By Jim Ellis
Aug. 31, 2018 — While we covered the statewide results for the Aug. 28 nomination elections in Arizona, Florida, and Oklahoma earlier in the week, now is a good time to review the many US House campaigns that were decided last Tuesday, and which will become competitive in November.
• AZ-1: Freshman Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona) stands for his first re-election in an expansive district that encompasses most of eastern Arizona. The Republican winner is retired Air Force officer Wendy Rogers, who has run for several offices in the state but has never been successful. It’s likely that the same pattern will again emerge in November. Rogers defeated state Sen. Steve Smith in the GOP primary, and he was viewed as the party’s strongest general election candidate. Therefore, we can now rate this race as Likely Democratic.
• AZ-2: The pre-race favorites for this Tucson-anchored open seat, vacated because Rep. Martha McSally is running for the Senate, were former US Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) and Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president Lea Marquez-Peterson (R). While both won their respective nominations, each of their win percentages (41.4 percent and 33.6 percent, respectively) were less that predicted. With neither candidate close to majority support in her own party, the general election will prove interesting. Most believe that Kirkpatrick is the favorite here, but it doesn’t appear her win is yet clinched.
• AZ-9: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema leaves this largely Democratic Phoenix suburban seat to run for the Senate. The heir-apparent is Phoenix former Mayor Greg Stanton (D), and he will face GOP physician Steve Ferrara, a first-time candidate. No question that Stanton is the general election favorite, but Dr. Ferrara is getting high marks as a candidate. Likely Democratic.
• FL-1: Freshman Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Ft. Walton Beach) under-performed in his primary, winning with only 65 percent of the vote, but he is still safe in the general election against pediatrician Jennifer Zimmerman (D) in his heavily Republican district.
• FL-5: Freshman Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) easily overcame his serious Democratic primary challenger, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, by a 60-40 percent clip. Lawson is safe in the general election.
• FL-6: In Rep. Ron DeSantis’ open Atlantic Coast congressional seat, an Afghan War veteran and former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney won the Republican primary, which should be tantamount to victory in November. Mike Waltz (R) is now heavily favored to defeat former US Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, but his final win percentage will likely be in single-digits.
• FL-7: Freshman Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) stands for her first re-election now against state Rep. Mike Miller (R-Winter Park), who was always the favorite to win the GOP primary. Rep. Murphy is the favorite, but if Miller can raise sufficient funds, this central Florida 50/50 political district could become competitive.
• FL-9: Former Rep Alan Grayson’s (D) political comeback was short-lived. Freshman Rep. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) easily defended his seat against the former congressman, defeating Grayson by a landslide, 66-34 percent. Rep. Soto is a lock to win in November in this safely Democratic district.
• FL-15: In the safely Republican seat from which Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Lakeland) is retiring, state Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover) scored the Republican primary victory with 44 percent of the vote against four opponents. He is favored for re-election over attorney Kristen Carlson (D) in what should be a victory percentage nearing or hitting 60 percent.
• FL-16: As expected, attorney David Shapiro won the Democratic primary after spending approximately $1 million, but his 55-45 percent victory over a candidate who did not even expend $100,000, was not particularly impressive. This bodes well for veteran Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota), who appears well prepared for the general election. Likely Republican.
• FL-17: Though much of the Republican establishment, including US Sen. Marco Rubio, was backing state Rep. Julio Gonzalez (R-Venice), state Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) was impressive in victory, recording 62 percent of the vote against his pair of Republican opponents. Sen. Steube now becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election opposite frequent Democratic candidate April Freeman.
• FL-18: Freshman Rep. Brian Mast (R-Palm City) was very strong in his re-nomination performance, defeating two Republicans with 78 percent of the vote. Former State Department official Lauren Baer is the new Democratic nominee, but she has already spent well over $1 million of the close to $2 million raised just to secure the party nomination, which she did with 60 percent. Rep. Mast remains a solid favorite in the general election.
• FL-25: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) runs for a ninth term, and he faces former Florida Circuit Judge Mary Barzee Flores in the general election. Both were unopposed in their respective primaries. Flores actually began the campaign cycle as a candidate in the open 27th District, but switched to this seat when it became clear that she would not win the Democratic primary in her original CD. Rep. Diaz-Balart remains the clear favorite for re-election.
• FL-26: Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami) runs for a third term and will face non-profit organization executive Debbie Mucarsel-Powell who easily won the Democratic primary. The 26th is a tough seat for Rep. Curbelo, especially after the state Supreme Court changed the district boundaries before the 2016 election. Still, Rep. Curbelo managed a 12-point win in the last election, and must be regarded as the definitive favorite here. Lean Republican.
• FL-27: Originally believed to be the Democrats’ best national conversion opportunity because Hillary Clinton carried the district by 20 percentage points in 2016, this open seat is turning into a highly competitive contest. Democrats, as expected, nominated former Health & Human Services secretary and ex-University of Miami president Donna Shalala, but with only 32 percent of the vote, far below what polling predicted.
The Republican nominee, who received more votes in her primary against more candidates than Shalala did in hers, is Emmy Award-winning journalist Maria Elvira Salazar who has united the entrenched Cuban Republican establishment in this district led by retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami). Despite being re-drawn as a Democratic seat, this campaign is likely to trend into the Toss-up range.
• OK-1: The Tulsa-anchored district is vacant because Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Tulsa) accepted the Trump Administration appointment to lead NASA. His vacancy left a Republican run-off that businessman Kevin Hern won with 55 percent against former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, who was the first-place finisher in the June primary. Hern now becomes the prohibitive favorite to defeat the Democratic run-off winner, attorney Tim Gilpin, in a solid Republican district.
• OK-2: Three-term Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Westville/Muskogee) is breaking his term-limits pledge and only posted 54 percent in the original primary election. The Democratic run-off winner is Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols, and though the congressman is demonstrating some political weakness, it is a major stretch to believe the new Democratic nominee can make this a viable challenger campaign. Likely Republican.
• OK-5: Political consultant Kendra Horn scored a 76 percent run-off victory in this Oklahoma City-anchored CD, but now she must face two-term Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK City) in November. Clearly the Oklahoma electorate is demonstrating an anti-incumbent sentiment when looking at the primary and run-off results, but it’s unlikely to affect Rep. Russell. Expect the congressman to again win in the high 50s.