TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida voters will send at least eight new members to the U.S. House in Tuesday’s election — a number that could rise if incumbents lose in a handful of competitive races.
When candidates are sworn into office in January, it’s likely that a third of Florida’s 27-member delegation will be freshmen.
The reason? Four members are retiring, two sought other office, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham is considering running for governor and Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown lost her primary.
A court-ordered redrawing of congressional maps is contributing to the change. It’s part of the reason Brown lost her seat, and it puts Republican Rep. David Jolly at risk of losing to former Gov. Charlie Crist in a district that’s become more Democratic. Republican U.S. Reps. John Mica and Carlos Curbelo are also facing tough challenges.
Here’s a district-by-district look:
Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller is retiring after 16 years in office. Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz is virtually guaranteed to replace him in this heavily Republican western Panhandle District. Gaetz is facing Democrat Steven Specht.
Graham decided not to seek a second term after congressional districts were redrawn. More Republicans were placed in her district, which made it difficult for her to win. Instead, she is considering a run for governor in 2018. Republican Neal Dunn, a Panama City urologist, is the favorite to win this seat which includes parts of Tallahassee. He faces Democrat Walter Dartland.
Republican U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw is retiring after 16 years in Congress. Former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford is the favorite to win this seat in a heavily Republican northeast Florida district. He faces Democrat David Bruderly.
Former Democratic state Sen. Al Lawson is the favorite to win this seat in a heavily Democratic district after beating Brown in the primary. The district was redrawn to include parts of Lawson’s home of Tallahassee. That, combined with the fact that Brown is facing federal fraud charges, helped unseat the incumbent after 24 years in office. Lawson faces Republican Glo Smith in this district that also includes parts of Jacksonville.
Mica hasn’t had a strong Democratic opponent since being elected in 1992. But redrawn congressional maps have made his central Florida district more competitive, and Democrats have been pumping money into the race to back Stephanie Murphy. Murphy was an infant when her family fled Vietnam. She’s a businesswoman who previously worked on national security issues as Pentagon civilian employee.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson left the seat to run for U.S. Senate, but lost in the August primary. Democratic Sen. Darren Soto is the favorite to win the seat in this central Florida district that leans Democratic. He faces Republican Wayne Liebnitzky.
Republican U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster decided to abandon this central Florida district and is now running for the District 11 seat left open by Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent’s retirement. Webster made his decision after the newly redrawn district became more Democratic and harder for a Republican to win. That leaves Democrat and former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings as the favorite over Republican Thuy Lowe.
Jolly is considered the most vulnerable incumbent on the ballot after his district was redrawn to include more Democrats and minorities. Crist is a hometown favorite in the St. Petersburg-area district. He’s maintained his popularity there despite switching from Republican to independent to Democrat over the past six years. Crist is hoping for a political comeback after losing a 2010 U.S. Senate race as an independent and the 2014 governor’s race as a Democrat.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy gave up the seat to challenge Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. Either Republican Brian Mast or Democrat Randy Perkins will replace him in the district that represents parts of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. Mast is former Army bomb technician who lost both legs and a finger after an explosion in Afghanistan six years ago. Perkins is a self-made millionaire who grew a landscaping business into a company that’s hired to do cleanup work after major disasters.
Republican U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson is leaving office after only one full term in a firmly Republican southwest Florida district. Former Ambassador Francis Rooney will likely win the race over Democrat Robert Neeld, who has never received more than 35.6 percent of the vote during three previous runs for Congress.
Curbelo is facing a tough re-election challenge after his Miami-area district became more Democratic when new lines were drawn. He is facing former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, who lost his seat to Curbelo two years ago after serving only one term.