How We Can Turn Florida Blue in 2018 - State House Addition

Written By: Tyler Yeargain
@Yeargain ‏

Fun fact: If we won every district won by Crist, Hillary, or Obama, we’d have a 66-54 majority in the State House. Part of that is due to Crist’s overperformance in Tampa Bay, but certainly not all of it.

I can imagine a scenario in which we win a bare-bones 61-59 majority. It’s not overwhelmingly likely, but if it were to happen, here's what it would look like.

As an initial matter, we hold all of our current seats, including the two Democrats in Trump seats - Good (72) and Lee (84) - and we win the May special election to keep 114. That puts us as 42 seats, meaning we’d need 19 gains.

So where do those gains come from?

  • 4 SEATS were won by Crist, Hillary, and Obama: 47 (open), 63 (Harrison), 103 (open), and 120 (Raschein). Let’s say we win all 4 of these 4 seats. Raschein is the least likely of the four to lose, given that she’s a talented politician with a moderate profile in a district that trended against us in 2016...but those things may not be enough to save her in a wave. GAIN 47, 63, 103 and 120, putting us at 46 seats.

  • 4 SEATS were won by Hillary: 21 (Clemons), 44 (Olszewski), 111 (Avila), 116 (Perez). Let's say we win 2 of those 4 seats, specifically HD-21 and HD-44. Alachua County, where HD-21 is located, is where we might expect a wave to be felt in Florida, and this district trended toward us from 2012-2016. Same is true of Orange County, where HD-44 is located. Olszewski was elected in a 2017 special election following a massive debacle surrounding our original nominee’s ineligibility. We have some strong candidates running there now. Avila and Perez are relatively untouchable. They both represent districts that Obama narrowly lost, that Crist lost in a landslide and that Hillary narrowly won. Perez was also elected to the House in a 2017 special election, the same day that Annette Taddeo won her Senate election, and he won handily. It’s possible that they could fall in a wave, but I wouldn't bank on it. GAIN 21 and 44, putting us at 48 seats.

  • 2 SEATS were won by Crist and Hillary: 89 (open) and 115 (open). Let's say we win both. They’re both prime pickup opportunities, though 89 is likelier than 115 due to the strength of our recruits there. 89 is in Palm Beach, while 115 is in Miami-Dade. Both are the kinds of diverse, well-educated suburban districts where a backlash this year would be felt. GAIN 89 and 115, putting us at 50 seats. Isn't this exciting? We’ve broken 50 seats for the first time since 1998.

  • 4 SEATS were won by Hillary and Obama: 30 (Cortes), 105 (open), 110 (Oliva), 119 (open). Let's say we win 2 of these 4 seats, specifically HD-30 and HD-105.

    HD-30 is located in Orange and Seminole Counties and was represented by Democrat Karen Castor Dentel from 2012-2014. Cortes narrowly won re-election in 2016 as Hillary was handily winning this suburban district. We don’t have a strong recruit lined up yet, but we will, and this is an area that'll be heavily targeted by our statewide campaigns.

    HD-105 is in Miami-Dade, and it's also the kind of district where you’d expect a backlash this year. Our candidates in Miami-Dade usually file really close to the deadline, so we don't have a candidate yet, but I’m not worried at the moment.

    HD-110 and HD-119 are likely untouchable. HD-110 is held by Jose Oliva, the Speaker-designate for the 2018-2020 term and it and HD-119 are slightly friendlier versions of HD-116, mentioned above: Obama narrowly won them, Crist lost them by a solid margin, and Hillary narrowly won them. I doubt they go anywhere unless the wave comes crashing down. GAIN 30 and 105, putting us at 52 seats.

  • 3 SEATS were won by Obama: 27 (Santiago), 42 (La Rosa), 59 (open). Let’s say we win 2 of these 3 seats, specifically HD-42 and HD-59.

    HD-42 is based in Osceola County, which largely trended toward us in 2016. La Rosa represents a more conservative, rural part of the county, but he has a good challenger raising decent money, and this is the kind of place where—if Hispanic turnout is good—you’d expect a sizable backlash.

    HD-59 is based in suburban Hillsborough County. The incumbent, Ross Spano, is vacating it for a quixotic campaign for Attorney General. We don't yet have a nominee lined up, but this is a district known for close races up and down the ballot, so I’m not worried yet. This flipped from a 0.19% Obama win to a 0.40% Trump win, and it was a 1.94% Crist loss, so it’s a marginal seat you’d expect to fall in a wave.

    HD-27 is based in Volusia County and lurched to the right in 2016. We used to have down ballot strength in places like this, but it’s weakening. If Nancy Soderberg runs a good campaign in FL-06, you could perhaps expect a trickle-down effect. But as of now, we don’t have a strong candidate, so I don't think we’re winning here. GAIN 42 and 59, putting us at 54 seats.

  • 3 SEATS were won by Obama and Crist: 36 (Mariano), 67 (Latvala), 69 (open). This is where the math gets tricky. All three seats trended against us in 2016, but they have residual Democratic strength. Assuming that 2016 was a fluke and that we can perform at Obama 2012-type levels in the kinds of places we lost in 2016 (and special election results seem to bear that out), let’s say we win all 3.

    HD-36 flipped from a 5% Obama win to a 20% Trump win. It's based in Pasco County and is represented by freshman Republican Amber Mariano, who’s 22 years old and narrowly unseated Amanda Murphy, who won here in a 2013 special and was easily reelected in 2014. Mariano has a good challenger running against her this year. It’s not unfathomable that this district would snapback. It’s a similar story in HD-67 and HD-69, both of which are in Pinellas. Both were narrow Obama wins, solid Crist wins, and narrow Hillary losses.

    HD-67 is represented by Chris Latvala, son of disgraced former Senator Jack Latvala. Though Chris had nothing to do with his father's actions, he might feel a backlash this year. He doesn’t have an opponent lined up yet, but I’d bet someone strong steps forward.

    HD-69 is represented by Kathleen Peters, perhaps best known to DKE readers as an unsuccessful Republican candidate in 2014’s FL-13 special election. She’s pretty moderate and is retiring to run for County Commission. We have two strong candidates who have stepped up, including our 2016 nominee, and winning here wouldn't be a surprise. GAIN 36, 67, and 69, putting us at 57 seats.

  • 4 SEATS were won by Crist: 66 (open), 83 (open), 85 (Roth), 93 (open). Let’s say we win one of these four, specifically HD-93, represented by term-limited Republican George Moraitis.

    HD-93 is based in Broward County, and it’s the only Republican-held seat in the county. Moraitis has won a number of close races, which isn’t surprising, given the marginal nature of this seat: it was a 4.45% win for Romney, a 2.97% win for Crist, and a 1.11% win for Trump. That is to say, it swung toward us in 2016, and is the kind of place where we’d expect to do well this year. A number of strong Democratic candidates have stepped forward, but so has a strong Republican candidate. Still, in the end, I think we win here.

    The other HDs are probably out of reach. HD-83 is based in Martin and St. Lucie Counties, which swung against us in 2016. This was a narrow Obama loss, narrow Crist win, and more solid Trump win. If we were going to win another of these districts, it’d be this one. Incumbent Gayle Harrell, who’s represented this district for 16 (non-continuous) years, is term-limited. HD-66 is based in far north Pinellas County, and though it was a narrow Obama loss and a narrow Crist win, it’s not friendly to voting for Democrats down-ballot. If we do really well in SD-16, which has a similar geographic makeup and an almost identical trendline, we might do well here, too, but I wouldn’t bank on it. Finally, HD-85, represented by Republican Rick Roth, is based in northern Palm Beach County. It voted for Crist by the barest of margins—0.68%—but was more decisively lost by Hillary and Obama. We could see a wave crash on HD-85’s shores, but I wouldn’t count on it. GAIN 93, putting us at 58 seats.

  • 6 SEATS were narrowly won by Romney, Scott, and Trump, but were either won by consistently narrow margins or are trending toward us: 15 (open), 28 (open), 29 (Plakon), 41 (Killebrew), 50 (Plasencia), 60 (Toledo). Let’s say we win three of these six seats, specifically HD-41, HD-50, and HD-60.

    HD-41 is based in Polk County and was narrowly lost by Crist, Hillary, and Obama, though Nelson won it in 2012, 55-42. Freshman Republican Sam Killebrew was only narrowly elected in 2016, beating his opponent 53-47. A strong candidate hasn't stepped forward yet, but Polk County is a place where changing demographics will eventually work in our favor. A win here is possible.

    HD-50 is based in Brevard and Orange Counties. The Brevard portions of the district trended toward Trump, while the Orange portions trended toward Hillary. Overall, the district swung from 53-46 Romney to 50-46 Trump. The Orange portions are parts of suburban Orlando and have seen massive population growth in the last few years. This is a place where the Hispanic population also continues to increase, especially as Puerto Ricans resettle in metro Orlando. Democrat Sean Ashby kept this district close in 2012, losing only 53-47 to the Republican incumbent. He wasn’t so lucky in 2016, though, losing to Rene Plasencia 57-43. With a strong candidate and a wave on our side, we can win here.

    Finally, HD-60 is located in Tampa. It’s represented by freshman Republican Jackie Toledo, who unsuccessfully ran for Tampa City Council in 2015. This is ordinarily a more conservative district, given the wealthy population that lives here, but it flipped from a 7.54% Romney win to only a 1.34% Trump win. We have a strong candidate running, and, to sound like a broken record, this is the kind of place where we'd expect to win this year.

    HD-15, based in Jacksonville, trended toward us in 2016 pretty sharply, and we have a strong candidate, but a 53-44 Trump district is still relatively out of reach. HD-28 and HD-29, based in Seminole County are reach targets, and they also trended toward us. HD-28 has a strong Democratic candidate, and HD-29 was represented by Democrat Mike Clelland from 2012-14, but they don’t seem like likely gains as of now. GAIN 41, 50, and 60, putting us at 61 seats.

We did it!

Again, this isn’t necessarily the likeliest outcome of this year’s elections. In fact, all things considered, I’d say that it’s quite unlikely to happen. Still, it's a viable, albeit narrow, path to a majority. While the Florida House is much less friendly than the Virginia House, I guess I’d say that no one thought that a majority in Virginia was possible, and we only fell short by 1 seat. Regardless of whether we win a majority or not, major, major gains are possible in all of the seats I mentioned here.


Hold Opportunity!
Florida House of Representatives District 114 Special Election |
Democrat Javier Fernández -
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*Election Date: May 1st, 2018

Flip Opportunity!
Florida House of Representatives District 39 Special Election |
Democrat Ricky Shirah -
*Election Date: May 1st, 2018