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Belated Florida map means sunshine in GOP forecast

Republicans could come out of midterms with 20 seats, up from 16 now

Florida's new map breaks up the 5th District and makes Democratic Rep. Al Lawson's reelection bid more difficult.
Florida's new map breaks up the 5th District and makes Democratic Rep. Al Lawson's reelection bid more difficult. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Just because one party controls the redistricting process in a state, that does not mean drawing new lines will be quick and easy. Florida is a great example. 

With Gov. Ron DeSantis and control of the state Legislature, Republicans had the power in the Sunshine State, yet it took them months to get on the same page. And Florida ended up being one of the last handful of states in the country to complete the task.

Republicans currently have a 16-to-11 advantage in the House delegation, which lines up with the number of House districts President Donald Trump and Joe Biden would have carried in the 2020 presidential election. 

But Florida gained a congressional seat due to reapportionment, as it has done every redistricting cycle since 1930, and Republicans utilized their redistricting power to create a map where Trump would have finished ahead of Biden in 20 of the state’s new 28 districts. 

[More House race ratings | Initial Senate race ratings]

And none of them is particularly competitive. While some districts may seem close by looking at the 2020 presidential results, a combination of a midterm dynamic, including Biden’s poor job rating dragging down Democratic candidates, and a lack of top-tier Democratic candidates is keeping Florida’s races on the periphery of the House battlefield. 

All 28 districts begin with an initial rating of Likely or Solid for either party. And many of the races rated Likely Republican are effectively solid, but it’s helpful to have a Likely rating so that they appear on the list of competitive races and can be accounted for as seats that flip from one party to the other. 

Republicans look poised to gain four seats out of Florida in their quest to gain five seats nationwide to win the House majority.

5th District (John Rutherford, R)

Until the latest round of redistricting, the 5th District had been a Black opportunity seat that stretched from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. Biden would have won it with 63 percent, and it is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Al Lawson. But Republicans dismantled the seat in redistricting and transformed it into a seat that Trump would have won with 57 percent, spurring lawsuits by Democrats. GOP Rep. John Rutherford, the current 4th District incumbent, is running for reelection here. Lawson will run elsewhere or possibly not at all, unless the courts restore the 5th as a Democratic district. Republicans are going to win the seat in November, but the race is rated Likely Republican in order to account for the takeover on the list of competitive races. 

7th District (Open; Stephanie Murphy, D)

Trump would have won the newly drawn 7th northeast of Orlando with just 52 percent. But Democrats’ likely best candidate to hold the seat, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, is not running for reelection and Republicans are likely to win it in this political environment. Since it’s such a great opportunity, more than a handful of Republicans are running for the GOP nomination in the Aug. 23 primary. Initial rating: Likely Republican. 

13th District (Open; Charlie Crist, D)

Republicans transformed this Tampa-area seat from one Biden won with 52 percent to a district Trump would have won with 53 percent. Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist’s bid for governor leaves a hole on the Democratic side as well, and the overall political environment makes this a top takeover target for Republicans. Democratic state Rep. Ben Diamond’s exit from the race is one example of the difficult road for Democrats in holding the seat. Initial rating: Likely Republican.

15th District (Open; Scott Franklin, R)

The field of GOP contenders is crowded, considering Franklin is running for reelection in the 18th District and Trump would have won the district with 51 percent. But statewide Democrats have held their own here in other races. DeSantis and GOP Sen. Rick Scott would have carried this district by less than 1 point in 2018. So the seat might be a Democratic opportunity later in the decade. Initial rating: Likely Republican.

27th District (María Elvira Salazar, R)

One of the biggest surprise winners of 2020 is on pace to win a second term with less attention. Even though Trump would have won the South Florida district with just 50 percent in 2020, the national environment is in the congresswoman’s favor; there’s little evidence Hispanic voters who helped propel her to victory are moving back to Democrats in a significant way; and Democratic recruitment has been a struggle. Initial rating: Likely Republican.

Races rated Solid Republican

Races rated Solid Democratic

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

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