm environment due to high inflation and the historical pattern of the party holding the White House losing congressional seats in Congress. The Democrats’ main hope for a boost is the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. If the court’s decision elevates concerns about abortion among Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans, it could add marginally to Democrats’ election prospects in Florida.

The top three races on our list — three districts where the GOP redrew the lines aggressively to weaken Democratic prospects — currently sit in our “highly vulnerable” category. The remappings in the districts were so brutal for Democrats that in each case, the Democratic incumbent decided not to seek another term in the House.

One seat resides in our next category, “vulnerable” — the seat held by GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar. No seats are in the following category, “potentially vulnerable.”

Two seats reside in the next category — “minimally vulnerable.” They are GOP Rep. Carlos Gimenez’s seat and the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch.

Finally, we’ll discuss two seats that were so thoroughly redrawn that they have no incumbent, and thus no degree of “vulnerability” for the party holding them, thus rendering moot our standard measure for determining these rankings. As a result, we are not rating them here, though we’ll give a brief rundown.

Districts not cited on our list are not considered vulnerable, at least for this election cycle.

Here’s the full list. We will update and reorder it periodically between now and Election Day.

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Highly vulnerable

1. 5th District

Open seat including territory being vacated by Reps. Al Lawson (D) and John Rutherford (R)

Geography: Parts of Duval and St. Johns counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): R+11

Trump 2020: 57%

Biden 2020: 41%

This is one of the districts that resulted from the GOP’s aggressive redrawing of northwest Florida districts that eliminated a district favorable to Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat. Rutherford, a GOP incumbent, decided to run in this district rather than the adjoining 4th; the 5th is modestly more Republican. Democrats are essentially conceding the seat, while Rutherford faces minimal GOP opposition in the Aug. 23 primary. He should easily win the seat in November.

2. 7th District

Open seat previously represented by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D)

Geography: Parts of Seminole and Volusia counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): R+5

Trump 2020: 52%

Biden 2020: 47%

The GOP is heavily favored to win this seat in November, but first, the party has to sort out its sprawling primary field. Republican candidates include Erika Benfield, a former DeBary city commissioner; Brady Duke, a pastor and Navy veteran; Ted Edwards, a former Orange County commissioner; Cory Mills, a businessman and veteran; Rusty Roberts, a former lobbyist and former congressional aide; Anthony Sabatini, a state representative and outspoken Donald Trump supporter; Al Santos, a businessman and Army veteran; and Scott Sturgill, a businessman. Duke, Mills and Sabatini have raised more than $1 million each, and all three of them have at least $250,000 in the bank. Three other GOP candidates have at least $100,000 in the bank: Roberts, Sturgill and Santos. The Democratic field includes several candidates, notably state Democratic Party vice chair Karen Green and businesswoman Tatiana Fernandez, but all the Democrats trail badly in the money race.

3. 13th District

Open seat previously represented by Rep. Charlie Crist (D)

Geography: Parts of Pinellas County

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): R+6

Trump 2020: 53%

Biden 2020: 46%

The St. Petersburg-based 13th district also has a competitive GOP primary, among 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, former congressional aide Amanda Makki and attorney Kevin Hayslett. Each of these candidates has more than $450,000 in the bank. The Democrats have avoided a primary; their expected nominee is Eric Lynn, a former Pentagon official. Lynn has kept pace in the money race, with more than $1 million in the bank and no primary to worry about. So Lynn should be able to run a credible, if uphill, race.

Vulnerable

4. 27th District

Incumbent: Maria Elvira Salazar (R)

Geography: Parts of Miami-Dade County

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): Even

Trump 2020: 50%

Biden 2020: 49%

Salazar is the delegation’s most vulnerable incumbent in either party, but as a Republican in a weak environment for Democrats, that doesn’t mean she’s on the verge of losing. The main reason this Miami-based district qualifies as vulnerable is that Trump barely won it in 2020, and because the Democrats have a strong candidate, state Sen. Annette Taddeo. Taddeo, who represents part of the district in the Legislature, dropped out of the gubernatorial primary to run against Salazar instead. She is favored in the congressional primary against Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell. Salazar, meanwhile, has almost $1.5 million in the bank. An internal poll for Taddeo found a virtual tie, with Salazar leading, 47%-45%. But internal polls always merit a grain of salt.

Potentially vulnerable

No races

Minimally vulnerable

5. 28th District

Incumbent: Carlos Gimenez (R)

Geography: Miami and the Keys

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): R+2

Trump 2020: 53%

Biden 2020: 47%

Gimenez is only a first-term member of Congress, but he’s well known from a long career in Miami politics. His new district is marginally more favorable to Republicans than Salazar’s district is, but the real reason this seat doesn’t rank higher on our list is that the Democratic challenger is not as big a figure as Taddeo is. Shortly before the filing deadline, former Democratic state Rep. Robert Asencio filed to run. But after serving in the state House, Ascencio lost a bid for the Miami-Dade County Commission, and it remains to be seen whether he can raise enough money, given his late start, to be competitive in the expensive Miami media market. Gimenez, the former Miami-Dade County Mayor, has almost $1.3 million in the bank.

6. 23rd District

Open seat previously represented by Rep. Ted Deutch (D)

Geography: Parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): D+5

Trump 2020: 43%

Biden 2020: 56%

This South Florida district is one that the Democrats should win, but it’s close enough on the fundamentals that a true red wave in the fall could put it into play. Deutch’s departure brought out a large field of Democrats, of which the two frontrunners are Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, a former state emergency management director and former state representative; and Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner and pastor Ben Sorensen. Moskowitz has more than $600,000 in the bank, while Sorensen has more than $480,000; both amounts far outpace the Republicans seeking the nomination, none of whom have won elected office previously. If there’s a frontrunner for the GOP nod, it’s 2020 nominee Jim Pruden.

New seat with no incumbent

Unrated: 4th District

Geography: Parts of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): R+6

Trump 2020: 53%

Biden 2020: 46%

This is the other district most directly affected by the dismantling of Lawson’s seat; it leans Republican, but somewhat less so than the 5th district that Rutherford decided to run in. The two leading GOP candidates are Navy veteran Erick Aguilar and state Senate president pro-tem Aaron Bean. Aguilar has outraised the more prominent Bean, but his bid took a big hit in July when reports surfaced that he had misleadingly used the name of Trump and GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis in fundraising emails. DeSantis condemned Aguilar’s tactics, and his campaign consultants quickly dropped him as a client. If Bean goes on to win the nomination, this should be a safe seat for the GOP. If a damaged Aguilar wins, the Democrats might have a shot with one of their two candidates: former state legislator Tony Hill and former congressional aide LaShonda Holloway. So far, though, both Democrats badly trail the Republican candidates in the money race.

Unrated: 15th District

Geography: Parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): R+4

Trump 2020: 51%

Biden 2020: 48%

Under the district’s previous lines, this was a GOP seat that Democrats frequently targeted as flippable. Now, though, Republicans are favored to win this suburban Tampa Bay seat. In this highly competitive primary, no fewer than five GOP candidates have more than $200,000 in the bank: Veteran and activist Demetrius Grimes, former secretary of state and former judge Laurel Lee, Navy veteran and pilot Kevin McGovern, state Sen. Kelli Stargel and state Rep. Jackie Toledo. Only one Democrat, video producer and comedian Eddie Geller, has amassed a war chest of at least six figures.