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Stakes Are High in Florida Congressional Primaries

August 29, 2016 - 8:30pm
Corrine Brown, Dan Webster and Debbie Wasserman Scultz
Corrine Brown, Dan Webster and Debbie Wasserman Scultz

Voters across Florida hit the polls on Tuesday to vote in primaries with a lot on the line in congressional races. After the latest round of redistricting, several incumbents retired and there are close battles across the Sunshine as Democrats and Republicans cast their ballots. 

CD1: With Republican Jeff Miller bowing out, expect a competitive GOP in this Panhandle seat. Two state legislators--Greg Evers and Matt Gaetz--are running for this seat and other Republicans have also lined up to run. No surprise considering the number of military bases in the region, several of the Republican candidates-Cris Dosev, Brian Frazier, James Zumwalt--are veterans. There are also other outsiders like Rebekah Johansen Bydlak, Gary Fairchild and Mark Wichern in the primary. Evers and Gaetz are the favorites here but some of the other candidates have hit the airwaves and have reeled in some endorsements. Whoever wins the Republican primary will be in good shape in November though Democrats have a candidate in newly minted attorney Steven Specht, a veteran of the Air Force.  

CD 2: This North Florida seat offers Republicans a prime opportunity to flip a seat currently held by the Democrats as Gwen Graham is headed to the sidelines after a single term. There’s an interesting three candidate Republican primary that will be decided on Tuesday. Dr. Neal Dunn, Ken Sukhia and Mary Thomas are all serious candidates. Headed into the primary day, Dunn and Thomas have been going on the attack and have been far more active than Sukhia. Two Democrats are in the mix here as attorney and Marines veteran Walter Dartland and dark horse Steve Crapps look to keep the seat blue. Libertarian Rob Lapham is also running. Antoine Roberts is running as a write in candidate. Regardless of which Republican emerges in the primary, the GOP should be able to pick up this seat which was changed drastically by redistricting in its favor. 

CD 3: No primary here. Republican Ted Yoho is running for a third term in North Florida. Yoho will be a heavy favorite in November when he faces businessman Ken McGurn who is running on the Democratic line while Tom Wells is running with no party affiliation. 

CD 4:  Ander Crenshaw’s retirement was a surprise but Republicans should be able to keep this seat with ease. On the GOP side, John Rutherford, Lake Ray and Hans Tanzler III are pretty well established in Duval County for the seat up in while Bill McClure hopes he can unite his St. Johns County base while his rivals divide up Jacksonville. There are also a few dark horses like businessman Stephen Kaufman and businessman Ed Malin. Deb Pueschel, who has run for the seat numerous times before with little impact, is back yet again. Rutherford is the favorite here but it’s no slam dunk by any means as both Ray and Tanzler look to pull off the upset. Whoever wins the primary will be the favorite in November against engineer and Navy veteran Dave Bruderly on the Democratic line and Gary Koniz who is running yet again with no party affiliation. Danny Murphy is running as a write in candidate. 

CD 5: Democrat Corrine Brown faces a far different district than she’s used to and is in serious jeopardy as her legal problems continue to mount. Instead of winding through North Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando, the district now heads west through parts of Leon County. Democrats should be able to keep the seat but Brown now faces a major primary threat from Al Lawson who is making his third bid for Congress. Brown is far better known in the eastern part of this district while Lawson hopes to claim the western part. It’s no slam dunk for Brown by any means. Add in businesswoman LaShonda "LJ" Holloway and this is an interesting primary. Brown’s problems might finally sink her and her fundraising is not as strong as it usually is. But Lawson is far less known than Brown in the eastern part of the district and that might hurt his chances. Regardless, this should be one to watch on Tuesday night.  Glo Smith, who Brown easily dispatched last time out, is back again on the Republican line but she will be an underdog against either Brown or Lawson. 

CD 6: After Marco Rubio announced for a second term Republican Ron DeSantis decided to seek a third term in the House and gave up his Senate bid. DeSantis cleared most of the decks chasing Pat Mooney, Brandan Patty and David Santiago out. But he does have two Republican primary opponents. Fred Costello, who placed second to DeSantis in the Republican primary in 2012,  is back for another congressional bid but the state representative will have to work hard to win the rematch. Businessman G. G. Galloway will look to make a splash as an outsider. Look for DeSantis to handle his foes with little difficulty on Tuesday. Dwayne Taylor, a proven winner in Volusia County from his time in the state House and the Daytona Beach City Commission, is running for the Democratic nod. Businessman Bill McCullough, dark horse Jay McGovern and attorney George Pappas are also running. Already the GOP is starting to jab Taylor. The GOP starts as the favorite to keep this seat but the Democrats could flip it if they have a big enough wave in November but it would have to be a near-perfect storm. 

CD 7: Democrats seem to think they can build some momentum here against longtime Republican Congressman John Mica. The problem is they didn’t find a top-tier candidate. The DCCC has sent a few attacks against Mica, including one from Victor Torres for not doing enough to solve Puerto Rico’s debt problems. Stephanie Murphy, a college instructor, jumped in at the last moment giving the Democrats a candidate.  Mica does have a Republican challenger in businessman Mark Busch who served on the Orange County Soil and Water Commission. But Mica has been impressive in Republican primaries in recent election cycles, crushing Sandy Adams in a rare battle between two congressional incumbents back in 2012 and routing a field of opponents two years ago. He should be alright in Tuesday’s primary.  Mike Plaskon is running as a write in candidate. Democrats will have a hard time knocking off Mica in November but this is a seat which is getting more competitive. If Mica retires in 2018 or 2020, Democrats will be far more engaged here. 

CD 8: No primary here on Tuesday. Republican Bill Posey should be in good shape here. While she didn’t exactly shine in her ill fated 2014 campaign, environmental activist Corry Westbrook is running on the Democratic line. Bill Stinson, a former NASA engineer, is running with no party affiliation here on the Space Coast. Unless there’s a major shake up, Posey should be headed back to Congress. 

CD 9: This looks close. Alan Grayson’s decision to run for the Senate opened up this Democratic leaning seat in Central Florida. There’s a top tier of Democratic candidates including physician Dena Grayson who just married the congressman,  liberal activist Susannah Randolph and a state legislative veteran in Darren Soto. Dark horses Valleri Crabtree  and Carmelo Garcia are also trying to break through in the Democratic primary. The Republican primary has engineer and Navy veteran Wayne Liebnitzky taking on  Wanda Rentas who is looking to move up from the Kissimmee City Commission. Still, the Republicans would near a major wave to pick up this seat. Dena Grayson leads the polls and could win on name recognition but Randolph is in the mix as well. Soto is in third in some of the polls but he does have a chance here. This is one to watch on Tuesday night. 

CD 10: Democrats are poised to pick up this Central Florida seat. After the dust settled on redistricting, Republican Dan Webster scooted north as some top Democrats jumped in. Val Demings gave Webster a scare in 2012 and she’s back for another congressional bid. But she doesn’t have an open shot at the Democratic nomination as Bob Poe and Geri Thompson, both experienced candidates with long political careers of their own, are running in what should be a competitive primary. Dark horse attorney Fatima Fahmy is also running in the Democratic primary and hopes to pull off an upset here. Demings is the favorite here but Poe has a shot after opening up his wallet. Still, it will take an upset to beat Demings here. After losing out to Glo Smith in the Republican primary to run against Corrine Brown two years ago, Thuy Lowe is back for another congressional try but she’ll have a hard time in November against whoever the Democrats nominate.  This seat should be turning blue. 

CD 11: After three terms in Congress, Rich Nugent bowed out but the GOP should keep this seat. Nugent is backing his former chief of staff Justin Grabelle but he faces a major Republican opponent in the primary. After redistricting turned his district blue, Dan Webster moved north to run here. Conservative pastor Jack Martin had been running here but he failed to qualify, setting up the two candidate primary. This will be one to watch and both candidates think they have a chance here. Dave Koller, who lost to Nugent last time out, is the only Democrat in the race and he’ll have a tough time being competitive after getting blown out in 2014.  Matt Schnackenberg had been running on the Libertarian line but failed to qualify. Still, voters looking for a candidate outside the major parties have an option in tea party activist Bruce Riggs who is running with no party affiliation. Even with Nugent heading to the sidelines and a contentious primary on Tuesday, Republicans should be able to keep this seat with ease. 

CD 12:  Nothing to see here on primary night. Republican Gus Bilirakis is hoping for a promotion in Washington, wanting to move up to chair the Veterans Affairs Committee now that Jeff Miller is retiring. Standing in his way is attorney Robert Tager who is running as a Democrat. Tager has some impressive legal experience in the region but he’ll have a hard time upending the incumbent in this solidly Republican district. Bilirakis should have little to worry about in November. 

CD 13: When Marco Rubio jumped back in the Senate contest, he moved this race from a sure thing for Democrats to a close contest. On the Democratic side, Charlie Crist chased Eric Lynn out of the race and looked likely to have an unlikely political comeback following his defeats in 2010 and 2014. Over on the Republican side, Mark Bircher, who lost to David Jolly in the primary back in early 2014, was trying for a second run for Congress. But with Rubio running for Senate again, Jolly got out of that contest and is now looking to keep his seat. Some conservatives will back Bircher over Jolly but the incumbent should win the primary on Tuesday night.Redistricting made this seat far more hospitable for Democrats but this will be a close contest. Crist is no longer a heavy favorite for this seat by any means and this race will be one to watch on Tuesday night.  

CD 14: No primary in his Tampa Bay district. While her district was slightly changed by redistricting, Democrat Kathy Castor should be headed for another easy win. There was some talk Mike Prendergast would try for a rematch of his 2010 loss but he stayed out. Eddie Adams, who has run for this seat numerous times before, didn’t qualify this year. This leaves businesswoman Christine Quinn as the Republican candidate to challenge Castor. Quinn has some strengths as a candidate but she’ll need a perfect storm to make this race competitive. 

CD 15: Nothing to see here. At one point in the redistricting process, Dennis Ross was a possible casualty as the Legislature drew up new maps. Now he is a heavy favorite to keep this seat for Republicans. Businessman Jim Lange is challenging Ross on the Democratic line but he’ll need a major wave to topple the congressman in November. 

CD 16: Now cleared of ethics charges, Republican Vern Buchanan should be headed for reelection. He faces dark horse in James Satcher in the Republican primary while two Democrats--pilot Brent King and attorney Jan Schneider--line up for their party’s nomination. Buchanan has bested far better known candidates over the years and is a heavy favorite to keep this seat for Republicans. He shouldn’t have any problem in the primary on Tuesday night. 

CD 17: This district will be quiet on primary night. Tom Rooney can be pardoned if he is feeling a little bit of deja vu. Two years ago, Rooney beat Democrat April Freeman and John Sawyer, who was running with no party affiliation, to keep this seat in the Republican column. In November, Rooney faces Freeman and Sawyer yet again. Unless something drastic happens, expect the same result this time out as well with Rooney winning big. 

CD 18: This is one of the main events on Tuesday as Patrick Murphy is leaving this seat after two terms to run for the Senate. This is a battleground district but the major parties have very different nominating contests. Randy Perkins is a clear favorite on the Democratic side and has cleared the decks of most of his competition even as attorney Jonathan Chane and engineer Juan Xuna try to catch him. The Republican primary is far more crowded. Carl Domino, the former state representative who as blown out by Murphy in 2014, is back for another try. From her time on the Martin County School Board and  her marriage to incoming state Senate President Joe Negron, Rebecca Negron has a lot of name recognition as she aims for the seat. Attorney Rick Kozell is looking to move up the Republican ranks by stressing his conservatism. Disabled veteran Brian Mast is also playing up his conservative credentials in this race. So is conservative pundit Noelle Nikpour. Dr. Mark Freeman will hope his dark horse bid will get some attention. The race seems to be coming down to Mast and Negron but Kozell has made some noise in the final week of the race. This will be one to watch both on Tuesday and in November. Nurse and Navy vet Carla Spalding pulled out of the GOP contest to run with no party affiliation. Nurse Marilyn Holloman is running as a write-in candidate. 

 CD 19: With Curt Clawson’s unexpected retirement from Congress, Republicans are scrambling to replace him in this secure GOP district. Businessman and GOP fundraising powerhouse Frances Rooney, who served as ambassador to the Vatican, has opened up his wallet and is the favorite to prevail on Tuesday night. Chauncey Goss is also running  following his loss to Trey Radel here in the GOP primary back in 2012. After moving from Maryland following  a Senate loss in 2012 and a congressional loss in 2014, Dan Bongino hopes to get conservatives behind him even as he familiarizes himself with his new district. Rooney looks likely to prevail. Whichever Republican wins will be a heavy favorite in November over Democrat Robert Neeld and write in candidates David Byron and Timothy Rossano. 

CD 20: Nothing on the line here on Tuesday as Democrat Alcee Hastings has an easy assignment this November. The longtime congressman faces Republican Gary Stein, a businessman who has run for office before without much in the way of success. Attorney Michael Steinberg is in the mix as a write in candidate. Hastings represents a very blue district and won’t have much to worry about this time out. He’s safe.  

CD 21: No primary here on Tuesday night. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch switched districts after the Legislature drew up new maps but neither Florida Democrat has a heavy load this election cycle. Frankel is running against Republican businessman Paul Spain who she beat by 16 percent two years ago, a pretty good election cycle for the GOP. Spain’s back for a rematch but it’s telling that he tried to run up north in CD 18 before turning his eyes back to a rematch with Frankel. Mike Trout is running for Congress for a third time with no party affiliation. Frankel might not be as secure as Deutch but she should prevail with ease. 

CD 22: Yet another South Florida congressional district with no primary on Tuesday. Ted Deutch has built an impressive winning streak in South Florida over the years and things don’t look any different this time out. Republican Andrea Leigh McGee, an artist who ran for Congress before, will face Deutch in November but the incumbent congressman has little to fear from her. This heavily Democratic district will remain blue. 

CD 23: While this Democratic primary race has gotten the headlines, it might not be one of the top contests on Tuesday night. Tim Canova offered a real challenge to Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic primary. Canova has tapped into liberal discontent with Wasserman Schultz, especially after she slammed the door on Bernie Sanders getting more debates against her old ally Hillary Clinton and left the DNC after the Wikileaks email leaks.  To be sure, Canova is well funded at the national level, has an admirable ground game and is positioned to give Wasserman Schultz a run. But Wasserman Schultz has remained popular with Democrats back home and does have the advantage, slight as it is. She is ahead in the polls and should survive on Tuesday night.  Republicans would love to pick up this seat but it’s simply not happening. Joe Kaufman is back for a third run for Congress. After getting blown out by Joe Geller in 2014, a good year for the GOP, attorney Marty  Feigenbaum is also running for the Republican nomination. It’s tough to see either one of the Republicans making a competitive run even if whoever emerges on the Democratic side is left bloody after a bitter primary.  Businessman Don Endress and educator and businessman Lyle Milstein are running with no party affiliation. 

CD 24: Frederica Wilson doesn’t have a Republican opponent but she does face Randal Hill in the Democratic primary. Hill has an interesting story having played wide receiver at the University of Miami, being taken by the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the NFL draft and playing pro ball for a few years before going into law enforcement. Now Hill is challenging Wilson in the Democratic primary. But Wilson’s been a proven winner in this part of South Florida for years and should be able to fend off Hill in the primary on Tuesday night. Whoever wins the primary is headed to Congress. 

CD 25: Nothing on the line here on Tuesday night. Republican Mario Diaz-Balart faces Democrat Alina Valdes, a doctor and educator, in November. Neither of them will have primaries in August. Diaz-Balart should be able to extend his time in Congress but Valdes, who hasn't had much help from the Democrats, is not a bad candidate, a real fighter as Dems play a long game in South Florida, hoping to reel in Cuban-Americans who have traditionally backed the GOP. Even with his vocal displeasure about Donald Trump, especially on immigration, Diaz-Balart should be able to fend off Valdes. 

CD 26: This South Florida district has one of the more interesting primaries in the state. Democrats had been drooling over picking up this seat as Republican Carlos Curbelo faces a far more hostile race after the latest redistricting effort -- but things are changing. For his part, Curbelo has tried to claim the center and has been one of Donald Trump’s loudest Republican critics. Curbelo has also been helped inadvertently by the Democrats. Annette Taddeo continues to underwhelm even as the Democratic establishment tried to coronate her. Taddeo has had numerous problems here but it seems like she is picking up steam in recent weeks. Despite losing to Curbelo two years ago, former Congressman Joe Garcia has put together a solid effort for most of the race but he did have a few rough weeks to close things out. Democrats are still favored here but any hopes of Taddeo marching easily into this seat have evaporated. This will be one to watch come November. One thing helping Curbelo could be Marco Rubio running for a second term. Rubio remains popular in Miami Dade -- the only county where he beat Trump in March’s presidential primary -- and that could help boost Curbelo. Dark horse Jose Peixoto is challenging Curbelo in the Republican primary but he has had no luck in running for office before and things don’t appear to be different this time out. Keep an eye on the Democratic primary in this district. 

CD 27: Democrats are putting a few chips in this South Florida district, hoping they pay dividends in the years to come. They don’t expect to beat longtime Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen but they do want to start moving this district their way in the hopes of picking up this seat when she retires. Ros-Lehtinen has the advantage over Maria Peiro and David “Tubbs” Adams in the Republican primary. Businessman Scott Fuhrman, businessman and retired Army officer Frank Perez and attorney Adam Sackrin have lined up on the Democratic side. Fuhrman is the favorite and he’s run a solid campaign so far and has no problem going on the attack. To be sure the district is changing but Ros-Lehtinen should have a clear edge over whoever emerges with the Democratic nomination.



CD#1 candidate outgoing Florida State Representative Matt Gaetz happily, received a $35,000 political campaign contribution from The Lewis Bear Co. of Pensacola while coincidentally, Lewis Bear is the Chairperson of University of West Florida's Presidential Search Committee where you guessed it, "Daddy" outgoing Florida State Senator Don Gaetz is the favored candidate to fill the soon to be vacant UWF President's position. Additionally, when one checks out other members of the selection committee and their past or present subordinate employee relationship(s) to either Don Gaetz or Lewis Bear one may easily assume that UWF's "chummy" Presidential Selection Committee is not only "pro Gaetz" but easily assert that at least two committee members are either owned or operated by Gaetz and Bear leaving one to easily think that the selection committee is by no means an impartial group consequently, UWF Faculty and Students along with Florida's taxpayers are ignored and insulted by an example of typical Northwest Florida backroom politics! So yup, even in Northwest Florida we have our very own "Clinton" style political machine in the family of Gaetz! .

And of course I misspelled my nickname on the forum :) I know you all don't like Taddeo but she seems to have less baggage then the other candidate running for the Dems in CD 26. Good luck SSN with your primary coverage today.

I notice the website says that Crist is not the heavy favorite in CD 13? However Crist is still the odds on favorite, with DCCC support (along with lack of NRCC support for the incumbent), the numbers making up the district (many which don't know the incumbent), along with presidential election turnout all favor him. The other races will be interesting.

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