Sabatos Crystal Ball

Florida Races

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Florida (08)

Outlook: Likely Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Ric Keller (R) will win reelection over Charlie Stuart (D). Sure, Stuart received endorsements from several GOP officials and the Orlando-based district’s demographics are shifting in the Democrats’ favor, but Keller has won convincingly since his open seat victory six years ago, and does not look particularly vulnerable to a wave this year.


Candidates

Ric Keller (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,685,817.23 | Total Spent: $1,010,869.22
Website

Charlie Stuart – Democrat – Total Raised: $869,976.90 | Total Spent: $678,173.17
Website

Florida (09) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Gus Bilirakis (R) will defeat Phyllis Busansky (D). Busansky turned out to be one of the Democrats’ better open seat fundraisers of 2006, but this race never really materialized as a takeover opportunity akin to the one we now see in the 13th District to the South. Thanks to solid name recognition and a solid GOP bent, this seat looks likely to stay in the Bilirakis family.

September 7, 2006 Update:

Septmebr 7, 2006 Update:

As expected, incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Bilirakis‘s son, State Representative Gus Bilirakis, proved he was his party’s favorite son in the September 5th Florida primary, winning a convincing 82 percent of the vote against a lone opponent. For the younger Bilirakis, that was the easy part.

Now, the new GOP nominee faces a stiffer than expected challenge from an EMILY’s List-backed Democrat, Hillsborough County Commissioner Phyllis Busansky, to capture the seat his father has held for five terms. Busansky starts out the general election campaign with more money in the bank than plenty of other Democratic candidates running for open seats, but Bilirakis has name identification and the district’s political profile on his side.

So in all likelihood come November 7th: meet the new Bilirakis, same as the old Bilirakis.


Candidates

Phyllis Busansky – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,133,293.06 | Total Spent: $1,125,884.80
Website

Gus Bilirakis – Republican – Total Raised: $2,495,558.62 | Total Spent: $1,563,027.04
Website

Florida (13) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Christine Jennings (D) will defeat Vern Buchanan (R). Attacks on Buchanan’s business dealings have likely taken too great a toll on the self-funding Republican, as most surveys show Jennings with a clear lead heading into the homestretch. Jennings has run a solid campaign, while Buchanan never seemed to recover from the tough GOP primary.

September 8, 2006 Update:

It’s hard to tell which party’s primary spilled the most bad blood in this Sarasota/Bradenton-area district, but it’s over, and the head-to-head race is on to succeed two-term GOP Rep. Katherine Harris, whom Republicans somehow selected as their Senate nominee despite her many well-publicized faux-pas.

On the Republican side, heavily self-funding car dealer Vern Buchanan captured just under a third of all votes, but at an astounding burn rate of nearly $200 per vote(!), his spending spree was just enough to squeeze out four competitors to win the necessary plurality. The best line of the primary fight undoubtedly came from surprise runner-up State Rep. Nancy Detert, who remarked in exasperation, “Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to pay us each to get out of the race?”

With the primary behind him, Buchanan now faces heads-up competition against Democratic banker Christine Jennings, who advanced to the general election by defeating 2002 and 2004 party nominee Jan Schneider. With a large financial advantage and the endorsement of national Democrats, Jennings posted a solid 62 to 38 percent win. Democrats here finally got smart: they realized that an under-funded candidate with the dubious distinction of being a two-time loser to Katherine Harris probably didn’t represent their best chance at winning this open seat.

Still, the primary participation numbers here tell us something about what we might expect in November. Republicans showed up to vote in the primary in much larger numbers than Democrats: 64,630 to 38,401 to be exact. Jennings and her party must improve their base’s participation vastly in this GOP-leaning district if she is to have any chance of making this race close in November.

August 2, 2006 Update:

When one prominent blog labeled Sarasota as the nation’s craziest district, the Crystal Ball couldn’t help but agree. Incumbent Katherine Harris’s Senate bid has been the laughingstock of the campaign world for ages, but now GOP contender Tramm Hudson’s statements casting doubt on the swimming abilities of African-Americans has only confirmed the district’s reputation. We bet car dealer Vern Buchanan will win the Republican nod, but with a late Florida primary, we cannot rule out Democrat Christine Jennings, who has been eagerly waiting in the wings.

July 13, 2006 Update:

This Sarasota-area district retains a strong Republican bent and a wide range of well-funded GOP contenders to fill the open seat, and Democratic hopes of keeping the fall contest competitive continue to be pinned on a bloody battle for the opposing nod, which now features a late entrant: Manatee County GOP Chair Mike Flanagan, who recently released a poll showing him atop the field. If the eventual primary winner sustains serious damage in the nomination prizefight, look for the DCCC to make a major play here on behalf of Democratic banker Christine Jennings.

Our question for November: will outgoing GOP Rep. Katherine Harris’s campaign become such a debacle that her candidacy begins to weigh down her party’s chances of holding this seat? That’s the nightmare scenario for Rep
ublicans here, though we still peg Jennings a considerable underdog. Look for either Flanagan, Hudson, or Buchanan to emerge from the GOP pack on September 12th.


February 2006 Outlook:

Controversial GOP Rep. Katherine Harris‘s decision to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this year has created a crowded race to succeed her in this fast-growing, Sarasota-based district. Although the seat’s constituents cast 56 percent of their votes for Bush in 2004, Harris failed to break past 55 percent of the vote in both of her campaigns.

Top Republican hopefuls include auto dealer Vern Buchanan, county GOP Chair Tramm Hudson, and State Rep. Nancy Detert. Buchanan’s ability to self-fund a campaign may prove an attractive asset for GOP primary voters, but the nomination is genuinely up for grabs. Democrats will host a replay of their 2004 primary, but this time will likely nominate local banker Christine Jennings, who backers say would present a stronger general election candidacy in 2006 than rival Jan Schneider did against Harris in each of 2002 and 2004. If the crowded GOP primary advances a weakened, cash-strapped candidate to the general election this year, Democrats could have a reasonable shot at making this “swing” district truly competitive. For now, Republicans maintain the edge.

Candidates

Christine Jennings – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,044,953.65 | Total Spent: $1,878,056.65
Website

Vern Buchanan – Republican – Total Raised: $5,004,365.90 | Total Spent: $5,926,097.74
Website

Florida (16)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Tim Mahoney (D) will defeat Joe Negron (R). A recent trip to Florida convinced us: if either one of the “post-scandal special ballot circumstances” districts (this one and Tom DeLay’s TX-22) sees a surprise GOP upset, the Crystal Ball bets Negron will prevail. Still, even though we give Negron’s campaign the award for best slogan of the 2006 campaign–“Punch Foley for Joe”–we’ll bet the stigma of Foley’s name on the ballot will leave Negron just short of an upset victory in 2006. If that happens, we’ll be looking forward to the Mahoney-Negron rematch in 2008.

October 3, 2006 Update:

A unique and unprecedented situation has arisen following the resignation of Congressman Mark Foley from Florida’s 16th District seat. Recently, ABC news reported vile and lewd conversations Foley had participated in over the internet with a teenaged boy serving as a House page. The Republican Party has found a replacement in Joe Negron, a state Representative who now faces a quick-fire five week campaign against Democrat Tim Mahoney. Foley’s name will remain on the ballot, which has raised the issue of voter confusion. GOp leaders maintain their confidence in the minimal effects of the scandal on the outcome of this specific election as well as on the reputation of the Republican Party in general. Surveys, however, do not entirely support this notion–a recent poll by Constituent Dynamics, released October 1, informed respondents that a vote for Foley’s name is in actuality a vote for Rep. Negron; Foley/Negron received 46 percent of the support and Moheney notched 49 percent. This slight discrepancy is contrasted with a September 19 poll, showing Foley with an 18 point advantage over Mahoney.

Clare Seekins, Crystal Ball Northeast Regional Correspondent


Candidates

Mark Foley (I) – Republican – Second Quarter Raised: $627,754.92 | Cash on Hand: $2,913,304.24
Website

Tim Mahoney – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,115,147.46 | Total Spent: $1,400,297.98
Website

Florida (22)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Ron Klein (D) will unseat Rep. Clay Shaw (R). This race will go down as one of the most expensive of 2006, and both men have run impressive and vigorous campaigns. We’ll bet Klein prevails in this Democratic year and sends Shaw into retirement two years early.

October 3, 2006 Update:

Many elderly, devoted Republican voters are changing their votes this upcoming election, citing the Medicare Perscription Benefit. The issue that once caused quite an uproar, was quieted by the participation of many senior citizens. But now millions of other older Americans are confronting an interruption in their drug coverage that will require them to pay the full cost of their prescriptions–or go without. Many are reaching their annual spending budgets, called the “doughnut hole” fairly early into the year, resulting in thousands of dollars of out of pocket costs, or dealing with severe health risks or symptoms. This backlash is likely to hurt Shaw and provide a boost for Klein.

Clare Seekins, Crystal Ball Northeast Regional Correspondent

August 10, 2006 Update:

As Democrats have continued to gain strength nationally, so has Democratic State Sen. Ron Klein, who is poised to give GOP Rep. Clay Shaw his closest race since 2000. Klein is a well-financed and skillful Democrat in a Kerry-carried district, and though Shaw is no slouch, it’s now anyone’s guess as to who will prevail on Election Day.

June 29, 2006 Update:

It is only June, but we can already be sure that this will be the most costly House race in the nation. Both candidates, Democratic State Sen. Ron Klein and longtime incumbent GOP Rep. Clay Shaw, are on a fundraising tear, and Klein’s total is tops among all House challengers. Shaw has been able to count on crossover support in the past in this South Florida district, but Klein’s tenacity is edging this race ever closer to the toss-up column.


February 2006 Outlook:

Democrats are hoping that 13 is GOP Rep. Clay Shaw‘s unlucky number: after 13 terms representing a marginal South Florida district, Shaw has another very competitive race on his hands in 2006, this time against Democratic State Sen. Leader Ron Klein. If Democrats want to take control of the House, we consider this a must-win.

While Shaw has not faced a very strong ch
allenge since winning reelection by less than 1,000 votes against State Sen. Elaine Bloom in 2000, Klein has proven to be one of the Democrats’ best recruits of the cycle. A good friend of next-door neighbor Rep. Robert Wexler (D), Klein is a strong fundraiser (one of the few non-incumbents with over $1 million in the bank as of the last reporting period) and plans to take Shaw to task for Shaw’s approach to Social Security reform here in one of the most senior-heavy districts in the country. Although 2002 redistricting carved Shaw more favorable turf, Kerry still held a 51 to 49 percent edge here in 2004, and Klein already represents a good chunk of the 22nd’s residents in the state’s upper chamber. For his part, Shaw won a convincing 63 percent of the vote last time around, and even though lung surgery has made his health somewhat of an issue in the news recently, the veteran insists he’s up for a tough campaign and remains the slight favorite to win a 14th term, rumored to be his last.

Candidates

Clay Shaw (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,979,182.74 | Total Spent: $3,514,308.67
Website

Ron Klein – Democrat – Total Raised: $3,552,321.98 | Total Spent: $3,562,318.52
Website