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Florida's GOP looks to seize advantage of redrawn House maps

Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo speaks during a news conference in Miami, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.
Lynne Sladky
/
AP
Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo speaks during a news conference in Miami, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.

There will be at least six newcomers to the U.S. House of Representatives in Tuesday’s vote from Florida as Republicans try to take advantage of an aggressively redrawn congressional map spearheaded by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In the wake of the 2020 census, DeSantis had ordered the GOP-controlled legislature to adopt a map devised to maximize Republican gains — vetoing the initial GOP-backed map which largely kept intact two seats held by Black Democratic members of Congress.

Heading into this election year, Republicans held 16 seats and Democrats represented 11 from Florida in the House. Florida is gaining a 28th seat due to population growth.

The marquee races include a pair of incumbent House members — Republican Neal Dunn and Democrat Al Lawson — facing off against each other in a north Florida district that leans GOP. Lawson’s majority-Black district was scrapped by the Republican-led Legislature, which adopted a congressional map pushed by DeSantis, prompting a lawsuit alleging unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.

Barring incumbent defeats, the new House members will come from six open seats. Those include the 13th District in Pinellas County, where Democrat Charlie Crist resigned to run for governor, and the Orlando-area seat Democratic Rep. Val Demings is leaving for her Senate campaign.

In addition, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy chose not to run for reelection after her redrawn district in central Florida looked to lean more toward a Republican victory. And in South Florida, Democrat Ted Deutch’s retirement opened the way for a likely Democratic successor in the 23rd District.

One truly open seat, where no incumbent was involved, is the 15th District in the Tampa area, where Republican Laurel Lee — a former Florida secretary of state — and Democrat Alan Cohn, a former investigative journalist, are pitted against each other. The seat skews toward the GOP.

Among races with an incumbent, Miami-area 27th District is the most closely contested and has a history of flipping back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.

In that race, Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo is challenging first-term Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar. Polling has shown the race to be a tight one, although broader polling shows a potential uptick in Hispanic support for the GOP in historically Democratic Miami-Dade County as a whole.

Otherwise, most Florida incumbent U.S. House members appeared headed back to Washington, barring any upsets.

These include Republican Matt Gaetz, a top supporter of former President Donald Trump who is under federal investigation in a sex trafficking case; Democrat Kathy Castor in a Tampa-area seat; Republican Vern Buchanan, who could chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee in a GOP-led House; Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former Democratic National Committee chair; and state delegation dean and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, first elected in 2002.

One incumbent had no opposition Tuesday: GOP Rep. John Rutherford, a former Duval County sheriff, has already won another term in north Florida’s 5th District.

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