In this, my final edition of the Great Danation Congressional Report, we’ll take a look at Florida’s U.S. House races. For those of you who may have missed it, I’ve also given a rundown of every state House race and state Senate race. But these are the big ones, the folks that represent us up in Washington, for better or worse. Coming this Friday, I’ll compare my rundowns with the current lineups to measure the efficacy of the Fair District amendments and predict whether our representatives will be able to get anything done in Tallahassee/Washington that isn’t mean, dumb, or mean-dumb.
District 1: The West Panhandle. Santa Rosa, Escambia, Okaloosa, and Walton counties, along with northwestern Holmes County
Outlook: The Panhandle, also known as Little Alabama, is not Democratic territory, and Miller is an incumbent.
District 2: The East Panhandle. Southeastern Holmes County and West Madison County, along with Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, Liberty, Gadsden, Wakulla, Leon, Jefferson, and Taylor counties.
Outlook: Again, it’s the panhandle. But in this case, the panhandle includes low-population rural areas and relatively Democratic Tallahassee. That allowed Democratic state Sen. Bill Montford to get elected in this area in 2010, and it should give incumbent Republican Rep. Southerland a bit of agita. Currently a state Rep., Bembry has raised the most money of any of the Democrats – about a quarter million – and is also the smart choice to go against Southerland. He’s the kind of Democrat that actually wins in North Florida – a hunting, fishing bubba of a man with a cheap haircut and a plain-spoken tone. If he can’t win, no Democrat can.
Pick: No Democrat can. I’m going Southerland, but in a squeaker.
District 3: Where the panhandle meets the peninsula. East Madison County, almost all of Clay County but for a little eastern portion (see the disgustingly gerrymandered district 5), almost all of Alachua County but for a bit around Gainesville (again, that’s thrown in district 5, a patently obvious attempt to group liberal bastions in North Florida in one district), West Marion County, and Hamilton, Suwanee, Lafayette, Dixie, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy, Union and Bradford counties.
Outlook: Stearns is an incumbent U.S. Rep. whose 6th district included much of the 3rd. Oelrich is a state Sen. who was term-limited out of office and is now going for the promotion running a campaign to the right of Stearns, whose old district was slightly bluer than this one. As such, Stearns can be seen as “moderate” to the crazies who inhabit the far-right of the Republican Party these days. This has left him open to a campaign like Oelrich’s, and the state senator isn’t the only one. Veterinarian Ted Yoho is also running to Stearns’ right and so is Clay County Clerk of Courts Jett, who has, among his stated positions, the idea that the indigent should have to pay for food stamps, which sort of negates the whole point of food stamps. But never mind that.
Pick: Stearns. If only one of the three right-wing candidates were running, he might have a chance, but not with them all in the race. In fact, I’ll even predict what place they finish: Stearns, Oelrich, Yoho, Jett. My editor tells me I win a free beer if I hit the superfecta.
District 4: Baker and Nassau counties as well as all of Duval except downtown Jacksonville, which is in the execrable District 5
Outlook: Crenshaw is an incumbent, Pueschel is (somewhat hilariously, given how conservative Crenshaw is) running to his right, and Black, who seems to think governance is some sort of communist plot, is running to the right of even her.
District 5: A slug of a district, slithering from Jacksonville southwest to engulf Gainesville, and then southeast to take up the minority areas northwest of Orlando
Outlook: If you’ve been reading so far, you may have guessed I do not like the 5th district. And that’s true. How the hell this district managed to get past the courts given the Fair District amendments I will never know. It essentially takes everyplace that has even a remotely large Democratic voting population in all of northeastern Florida and mashes them all into one snake of a district, a textbook case of gerrymandering. This way, the rest of the area can be divided among the Republicans in mostly red districts that still have some Democratic populations. Democrats, in turn, have this one, overwhelmingly Democratic district. It stinks to high heaven.
Pick: Brown, obviously
District 6: St. Johns and Flagler counties, East Putnam County, and almost all of Volusia County, but for a small southern portion
Outlook: Wow, that’s a lotta names! This is what happens when there’s no incumbent U.S. Rep. in a race – politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. You can dismiss the Democrats out of hand – this is definitely a Republican district – and most of the Republicans are also-rans. Really, it comes down to either Jacksonville City Councilman Clark or Navy vet and Harvard Law grad DeSantis. And not only does DeSantis have more money raised than anyone else, he’s also got a compelling story, which is a must-have in a crowded election. He’s also been endorsed by a powerful array of right-wing cranks, from John “The Walrus” Bolton to Phyllis “Screaming Eagle” Schlafly. He also has the endorsements of Florida heavy-hitters like state CFO Jeff Atwater and Ag. Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Pick: DeSantis. And look for him in a Senate or gubernatorial race someday.
District 7: South Volusia County, almost all of Seminole County, and a tiny sliver of North Orange County
Outlook: Adams is a freshman U.S. Rep. who unseated Democratic Rep. Suzanne Kosmas in the Tea Party wave of 2010. Mica has served in Congress for 20 years and is practically as much a household name in Florida as oranges. Redistricting has thrown them against each other in the newly drawn 7th. Whichever of them wins will almost certainly beat out the Democrat in the general. Adams has raised almost a million dollars for this race, but Mica’s raised a million and a half, and his name-recognition is just overwhelming. It’s really odd neither of them elected to run in the 6th, because there was room for both to get into office.
Pick: Mica. This ain’t 2010, and Mica ain’t Kosmas.
District 8: Brevard and Indian River counties and East Orange County
Outlook: Posey, no question. He’s an incumbent who’s raised more than $800,000 to Roberts’ pocket change.
District 9: Northeastern Polk County, South Central Orange County, and all of Osceola County
Outlook: I like either Melendez or Quinones for the Republican nominee, but that’s really just academic. Grayson’s raised more than $2 million, an absurd amount for a nonincumbent (though, admittedly, one who was in Congress previously). Welcome back to D.C., Grayson, ya crazy bastard. I’m sure they kept your seat warm the last couple years.
District 10: Southwestern Orange County, most of Lake County, and North Polk County
Outlook: This is one of the most interesting races you’ll find on this list. Webster is a freshman Congressman, having just knocked off Alan Grayson (see District 9) in 2010. That made him a hero to conservatives and universally loathed among liberals. This has meant that, even as Grayson has attracted millions in the new District 9, former Orlando Chief of Police Val Demings has pulled in a million herself here in 10. This is one of the very few races in Florida in which the challenger has pulled in more cash than her opponent. And you can tell it’s the liberal base sending all that money when you see where it comes from. Sure, most of it’s in-state, but there’s $50 from Oceanside, Calif., here, $100 from Ithaca, N.Y., there. That’s the sort of thing you usually only see in congressional races if the candidate is a media star – your Graysons, your Allen Wests, your Debbie Wasserman Schultzes. Whether Demings can translate all that money into a win is another matter entirely. The voters of the 10th went for John McCain over Barack Obama by less than 10 points in 2008, and Rick Scott over Alex Sink by a similar margin.
Pick: Tossup, but if I gotta go, I go Webster. The numbers are just against Demings. Her organization and get-out-the-vote effort will have to be flawless.
District 11: Citrus, Hernando, and Sumter counties, as well as East Marion County and two tiny patches of northwestern Lake County
Outlook: Nugent is a freshman congressman who took over for retiring Ginny Brown-Waite in 2010. Almost his entire 5th district is inside the new 11th, and it’s very Republican territory. Werder is famous for sitting on a pole for 439 days in the 1980s.
District 12: Pasco County, North Pinellas County, and northwestern Hillsborough County
Outlook: A lot of this is fairly new territory for incumbent Bilirakis. His current district includes only the coastline of Pasco County. But that coastline includes the county’s most populous city, New Port Richey. Snow’s barely competition for the incumbent. Shouldn’t be close.
District 13: Most of Pinellas County
Outlook: The Republican primary is an easy one to pick out – Young is the longest-serving Republican in Congress. Unfortunately, serving in Congress since 1971 has made him a bit out of touch. Case in point – he recently came off looking like a complete douche bag. I mean, just a total, utter asshat. Seriously, click that link. It’s less than 30 seconds. I’ll wait …
See? Wow. Just, wow. And he’s got some pretty good competition in Ehrlich, who’s raised more than $174,000. (Peanuts compared to Young, who’s raised more than half a million dollars, but it’s enough to run a solid campaign on.) She’s also got a compelling story – the daughter and granddaughter of holocaust survivors, Ehrlich got her law degree and worked for congressmen from both parties before coming back home to care for her dying father. With people begging for bipartisanship and anxious to throw the bums out, Ehrlich has a perfect story. Plus, this is a swing district, and it’s trending bluer.
Pick: Ehrlich for the upset
District 14: West Hillsborough County and southeastern Pinellas County
Outlook: This is an easy Democratic district, including the big population centers of West Central Florida, Tampa and St. Petersburg. No worries for Castor, who will probably face Otero in the general.
District 15: Northeastern Hillsborough County and northwestern Polk County
Candidates: Republican Dennis Ross
Outlook: Ross is running unopposed, the only U.S. House race in Florida in which that’s happening. Understandable, though – this is incredibly Republican territory.
District 16: Sarasota County and West Manatee County
Outlook: Buchanan has such a reputation as an utterly corrupt “public servant,” it’s hard to believe he’s even taken seriously still. But this area did elect Katherine Harris to Congress, so anything’s possible. Still, Democrats have been competing here even before redistricting, when it was a solidly Republican district. Now, the 16th is not Buchanan’s old 13th. It offers none of the rural areas of Hardee and Desoto counties. This is, finally, Buchanan’s Waterloo. Former state Rep. Fitzgerald has raised almost a million dollars, even outraising Buchanan last quarter.
District 17: Southeastern Hillsborough County, South Polk County, East Manatee County, northeastern Lee County, and all of Charlotte, Desoto, Hardee, Highlands, Glades, and Okeechobee counties
Outlook: A hugely Republican district. Incumbent Rooney should have no problem.
District 18: St. Lucie and Martin counties and northwestern Palm Beach County
Outlook: After Rep. West punked out and fled northward rather than try to run for re-election in his home territory and Patrick Murphy followed him up there, it was easy to see how the primaries would go. Murphy has raised an unbelievable $2,276,000 … which he’ll need, because West has raised just under $10 million. You read that right — $10 million for a congressional campaign. And that’s not just because he’s in the pocket of wealthy donors. No, a great deal of that money comes from small donations from around the country. When West guestimates that there’s about 80 commies among the Democrats in Congress, a certain segment of the population doesn’t see a batshit-crazy, blithering idiot so much as a spokesman. Good luck, citizens of St. Lucie and Martin. It’s gonna be a long few years for you.
District 19: Most of Lee County and the coastline of Collier County, from Cape Coral and Fort Myers to Naples and Marco Island
Outlook: State Rep. Aubuchon, Chauncey “son of ex-CIA Director Porter” Goss, and conservative commentator Radel have all raised around $400,000, give or take a few ten grand. It’s anybody’s game.
Pick: Tossup. For once, I’m not even guessing, except to say that this race will be very close, with no one coming out of the primary with a majority vote. But no matter who wins, this is a GOP seat come November.
District 20: East Hendry County, almost all of Palm Beach County (including a clearly gerrymandered strip in the middle of the 22nd district that pulls Democratic voters into the 20th), and a large swath of North Broward County, including everything from Belle Glade and Clewiston to parts of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach
Candidates: Democrat Alcee Hastings
Outlook: Other than indie candidate Randall Terry, Hastings is running unopposed.
District 21: East Palm Beach and Broward counties, west of the coastline, from Wellington to Coral Springs
Candidates: Democrat Ted Deutch
Outlook: Aside from indies Cesar Henao and Mike Trout, Deutch is running unopposed.
District 22: The coastline of Central and South Palm Beach County and Central and North Broward County, from Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale
Outlook: Along with the 26th, this is the only truly serious race in the South Florida House races. Former West Palm Beach mayor and state House Minority Leader Frankel and Broward County Commissioner Jacobs are in a pretty tight race for the primary, but Jacobs’ winning would nevertheless be a huge upset. Either way, the winner will face former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner in the general. Given that, it’s probably a good thing that Frankel will probably pull off the primary win – better to have the Palm Beach County pol against Hasner than the Broward one, all the better to cut into Hasner’s voters up there in PBC.
Pick: Frankel in a squeaker
District 23: A wedge-shaped district that goes from Weston to the coastline of Dania Beach and Hollywood, and then south through Miami Beach.
Outlook: Wasserman Schultz is whip smart and has the ability to come off as a warm Jewish mom to voters one minute only to appear on cable TV and fillet the conservative punching bag du jour the next. As such, she is an absolutely hated figure on the right, and despite the hugely Democratic leanings of this district, people have lined up to run against her. That means a contentious primary as five candidates battle it out for the honor of being throttled by The Wass come November. The most-serious contenders are deFaria, Kaufman, and Harrington – domestic violence allegations, anti-Muslim paranoid, and got creamed by Wasserman Schultz in 2010, respectively. So while the primary’s a serious race, November not so much.
Pick: Wasserman Schultz
District 24: The bit that fits into the “L” created by the 23rd district – Miami Gardens, North Miami, and parts of Miami.
Outlook: Moise was among several candidates who lost out in an open-seat race to Wilson in 2010. But Dr. Col. Rudy Moise, Esq., (seriously – the man’s a medical doctor, an attorney and a colonel in the Air Force Reserve) is not the sort of man who takes losing easily. He’s back again in 2012. It was a crowded field last time, and Wilson won with about a third of the vote, with Moise getting about half of that. But this time, he’s taking on a sitting congresswoman, and a popular one at that. He’ll probably finish even further behind Wilson than he did the last time.
District 25: West Hendry County, all of Collier County except the coastline, southwestern Broward County, and (easily the most-populous portion of the district) northwestern Miami-Dade County, including parts of Miami Lakes and Hialeah
Candidates: Republican Mario Diaz-Balart
Outlook: Aside from indie candidates Sydney Blumenthal and Voteforeddie.com (yes, he changed his name to a web address), Diaz-Balart is running unopposed.
District 26: Monroe County and southwestern Miami-Dade County
Outlook: Regular thorn in Rivera’s side Joe Garcia will likely win the Democratic primary and try to beat Rivera again. It was a damned close election last time, and with more people aware of Rivera’s disgusting previous campaign tactics, alleged corruption, and assorted other skeletons, this race
should be even closer. Plus, the new 26th district removes all of Rivera’s old territory in Collier County and adds the Keys, tilting the balance further in favor of the Democrats.
Pick: Garcia for the upset
District 27: Southeastern Miami-Dade County – most of the City of Miami, South Miami, Coral Gables, Palmetto Bay, and Cutler Bay
Outlook: Not even close. Ros-Lehtinen all the way.