By Hastings Wyman –
While control of the US Senate will be up for grabs in November, don’t expect seismic shifts in the nation’s House of Representatives, especially in the South. The 247/R to 188/D Republican majority in the House, bolstered by favorable redistricting, is unlikely under most circumstances to shift to the Democrats, but the number of districts held by the GOP could decline. Alternatively, should November be a banner year for Republicans, there are some seats that could change from D to R.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has targeted 19 GOP-held districts, plus two being vacated by Democrats; six are in the South, four of them in Florida. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) targeted 19 Democrat-held seats, but only two of them are in the South, both in Florida. One district (Florida 18) has been targeted by both parties.
Most of the congressional districts in the South that could flip from one party to the other are in Florida. While politicos in both parties are operating as if the state Supreme Court’s redistricting plan will be in place in November, US Rep. Corrine Brown (D) has challenged the plan in federal court, alleging it violates the Voting Rights Act, so some district boundaries could change. The filing deadline is not until June 24 and the primary not until August 30.
Here are the seven Southern districts that, at this point, look likely to be competitive in November.
Florida 2 (Tallahassee, etc.): The district has many more Republicans since redistricting. Freshman Gwen Graham (D) has said she will seek reelection if the 2014 lines are reinstated, and her centrist voting record could help her, but she has not committed on a reelection bid if the new lines remain in place. She might step down and run for governor in 2018. For the GOP, the top contenders are attorney Mary Thomas and Dr. Neal Dunn, who has been endorsed by the seat’s former occupant, Steve Southerland. Both are part of the NRCC’s “On the Radar” program, which recognizes contenders who have achieved a “minimum threshold” in organization.
Florida 10 (Orlando, etc.): Former Orlando police chief Val Demings (D) is running in a crowded primary, which includes some of the district’s heavy-hitters, but she has the imprimatur of the DCCC. The district has a strong Puerto Rican presence and is now very Democratic. (US Rep. Daniel Webster (R), who currently represents the district, has decided to run in the 11th District where US Rep. Rich Nugent (R) is retiring. Webster will face former Nugent aide Justin Grabelle in the Republican Primary. Nugent is supporting Grabelle. Both candidates live outside the district, but Webster does represent some of the new district’s voters in his current district. The GOP is favored to hold the 11th.)
Florida 13 (St. Petersburg, etc.): The incumbent, US Rep. David Jolly (R), is running for the US Senate, leaving an open seat in this now-Democratic district. Former governor Charlie Crist is the most high-profile candidate for the Democratic nomination, but he is getting a spirited battle from Eric Lynn, a former Obama Administration defense department official. And former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker (D), who would be formidable, might also run. The only Republican who has announced is attorney Paul DeCailly.
Florida 18 (Palm Beach, etc): Incumbent Patrick Murphy (D) is running for the US Senate, giving the GOP a rare opportunity to win a Democratic seat in the South. Republican interest is high: Nine candidates have filed for the GOP primary, at least five of whom have been classified as “On the Radar” by the NRCC. In 2012, Murphy edged out (50.4% to 49.6%) former way-to-the-right US Rep. Alan West (R), but was reelected easily in 2014 (60% to 40%). The DCCC, however, wants to keep the seat in the Democratic column, so they have also targeted the district. Self-made multimillionaire Randall “Randy” Perkins is running for the seat. Perkins is in a contested primary, but has the endorsement of the DCCC.
Florida 26 (Miami-Dade): Former candidate for lieutenant governor Annette Taddeo (D), with backing from the DCCC and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is challenging freshman Carlos Curbelo (who has said he will not support Donald Trump, should the New York billionaire be the Republican nominee). This will be a highly competitive contest.
Texas 23 (San Antonio, etc.): US Rep. Will Hurd (R) was elected by an eye-lash in 2014, 49.8% to 47.1% for incumbent Pete Gallego (D). Hurd and Gallego will face off again this year. Hurd is a former CIA agent and one of
only two African-American Republicans in the US House. Gallego has 22 years in Congress under his belt and is well-known in this district, which is 55% Latino, 41% Anglo and 2% African American. The district is very competitive; Mitt Romney carried it with 51% in 2012.
Virginia 10 (Fairfax County, etc.): Businesswoman (real estate) LuAnn Bennett is challenging incumbent Barbara Comstock (R), who won her seat with 56% to 40% over a serious Democratic opponent in 2014. Since her election, Comstock has continued to hit the hustings throughout the district. Bennett, a social liberal, is likely to try to pin the national GOP’s social conservatism on center-right Comstock. The 10th District, which covers a major swath of the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, is 81% white, but only a minority are “good ol’ boy” Southerners. Federal employees, moving here from all around the country, are the mainstay of the electorate. In 2012, Romney carried the district with 51% to President Obama’s 49%. Of interest, Bennett is the ex-wife of former 8th District US Rep. James Moran (D).