MIAMI, Fla. — This campaign season 2chambers has visited Iowa and Illinois and then Pennsylvania and Ohio to cover a mix of races that pit long-shot congressional candidates against well-established incumbents, former lawmakers trying to get back to Washington, incumbents facing daunting odds in unfavorable districts and the two races where redistricting has forced incumbents to run again each other.
Our reporting project — which we’ve labeled #5in5 — continues this week in Florida, a state that gained two House seats during the 2010 redistricting process, meaning the Sunshine State will have 27 House lawmakers when the new Congress begins in January.
This week, #5in5 will focus on five races stretching along the Interstate 95 and Interstate 4 corridors, from the Florida Keys to the outskirts of Disney World. Districts were selected based on the competitive nature of the races — not on the quality of nearby beachfront resorts or attractions. (We promise.)
Here’s a quick glance at our political itinerary:
1.) Monday: Florida 26th Congressional District: Rep. David Rivera (R) vs. Joe Garcia (D) (A “likely Democrat” race, according to The Washington Post House Race Tracker.) This wasn’t supposed to be a Democratic pickup, but the race is quickly slipping from the grasp of Republicans as Rivera reportedly faces federal investigations for campaign impropriety. One probe focuses on whether Rivera steered campaign dollars to an opponent of Garcia in the August Democratic primary. The second investigation is focused on a $500,000 payment he received from a dog track. Rivera has denied wrongdoing and has spent most of his time in Spanish-language media and advertising attacking Garcia for supporting the Obama administration’s decision to lift travel restrictions to Cuba, an effective attack line in this predominantly Cuban-American district.
2.) Tuesday: Florida 22nd Congressional District: Lois Frankel (D) vs. Adam Hasner (R) (“Leans Democrat,” according to our House Race tracker.) This district is currently represented by Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who opted to run in a different district (see below) when Florida’s redistricting gave the district a decidedly Democratic tilt. This year’s candidates here served in the Florida state legislature and Frankel also served two terms as mayor of West Palm Beach. Hasner flirted with running against Sen. Bill Nelson (R-Fla.), but dropped out when Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) surged ahead among GOP candidates. The latest partisan, automated polls show a close race, but because such surveys do not interview voters who have a cellphone and no landline at home, it’s unclear where the full electorate stands.
3.) Wednesday: Florida 18th Congressional District: Rep. Allen West (R) vs. Patrick Murphy (D) (“Tossup,” according to our House Race tracker.) Check the dictionary for “nasty House race” and this race surely appears. West is a freshman Republican with a growing national profile, who moved out of his home district (see above) when it was redrawn to favor Democrats. In this district north of West Palm Beach, West faces 29-year old Murphy, a first-time candidate and top Democratic fundraiser. But in the third quarter, West set the record for fundraising by a rank-and-file House lawmaker, collecting nearly $15 million for a total of $14.9 million this cycle, a sum surpassing the $13.5 million raised by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) in 2010. Past indiscretions are the focus of this increasingly personal feud between West and Murphy.
4.) Thursday: Florida 9th Congressional District: Former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) vs. Todd Long (R) (“Likely Democrat,” according to the tracker.) In 2009, Grayson took to the House floor during debate on the 2010 health-care reform law to attack Republicans, and he became a frequent guest on cable news talk shows. A year later, conservatives responded by spending roughly $5.5 million on attack ads to defeat him — as he tried to tie his opponent to the Taliban. Two years later he’s running in a heavily Democratic district and coasting to victory against Long’s poorly funded campaign. Perhaps the only question now is how Grayson will behave when he returns to Washington: Will he pick up where he left off or present a more moderate, measured demeanor?
5.) Friday: Florida 10th Congressional District: Rep. Daniel Webster (R) vs. Val Demings (D) (“Leans Republican,” according to The Washington Post House Race Tracker.) Webster, another GOP freshman, is facing a tougher-than-expected challenge from Demings, who Democrats consider a star recruit. She served almost three decades as an Orlando police officer, including three-and-a-half years as chief, before retiring and launching her congressional campaign. Her husband, Jerry Demings, is running for reelection as Orange County, Fla., sheriff, meaning some voters will be able to vote for both husband and wife. Webster, a former Florida state senate majority leader, was outraised by Demings in the third quarter, but Republicans remain confident he can win a district with a GOP enrollment edge.
Please follow #5in5 and join the conversation throughout the week by sharing your comments and travel and eating tips in the comments section below — and by following Ed’s travels all week on Twitter (@edatpost), Facebook (facebook.com/edokeefe) and Instagram (@edatpost).
Staff writer Aaron Blake and polling analyst Scott Clement contributed to this report.