This Tuesday two more states have their primaries, Arizona and Florida, and there are a ton of races to discuss, largely thanks to re-redistricting and 7 retirements triggering a massive shakeup in Florida’s House delegation. Polls close at 7p ET in most of Florida, 8p ET in the Panhandle, and 10p ET in Arizona. We’ll be liveblogging starting at 7 on Tuesday. Click Here for legislative primary previews!
AZ-Sen (R): Incumbent John McCain (R) is seeking a sixth term and facing likely the toughest challenge for his seat of his career. Owing to his high profile and his reputation as a maverick with support across party lines, McCain has never faced a particularly serious challenge for re-election. But he has been long more tolerated than beloved by the AZGOP base, winning his primary in 2010 only by utterly discrediting his opponent. Fear of McCain’s campaign skill kept out all “A” list challengers and left his only primary opposition as State Sen. Kelli Ward (R). Ward, a backbench legislator from the rural northwestern part of the state who has dabbled in conspiracy theories, is no one’s idea of a top-flight challenger to a sitting incumbent; unsurprisingly, recent polls have shown McCain up by a large margin over Ward. However, distrust for McCain within the AZGOP base runs deep enough that if the race is a referendum on McCain, he could still lose, which is why McCain’s team has been hitting Ward with attack ads despite her low profile and fundraising. For now it looks like McCain will once again win renomination, but the possibility of a Ward victory on the backs of conservative opposition to McCain should not be entirely discounted. The primary winner will face Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D), who has won three of four elections for a light-red northern Arizona seat and is considered a strong candidate in her own right. Kirkpatrick will face a tough battle against McCain’s proven crossover support (though she may still have a chance if Hillary makes a serious play for the state). However, if Ward were to win the primary, this race would instantly become a major priority for Dems. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Lean R.
AZ-1 (R): This epically Mathismandered R+3 seat covers a nonsensical collection of areas, from the liberal college town of Flagstaff through the large Hopi and Navajo reservations at the northeast corner of the state, south through blood-red rural east-central Arizona, and finishing up in medium-red exurban southern Pinal County between Phoenix and Tucson. The net effect is to create a light-red district with no obvious population center or cohesion, which played perfectly into the hands of Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s (D) high name recognition in her 2012 comeback bid. With Kirkpatrick running for Senate, the seat is now open. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (R) looks like the front-runner. Babeu has long had a high profile as a hawkish-on-immigration Sheriff, but his first attempt to run for Congress in 2012 was derailed in a series of ugly stories about him allegedly having an illegal-immigrant boyfriend and allegations of abuse at a reform school he ran in Massachusetts in the 90s. As a result, he has drawn significant opposition. Rancher and 2014 candidate Gary Kiehne (R) is looking like Babeu’s most serious rival. Kiehne is able to self-fund, and came within 1% of winning the nomination in 2014. He has attracted a mix of establishment and antiestablishment support this time, receiving endorsements from antiestablishment-friendly Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R) and State House Speaker and former candidate David Gowan (R). However, Kiehne has had some problems with foot-in-mouth disease in his 2014 run. Ex-SoS Ken Bennett (R) is the third candidate who seems to have some chance to win. The closest thing to an establishment candidate in this field, Bennett served a term and a half in statewide office, but his campaign skills seem mediocre as his 2014 gubernatorial bid ended in a weak 4th-place primary showing. Bennett looks likely to finish third, as evidenced by some establishment support flowing to Kiehne to stop Babeu. Finally, 2014 AZ-9 nominee Wendy Rogers (R) has a credible profile as a veteran, but her bid two years ago underwhelmed and her run this time doesn’t seem to be getting much traction. She may draw a few votes, likely from the more establishment side of the ledger at Bennett’s expense, but seems very unlikely to win. The primary winner will face R-turned-I-turned-D ex-State Sen. Tom O’Halleran (D). O’Halleran served as a Republican in the State Senate and almost won his old seat back as an Indie in 2014, but doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong candidate. As a result, he will likely need an assist in the form of a flawed GOP nominee to win – but that seems very possible with the highly flawed Babeu as the primary front-runner and the also-flawed Kiehne as his major opponent. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as a Tossup.
AZ-2 (D): This R+3 district covers most white-majority parts of the Tucson area, including the northern and eastern sides of the city and its eastern suburbs, and also including the southeast corner of the state. Two Democrats are vying to take on first-term incumbent Martha McSally (R). Ex-State Rep. Matt Heinz (D), a physician and mainstream liberal, strangely ran for this seat in the 2012 primary, getting blown out by a large margin by the prior incumbent. However, Heinz’s second run has gone better, receiving significant establishment support and credible, if not outstanding, fundraising. Heinz’s primary opponent, State Rep. Victoria Steele (D), is also a mainstream liberal with some establishment support and credible but not amazing fundraising prowess. Steele received headlines when she revealed her story of overcoming being molested as a child. For a race between two relatively evenly-matched candidates, the race has been surprisingly devoid of personal attacks; for now it looks like Heinz is a very marginal favorite, but Steele could easily win as well. As for the general, McSally has proven a strong campaigner, winning in 2014 in a slight upset, but this light-red seat will definitely be competitive through to November with either Dem. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Lean R.
AZ-4 (R): This R+20 seat is what was left after all of northern AZ’s Dems were soaked up into AZ-1 to make it winnable for Ds in the Mathismander. It stretches from northwestern AZ through the retiree-heavy Prescott area to Phoenix exurbs of northern Pinal County. Three-term incumbent Paul Gosar (R) has been a backbencher with antiestablishment tendencies, a profile that isn’t a terrible fit for his district. He easily won a seriously-contested 2012 primary and seemed to lock the seat down, but Gosar has a semi-credible foe this year. Buckeye (pop. 50K) councilman Ray Strauss (R) has raised little, but for some reason has attracted 6-figure spending from an outside establishment group. Thus, Gosar has felt the need to spent a not-insignificant amount raising his profile. Gosar doesn’t cut the profile of a particularly vulnerable incumbent, but the amount of cash spent on this race suggests there may be a reservoir of discontent with him that isn’t immediately apparent. Though most indicators point to Gosar easily winning renomination and a Strauss victory would be a shocking upset, this race is still notable enough to keep an eye on in the corner of your eye. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.
AZ-5 (R): This open R+17 seat covers the suburban southeast corner of Maricopa County, including eastern Mesa, Gilbert, and some of Chandler. Four Republicans are facing off for the open seat. 2014 gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones (R), a former tech executive, has unsurprisingly been the best-funded candidate. A mainstream conservative, Jones’s gubernatorial primary bid ended in a somewhat weaker-than-expected third two years ago, but her self-funding is more effective in the smaller district and she has outspent the field, which has made her a serious contender in this race. State Senate President Andy Biggs (R) is a staunch fiscal conservative who has received extensive backing from the Club for Growth. Biggs also has the endorsement of retiring Rep. Matt Salmon (R) and several other big names in the movement conservative establishment in Arizona. Outside support from the CFG and his own wealth (Biggs won the Publishers’ Clearing House Sweepstakes in the 90s) have allowed Biggs to nearly match Jones on the air. The two have been trading attacks, which could open the door to their two rivals. Ex-Maricopa County commissioner Don Stapley (R) is striking somewhat moderate notes in his campaign. This would seem a strange tactic in a deep-red seat, but this area has been somewhat friendly to moderates such as ex-Mesa Mayor Scott Smith (R). Between Biggs and Jones attacking each other, the crowded field, and his name recognition from representing essentially the entire seat on the county board, those factors could allow Stapley to slip through with a plurality. Finally, State Rep. Justin Olson (R) is somewhat antiestablishment-leaning and has a base in his large district. Olson has not been as well-funded as his rivals, but is still likely to draw a significant number of votes and could even have a chance to win if the three other candidates nuke each other and split the vote. Polling has shown the race as a three-way tossup between Jones, Biggs, and Stapley, but any of the four have a chance to win. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.
AZ-PSC (R): Three of the five seats on Arizona’s Corporation (public service) Commission are up for four-year terms, all elected statewide. The GOP has a five-way primary; as all of the candidates are little-known and have raised and spent little the race is extremely muddled. Any three of the five could advance and vote-scattering may play a significant role. Incumbent Robert Burns (R) probably gets one spot on account of name rec from previously being on the ballot. Appointed incumbent Andy Tobin (R) is probably a good bet to advance as well; he has been one of the higher-profile members of the PSC from his stint as State House Speaker, unsuccessful 2014 AZ-1 run, and his new push to transfer some of the PSC’s tangential duties (like railroad regulation) to other agencies. That leaves three other candidates who are likely fighting over the last spot: Ex-State Sen. Al Melvin (R), an antiestablishment conservative who ran a brief Gov campaign in 2014, and State Rep. Rick Gray (R) and ex-Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn (R), who are both more establishment-friendly. There is no clear favorite between the three and they could also upset Burns and/or Tobin. Basically I throw up my hands in trying to handicap this primary race. As for the general, Democrats are only running two candidates for the three seats in ex-PSC member William Mundell (D) and ex-State Rep. Tom Chabin (D), who could have a chance if the D ticket is overperforming up-ballot. RRH Elections currently rates the general election contests for two of the three seats as Lean R and the third seat as Safe R.
Maricopa-Sheriff (R): Containing a majority (4M) of the state’s population, Maricopa is America’s 4th-largest county and has a PVI of R+8. The race for Maricopa Sheriff is easily the most-watched Sheriff’s election anywhere, in no small part because of the incumbent. That would be Joe Arpaio (R), a media-savvy six-term incumbent who styles himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and has been well-known and controversial for some unusual policies (most notably housing prisoners in tents and issuing them only pink underwear). Arpaio has also been one of Trump’s earliest and strongest supporters. He is quite controversial not only for his outspokenness and populist message, but also for long-running allegations of unethical behavior and favoritism. In this primary Arpaio’s major challenger is ex-Buckeye police chief and 2004 candidate Dan Saban (R). Saban lost by just 10 points to Arpaio 12 years ago before running as a Dem in 2008 (which he claims was purely as a strategic move to have a better chance of ousting Arpaio) and losing by 13; this year, he is running on a mainstream conservative platform but basically emphasizing that he isn’t Arpaio. However, as Arpaio has a high profile and a dedicated base of fans (particularly among the GOP primary electorate) that looks unlikely to be a winning strategy for Saban. An additional problem for Saban is that two other Some Dudes are running; while neither is serious they will both draw scattered anti-Arpaio votes. The primary winner will face 2012 nominee Paul Penzone (D), a retired cop who gave Arpaio his toughest challenge ever in 2012 and has released internal polling showing him competitive with Arpaio this year. However, if Saban were to upset Arpaio in the primary, the conservative county would likely revert to form and hand him an easy victory over Penzone.
Glendale-Mayor: Glendale is a western Phoenix suburb with a population of about 225K, roughly 60% White and 30% Hispanic. Its PVI is roughly R+7. The northern part of the city is suburban-to-exurban and very conservative, while the southern part of the city is something of a slumburb with a large Hispanic population. Glendale elects its mayor by Louisiana Rules Top Two, meaning that this two-person race will be decided this week. Incumbent Jerry Weiers (R) is seeking his second term. Weiers is a mainstream to slightly antiestablishment conservative, but he has often found himself opposed by a majority of the city council. He is facing a serious challenge from former city fire chief Mark Burdick (R). Burdick is running as something of a moderate and somewhat more Chamber-of-Commerce friendly than Weiers. The divides between the two are mostly very parochial (business incentives, development planning, and the like) but that doesn’t mean the race isn’t fiercely contested. It looks like there is no clear favorite this week.
Finally, there’s two other AZ mayoral races to mention: Mesa-Mayor is the race for the top job in America’s 38th-largest city. With a population of 440K, Mesa is by far America’s largest purely suburban city, and is solidly Republican with a PVI of roughly R+12. However, the mayoral election today isn’t of much interest as incumbent John Giles (R) is totally unopposed. Scottsdale-Mayor is the race to lead the northeast Phoenix suburb with a population of about 230K and a PVI of about R+8. Scottsdale is often thought of as a mini-Austin, western-hipster-chic town, but in reality that describes only a small part of the city (at its southern tip) and most of the population resides in its conservative exurban northern portion. Confusingly unlike Glendale, Scottsdale’s Mayoral race uses California Rules Top Two. As there are only two candidates, that means this round is of no consequence. Incumbent Jim Lane (R) is a mainstream conservative seeking his third full term; he faces opposition from ex-city councilman Bob Littlefield (R), an antiestablishment populist who was controversial in his three terms on the council. Lane has more establishment support and looks likely to be favored in the real election in November.
FL-Sen (R, D): After spending the bulk of the cycle running for President and adamantly denying that he was considering seeking re-election, incumbent Marco Rubio (R) reversed course at the filing deadline and decided to seek a second term. The gaggle of “B” list Republicans seeking the seat largely cleared for Rubio, who remains relatively popular in the state despite losing it in the presidential primary. However, one candidate, builder Carlos Beruff (R), decided to stay in the race. Beruff, a Trumpian populist with some self-funding ability, made a splash when he decided to take on Rubio, using his unapologetic Trump support as the cornerstone of his platform. Beruff also quickly received the implicit endorsement of Gov. Rick Scott (R). However, his campaign has fallen flat since then – his minor self-funding has not been nearly enough to make a dent in Rubio’s profile and popularity in the huge state. As a result, Rubio looks like a prohibitive favorite to win renomination. Democrats have a more hotly-contested primary. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) is the front-runner and the anointed candidate of the Democratic establishment. Murphy won his light-red House seat on the Treasure Coast in 2012 against the polarizing then-Rep. Allen West (R) and skated to an easy 2014 re-election over a weak opponent. Murphy’s main asset is his father’s wealth; his campaign was dealt a blow when a story dropped that he has exaggerated his resume, with good reason. Prior to his election to Congress, his accomplishments consisted largely of using his father’s money in order to pretend to be an accountant and business owner. Against a stronger candidate field, Murphy might have been vulnerable in a primary, but Murphy retains Dem establishment support, in no small part because his main opponent is a bigger basket case than him. Rep. Alan Grayson (D) is a polarizing liberal, to say the least – Grayson’s three non-consecutive terms in the House from the Orlando area have been a near-constant stream of inflammatory remarks designed to endear him to the moonbat liberal base, but which probably make him unelectable with the electorate at large. Additionally, Grayson has been under fire for domestic abuse allegations from his ex-wife and revelations of him owning a large offshore bank account. Between these two uninspiring options, Dems have been looking for alternatives. Attorney Pam Keith (D) is about as much of a non-serious Some Dude as they come, but she received the Miami Herald endorsement and seems likely to draw a non-insignificant number of protest votes. Finally, businessman and vanity presidential candidate Rocky De La Fuente (D) carpetbagged into this race from San Diego (!) at the filing deadline, and might have been a factor had he spent some of the money he flushed on a Presidential bid here, but he has been stingy for this race and looks likely to finish at asterisk level. All in all, the establishment looks like it will carry Murphy to a primary victory in spite of his flaws, and he will enter the general with at least some chance of defeating Rubio if Hillary’s coattails are long enough. However, overall Rubio has to be considered the favorite for a second term. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Lean R.
FL-1 (R): This open R+21 district covers the western panhandle around Pensacola and Ft. Walton Beach. Six candidates seem likely to draw a noticeable number of votes. However, there is a clear front-runner in State Rep. Matt Gaetz (R). Gaetz, son of former State Senate president Don, has lapped the field in fundraising, and the split field seems to be working strongly to his advantage. Gaetz is probably the closest thing to an establishment candidate in this race, though even the establishment in this area is clearly movement conservatives. State Sen. Greg Evers (R) was thought to be Gaetz’s major competition. Evers represents 2/3 of the district and was initially thought to be the strong front-runner because of his large base and name recognition. Evers is somewhat more antiestablishment than Gaetz, and has focused on Second Amendment issues in the legislature. However, his fundraising has been poor, and outside of a stunt to raffle off an AR-15, his campaign hasn’t gotten a whole lot of buzz. 25-year old attorney Rebekah Johansen-Bydlak (R) was thought to be a “Some Dude” level candidate, but her profile as a Paulist and young age has drawn her some national interest and endorsements, which have allowed her to fundraise credibly. She will likely draw a significant number of votes but running as a Paulist will be a tough sell in this extremely military-heavy district. Developer Chris Dosev (R) has been a factor due to his self-funding. Dosev, a veteran, is running a somewhat generic conservative campaign that would probably have gotten lost in the shuffle if it weren’t for his self-funding, which has placed him second to Gaetz in cash. Veteran and Rep. Miller staffer James Zumwalt (R), grandson of admiral and 1976 VA-Sen D nominee Elmo, could be able to tap into Miller’s network, but his fundraising has also been mediocre. While both Dosev and Zumwalt will likely draw a significant number of votes, they both seem like a long shots to actually win. Finally, businessman and 2014 Indie candidate Mark Wichern (R) got a not-insignificant 6.5% of the vote two years ago on an antiestablishment conservative platform; while he isn’t running a particularly serious campaign this time either he may have enough name recognition to draw a few votes. While in a field this unsettled an upset is definitely possible from any of Evers, Johansen-Bydlak, Dosev, or Zumwalt, it seems like Gaetz is clearly in the driver’s seat in this race. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.
FL-2 (R): This open R+17 district stretches from Panama City to rural north-central Florida and includes most white-majority neighborhoods of Tallahassee. Physician Neal Dunn (R) seems to have most establishment backing. He received the endorsement of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R) and has self-funded his way into a spending advantage. However, he has been hit for donating to Democrats and supporting Medicaid expansion. As a result, antiestablishment groups, including the Club for Growth, are backing Gov. Scott admin official Mary Thomas (R), who strikes more antiestablishment notes. Thomas has been well-funded herself and has outside support, and interestingly would be the first South Asian woman ever elected to Congress if she won. A third candidate, Bush 41-era ex-US Attorney Ken Sukhia (R), has a credible profile on paper, but has raised little and doesn’t seem to be able to truly compete with Dunn or Thomas. Sukhia straddles the establishment-antiestablishment line; while he may draw a significant number of votes, he doesn’t seem likely to hurt one of Dunn or Thomas more than the other. There has been no polling of this race, but the amount of money spent and the level of attacks suggest that there is no clear favorite between Dunn and Thomas. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.
FL-4 (R): This open R+19 district covers most white-majority parts of Jacksonville along with suburbs in Nassau and northern St. Johns counties. Duval Sheriff John Rutherford (R) looks like the clear front-runner. As a longtime Sheriff for most of the district’s population, Rutherford has had a high profile and has coalesced most establishment support, and has been considered the front-runner since the day he entered the race. He also received some recent positive press for helping save a motorist from a car wreck on I-95 several weeks ago. Rutherford faces three credible opponents. Businessman Hans Tanzler III (R), son of a 70s-era Jacksonville Mayor of the same name, has self-funded his way into being Rutherford’s best-funded competition, hitting Rutherford from a slightly more antiestablishment angle. State Rep. Lake Ray (R) is an establishment conservative with strong Chamber of Commerce ties (he is the head of a local manufacturers’ group) and a base in his district, but he has been unable to match either Rutherford’s profile or Tanzler’s money. Finally, St. Johns County commissioner Bill McClure* (R) is the only candidate from his part of the district, but St Johns is a small part of the seat and McClure has some liabilities of his own, so he looks likely to finish fourth. The sparse polling of the race suggests that Rutherford is still very much the front-runner, but there is some chance Tanzler or Ray could pull the upset. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.
*(DISCLOSURE: McClure lobbied the legislature in support of my unsuccessful redistricting plan last year).
FL-5 (D): This dramatically redrawn D+12 district stretches from the black-majority parts of Jacksonville to black-majority parts of Tallahassee. However, it is only 45% black overall, as it also takes in some conservative rural territory. This has not been a good year for twelve-term incumbent Corrine Brown (D). After fighting to preserve her gerrymandered Jacksonville to Orlando vote sink, Brown found herself in a district where she has represented very little of the territory (only the Jacksonville portion of the seat is retained from the old FL-5). Brown has also been hit with an indictment that alleges she used a fake “charity” as a personal slush fund in a truly uninspired corruption scheme. As a result, Brown seems more likely than not to lose this race to ex-State Sen. Al Lawson (D), who hails from the Tallahassee area and has mounted two unsuccessful bids for the old FL-2 in 2010 and 2012. Lawson is a mainstream establishment liberal with his own network and geographic base – coupled with Brown’s indictment, that makes him a clear favorite. However, it’s important to remember that indictments don’t always have the same salience with black voters distrustful of the criminal justice system, so there is a slight possibility that high turnout and a huge margin in Brown’s native Jacksonville could give her the upset. Regardless, the Dem primary winner will be totally safe in the general. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe D.
FL-6 (R): This R+5 district is based around Daytona Beach. Two-term incumbent Ron DeSantis (R), who is somewhat antiestablishment-friendly, was running for Senate for most of this cycle, but dropped back down to run for re-election at the filing deadline. DeSantis’s district was made somewhat more Dem-friendly in re-redistricting but is still medium-red. Most of the large field of “B” and “C” listers who had been seeking this race in DeSantis’s absence exited upon the incumbent’s re-entry, but DeSantis still faces two other Republicans. State Rep. and 2012 candidate Fred Costello (R) lost the 2012 primary to DeSantis 39-23 before returning to his State House seat in 2014; in a somewhat confusing decision, he has decided to give up his State House seat again to stay in this race and take on DeSantis. Costello is a generic establishment conservative, but this bid doesn’t seem to be capturing the attention of any outside establishment groups, and he doesn’t seem to have the campaign skills or cash of his own to take on an entrenched incumbent with a large warchest. A third candidate, realtor GG Galloway (R), is also in the race; while Galloway received some buzz while the seat was open, his impact now seems likely to be little more than peeling off some anti-DeSantis votes from Costello. The primary winner will face State Rep. Dwayne Taylor (D), who isn’t running a particularly serious campaign but could be credible enough to catch a wave. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Likely R.
FL-9 (D): This open D+4 district covers the heavily Hispanic Kissimmee-St. Cloud area and some Hispanic-heavy neighborhoods in eastern and southeastern Orlando. It was roughly 55% White and 30% Hispanic as of the 2010 census, but that Hispanic number is exploding as this area is ground zero for Puerto Rican migration to the mainland. Physician-Scientist and lobbyist Dena (Minning) Grayson (D) has had a credible career of her own in the medical field, but she is mostly running here as the (new) wife of outgoing Rep. Alan Grayson (D), promising to carry on her husband’s legacy as a bold progressive. She has been able to tap into her husband’s support base, but like Alan, Dena Grayson is enough of a loose-cannon to be shunned by much of the Dem establishment. The candidate of establishment liberals is State Sen. Darren Soto (D), a mainstream liberal with labor backing and a base in the district’s rapidly growing Puerto Rican community. Soto has drawn some fire from the left for being relatively socially moderate, which could hurt him in a primary where his Hispanic base is liable to be very low-turnout. A third candidate, Rep. Alan Grayson staffer Susannah Randolph (D), was attempting to seize the liberal Grayson mantle before Dena entered the race, but she has since made moves to distance herself from her boss. Randolph has some significant liberal outside support from groups like EMILY’s List and seems to be casting herself as a bold progressive without the Grayson drama. Finally, local D official Valleri Crabtree (D) is running as a moderate; she seems like a distinct long-shot but may draw some votes, likely at Soto’s expense. For now it looks like this race is close to a three-way tossup between Grayson, Soto, and Randolph. The winner will likely face Kissimmee councilwoman Wanda Rentas (R), who is credible on paper but doesn’t seem to be running a serious campaign. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Likely D, but that rating will likely be revised in our next update.
FL-10 (D): This dramatically redrawn open D+9 district is based on the west side of Orlando and includes its inner western suburbs. Its demographics are roughly 45/27/23 W/B/H. 2012 nominee and former Orlando Police chief Val Demings (D) has the support of the DCCC and most of the national Dem establishment. Demings narrowly lost a much more conservative version of this seat four years ago and has most establishment support, but she faces two serious challengers. Ex-FLDP chair Bob Poe (D), a former executive at the Orlando Magic NBA franchise, has been the best-funded candidate thanks to extensive self-funding. Poe has an interesting story of being openly-gay and HIV positive and has some establishment support of his own. While both Demings and Poe are mainstream liberals, Poe is running a hair to the left, which could give him some liberal grassroots support. A third candidate, State Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D), has name recognition and a base in her heavily Democratic black-majority Senate district. Thompson has some endorsements from her fellow legislators, but she has struggled with fundraising and looks likely to come in third. However, she could peel a significant number of black votes away from Demings. For now it looks like this race is something close to a Tossup between Demings and Poe. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe D.
FL-11 (R): This R+12 district covers a broad swath of west-central Florida, stretching from Ocala to Orlando’s western exurbs to Tampa’s northern exurbs. Thanks to re-redistricting, this is a pseudo-open seat. Three-term incumbent Dan Webster (R) saw his old district dismantled; about half went to the new, more Democratic FL-10 and about 20% was merged with the seat of fellow Rep. Rich Nugent (R). Fortuitously for Webster, Nugent retired and Webster was able to relocate to a vacation home he already owned in this seat. However, he still faces what might be a difficult primary from Rep. Nugent staffer Justin Grabelle (R). Grabelle has the nominal support of his boss and some establishment backing, but he also lives outside the district, blunting the carpetbagger charge against Webster. The race has been highly sleepy, with neither side spending a large amount or attracting much outside support. As Webster somewhat straddles the establishment/antiestablishment line (he was a longtime state legislative leader, but also was the insurgent challenger to Paul Ryan for the Speakership) he doesn’t have either particularly strong friends or enemies in either wing. Coupled with Grabelle’s unexceptional campaign, that looks likely to notch Webster a win in his new district. However, there has been no polling of this race and the large amount of the district new to Webster could give Grabelle the upset. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.
FL-13 (R): This D+3 district covers the Pinellas Peninsula around St. Petersburg and went from slightly R-leaning to slightly D-leaning in re-redistricting. Incumbent David Jolly (R) dropped back down to running for his bluer House seat when Rubio re-entered the Senate race. However, his late re-entry means he won’t face a totally cleared primary. 2014 special election candidate Mark Bircher (R), a veteran who took nearly a quarter of the vote in a special primary on an antiestablishment platform, is running again. Bircher received some positive buzz for his first bid, but his attempt to take on Jolly as an incumbent in a D-leaning district has gone nowhere this year. As a result, Jolly is the prohibitive favorite for renomination. However, the general will be a much tougher battle, as Democrats will nominate ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (R->I->D). Though Crist is something of a punchline for his shameless opportunism, he is still well-liked his native St. Petersburg and has the new lean of the district on his side. Additionally, Jolly has alienated national GOP insiders with his aversion to personally fundraising and they have signaled they are willing to punt this seat to be rid of Jolly. As a result Crist looks like a moderate favorite to pick up the seat. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Lean D.
FL-18 (D, R): This open R+4 district, which Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) is vacating to run for Senate, covers the Treasure Coast region and the northern suburbs of Palm Beach. Businessman Randy Perkins (D) is the DCCC’s favored candidate, in no small part because he is able to self-fund to the tune of $3M; the DCCC forced out two more locally established candidates in favor of Perkins due to his cash. However, he still faces a competitive primary. Like many Dem primaries, this race features a divide between the national and local D establishments as a significant part of the local D establishment is backing attorney Jonathan Chane (D). Chane is running to Perkins’s left as a more liberal candidate and has significant local labor and liberal establishment support. The race has become nasty, with Chane hitting Perkins on his past donations to Republicans and Perkins hitting Chane on his work for tobacco companies. It seems like there is no clear favorite. The GOP primary is perhaps the most muddled race of the day, which is really saying something on a day with a ton of competitive contests. This race is a 6-way free-for-all, with each of the candidates having significant strengths and weaknesses and all having some chance to win. Physician Mark Freeman (R) has been the best-funded candidate thanks to extensive self-funding. Freeman is running a generic outsider-type campaign with slight antiestablishment tendencies, but his lack of ties to the district (he carpetbagged here from the Boca Raton area) may be a problem. School board member Rebecca Negron (R), wife of State Sen. Joe (R), has the deepest roots in the local establishment. She has also fundraised well and is running a relatively generic establishment conservative campaign. Veteran Brian Mast (R), a double-amputee, has an inspiring life story of military service and has fundraised well; he is running as a mainstream conservative. Ex-State Rep. and 2014 nominee Carl Domino (R) has high name recognition from his prior effort, but his 2014 campaign was beyond poor (he qualified for a “Turkey of the Year” honorable mention on the basis of his 20-point blowout loss in the light-red district to the empty-suit Rep. Murphy). Attorney and former congressional staffer Rick Kozell (R) has fundraised credibly and has some establishment support; he is running a relatively generic campaign but has not been shy about pointing out his opponents’ liabilities. Finally, pundit Noelle Nikpour (R) has a high profile with the conservative base due to many Fox News appearances, but her fundraising has been poor and she seems like a long-shot in this contest. It is clear that there is no front-runner in the GOP primary, but CW is that Freeman, Negron, and Mast have better chances to win than the other three. It’s really too early to handicap this election without nominees known other than to say that there is no clear favorite. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as a Tossup.
FL-19 (R): This open R+13 district covers the bulk of the Fort Myers and Naples areas. Businessman and former Ambassador to the Vatican Francis Rooney (R), no relation to FL-17 Rep. Tom, looks like the clear front-runner. Rooney has outspent his opponents, aided by self-funding, and has attracted some outside establishment support as well. The only poll of the race, from Rooney’s consultant, gave him a 15-point lead on his nearest competitor. That would be Sanibel councilman and 2012 candidate Chauncey Goss (R), son of ex-Rep. and CIA director Porter (R), who ran a credible campaign for this seat in 2012. Goss has name recognition from his father and a credible resume of his own as a longtime budget staffer in DC, but he has not been able to match Rooney’s fundraising and looks likely to finish second. A third candidate, 2012 MD-Sen nominee and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino (R), is running as the most antiestablishment conservative in the field. However, he has no real ties to or network in this seat, which he moved to just a few months ago, and looks likely to finish a distant third, as evidenced by a recent caught-on-tape outburst at a reporter who questioned his carpetbagging. While an upset from Goss may be possible, for now this looks like clearly Rooney’s race to lose. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.
FL-23 (D): This D+10 district covers most of suburban Broward County south of Fort Lauderdale, as well as Miami Beach. Six-term incumbent and deposed ex-DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D), widely known as DWS, has drawn fire for her rocky (to put it generously) tenure at the DNC. DWS’s resignation was forced this summer after emails were leaked showing what everyone already knew: that the DNC had actively put its thumb on the scale in favor of Hillary against Bernie in the primaries. As a result, DWS has drawn a primary for her House seat from law professor Tim Canova (D). Canova is running as a moonbat and has drawn extensive national interest from BernieBros eager to topple DWS, actually raising enough to outspend the incumbent in the last few weeks. But in spite of his national appeal, Canova faces a dramatically uphill fight in this district. This heavily-Jewish seat is full of suburban establishment liberals and moderates, and has no real progressive base outside of a small contingent in the Miami Beach area. Polls have universally shown DWS leading Canova by a wide margin, and even Canova’s internals haven’t put him closer than a high single-digit deficit. As a result, while Wasserman-Schultz may be done at the DNC (and her role on the national stage may be significantly reduced) she will likely still be returning to Congress next year. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe D.
FL-24 (D): This (barely) majority-black D+34 seat covers the north side of Miami and slumburbs to the north, including Miami Gardens and Miramar. Three-term incumbent Frederica Wilson (D) is a mainstream liberal backbencher known mostly for her fondness for distinctive hats (and no, they don’t say “Make America Great Again”). Wilson won a dramatically split primary with a plurality in 2010 and then prevailed by a large margin in a one-on-one race in 2012. This year she again has a credible opponent in retired NFL player Randal Hill (D). While credible on paper due to his name recognition, Hill’s campaign doesn’t seem to have gotten off the ground this year as there isn’t a huge reservoir of dissatisfaction with Wilson (and the main gripe about her, from the district’s large Hatian-American community that would like to see one of its own in Congress, isn’t one Hill could take advantage of). Thus, Wilson looks like a strong favorite for renomination. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe D.
FL-26 (D): This D+4 district covers the southern portion of the Miami area around Homestead as well as the Keys. It is 68% Hispanic, but Hispanic here does not denote “Cuban” as there are significant Colombian and Puerto Rican populations; I’d guess the district is about half Cuban. Two Democrats are seeking to take on first-term incumbent Carlos Curbelo (R). This seat may be a rematch of the 2014 general; ex-Rep. Joe Garcia (D) won this seat on his third try in 2012 before losing to Curbelo in 2014. Garcia beat an ethically-challenged Republican in 2012, but he has had his own ethical issues in Congress, including his Chief of Staff being indicted in a campaign-finance scandal. Garcia has also been considered a weak candidate, as he has gone 1-for-4 in runs for this seat. As a result, national Democrats have bypassed Garcia in favor of 2014 LG nominee Annette Taddeo-Goldstein (D), who also ran against Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) in 2008. Taddeo-Goldstein has outraised Garcia, and has more establishment support, but she doesn’t have Garcia’s name recognition from his congressional term and hard-fought 2014 race. Thus, there is no clear favorite in the primary. This general election is sure to be competitive; Curbelo is a strong candidate who has machine backing and has aggressively distanced himself from Trump, who is beyond toxic here, but this seat is more D-leaning than the one Curbelo won two years ago. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as a Tossup.
Miami-Dade CE: Dade County, which is essentially coextensive with the Miami metro area, is America’s 7th-most populous county with a population of 2.7M. It has demographics of roughly 65% Hispanic (most of those being Cuban, but with significant Colombian and Puerto Rican populations in the southern suburbs) and 15% each White (mostly upscale liberals, with Jews comprising a large chunk of this bloc) and Black (with a large chunk of these being of Hatian descent). Dade has a PVI of D+10, but thanks to the effective Cuban GOP machine that dominates local politics in most of the county, both serious candidates are Republicans. The race is Louisiana-Rules Top Two, so except in the unlikely event that a handful of non-serious candidates cause both major players to be held below 50, this race will wrap up this week. The race is an internecine fight within the Cuban machine; the differences are mostly over parochial issues. Incumbent Carlos Gimenez (R) is a main-line Cuban machine Republican who has been moderately popular in office since winning a 2011 recall election. However, he has drawn a serious challenge over parochial issues (particularly a proposed transit system expansion) from school board member Raquel Regalado (R), daughter of Miami (city) Mayor Tomas (R). The issues at play here are purely parochial; Regalado is also a typical Cuban machine Republican, and both candidates have support bases across party lines (Regalado has labor support, while Gimenez has the support of most D elected officials). Regalado has her own base from her father’s network, but her campaign hasn’t really given a strong reason to fire the relatively popular Gimenez. As a result, Gimenez looks like a moderate favorite for a second full term.
One more congressional general election is worth mentioning. FL-7 is an R+2 seat covering central and northern Orlando and its northern suburbs in Seminole County. Twelve-term incumbent John Mica (R) has locked this district down, but Democrats seem somewhat enthusiastic about the last-minute entry to candidacy of professor Stephanie Murphy (D). It’s still too early to say how serious Murphy is, but this is a seat that could flip in a Trumpocalypse wave. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.
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