Tag Archives: Rep. Gwen Graham

Democrat Primary Action

Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee)

Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 1, 2018 — A day after Florida former Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) reported to prison to serve her sentence for public corruption, her successor, Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee), drew a major Democratic primary challenger.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (D) announced Monday that he will enter the party primary in FL-5 against Rep. Lawson, the man who defeated Brown in the 2016 Democratic nomination contest after her legal trouble became public news but before her conviction.

The 5th District was newly configured in the state Supreme Court’s 2016 mid-decade redistricting map. Instead of stretching south from Jacksonville to Orlando to create a majority minority CD, the court map changed the draw to move west into a Jacksonville-Tallahassee split. The move forced then-Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) to retire after one term because her previous 2nd District had been divided into this new 5th District seat with Rep. Brown as the incumbent and an open Republican CD.

Lawson, a former state senate minority leader, is also a 28-year veteran of the Florida legislature. Taking advantage of Rep. Brown’s legal problems and that Tallahassee had been added to the district, Lawson racked up a 48-39 percent Democratic primary victory, and easily won the safely Democratic seat in November.

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Rep. Brown Loses; McCain, Rubio Win; All Others

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 31, 2016 — A look at overnight primary results:

Senate

Veteran Sen. John McCain (R) won his re-nomination campaign last night in Arizona, but with a lesser majority than expected. McCain topped former state Sen. Kelli Ward, 52-39 percent, which proved worse than his GOP primary margin six years ago (56 percent). Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) was unopposed on the Democratic side. The rather tepid McCain victory last night increases her chances in the general election.

Sen. Marco Rubio rebounded strongly from his failed presidential campaign with a 72 percent victory in his statewide Republican primary yesterday. More than 1.4 million Republican voters cast ballots in Florida’s nomination contest. Businessman Carlos Beruff, who spent more than $8 million of his own money on his campaign, finished a distant second with only 19 percent support.

Sen. Rubio now advances to the general election to face, as expected, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) who won his Democratic primary with 59 percent of the vote. Controversial Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando), who was close early in the campaign, fell to only 18 percent, just ahead of also-ran candidate Pam Keith, an attorney and Navy veteran (15 percent). About 300,000 fewer Democrats than Republicans participated in the primary election. Sen. Rubio has been consistently gaining momentum, so he begins the general election as the slight favorite.

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House in Flux?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 22, 2016 — Several analysis articles have appeared in the last few days indicating that the House majority might well be in play for the Democrats. Is this reality, wishful thinking, or just a partisan rhetorical ploy to engage the party base?

To re-cap, the Republicans have their largest House majority since the 1928 election, currently standing at 247-R to 186-D, with two Democratic vacancies. In order for the Democrats to secure even a one-seat majority, they would have to re-elect incumbents and candidates in all 188 of their current districts and then convert 30 Republican positions.

Initially, not all 188 Democratic seats are secure. In fact, at least one is surely coming the GOP’s way. After the court-mandated mid-decade redistricting operation in Florida, the 2nd District became a virtual Republican gimme seat. Freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) choosing not to seek re-election guarantees a Republican victory.

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Graham Out; Senate Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

April 25, 2016 — Ever since the Florida State Supreme Court decided to re-draw the congressional boundaries halfway through the decade, freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D, FL-2, Tallahassee) has been in the political wilderness. The court declared eight of the state’s districts unconstitutional last July and finished the new map earlier this year, radically changing the original plan as enacted by the legislative and executive branches.

After the preliminary map became public it was evident that Rep. Graham was becoming a political casualty. Wanting to draw a minority 5th District that stretched from Jacksonville to Tallahassee instead of the traditional draw that began in J’ville and then meandered through Gainesville and Sanford on its way to Orlando, the court sacrificed Graham by removing the Democratic base from the 2nd District seat and transferring it to the new District 5.

Rumors were rampant that Graham, the daughter of former governor and US Sen. Bob Graham (D), would enter the open Senate race. As time passed with no movement in that direction, it was apparent she saw her career heading in a different direction. Yesterday, Rep. Graham announced that she will not seek re-election, and broadly hinted that running in the open 2018 governor’s race is within her political future.

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Jolly Way Up in Wild Poll; Trump, Too

Jan. 22, 2016 — Florida Atlantic University yesterday released a Sunshine State poll that finds Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13) opening up a large lead in the open Republican Senate primary, but the results breed skepticism.

The survey, taken during the Jan. 15-18 period of 1,108 Florida voters appears methodologically sound. The sample size is reasonable, though 345 Republican primary voters used for the Senate sample is a bit small for a state the size of Florida. The geographical division is cast evenly among the northern, central, and southern regions, which is constant. Yet, the ballot test results are way out line with anything previously published.

In several earlier polls, with no candidate having strong statewide name identification, Rep. Jolly, his congressional colleague Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera all fell below 20 percent, and were within just a few points of each other.

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Florida Redistricting: The Latest

Jan. 14, 2016 — The Florida court-ordered redistricting saga continues with new developments regularly changing the political atmospherics. Back in early July, the Florida state Supreme Court struck down eight of the state’s congressional districts – four Republican-held; four Democratic – for reasons of “partisan gerrymandering.”

The map has been changed, enacted, and now fully reported. Since the exact boundaries have found their way into the public domain, we can now see that virtually the entire state has been affected. Mandating boundary alterations in eight districts translated into changing 24 of the state’s 27 CDs. The only three to remain intact are a trio of Republican seats: FL-1 (Rep. Jeff Miller-Pensacola; northwest Florida Panhandle); FL-8 (Rep. Bill Posey; Cape Canaveral to Vero Beach); and FL-19 (Rep. Curt Clawson; Ft. Myers-Cape Coral to Marco Island).

One, Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Jupiter) 18th District (Ft. Pierce to West Palm Beach), saw less than a one percent change. The two districts altered the most are Rep. Corrine Brown’s (D-Jacksonville) 5th District and GOP Rep. Dan Webster’s 10th CD (Orlando).

The Brown seat that formerly stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, touching Gainesville and Sanford along the way, now encompasses territory from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. It is still heavily African American, but the original region has been divided over six districts. The largest portion of the 2011-drawn seat, a 40.1 percent population segment, is actually in Orlando. Her Jacksonville anchor maintains just 38.2 percent of the former FL-5 constituency.

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More Florida Surprises

Dec. 18, 2015 — St. Pete Polls, not known as Florida’s most reliable pollster but a firm that produces a large volume of research, released a new survey yesterday showing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) bolting past favorite son Marco Rubio in the Sunshine State. The pollsters selected 2,694 previous Republican primary voters during the December 14-15 period through an automated response system.

The results find Donald Trump leading with 36 percent, followed by the Texas senator at 22 percent, and Rubio posting 17 percent, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush only attracts nine percent support. Dr. Ben Carson dropped to six percent. This is the first poll that finds Cruz eclipsing both of the Florida home state politicians, but Trump has been leading everyone here for awhile.

According to this data, Trump polls 40 percent or greater in two regions, Panama City and Gainesville. Rubio does his best in Miami, where he moves into second place and trails the leader 25-31 percent.

Florida hosts the largest Winner-Take-All primary (99 delegates), and will vote on March 15.

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Florida Lines Finally Approved

Dec. 4, 2015 — The Florida Supreme Court finally enacted a congressional redistricting plan on Tuesday. The process began in early July when the high court struck down eight of the state’s congressional districts and now culminates in approving a lower court judge’s statewide plan that changes 22 of the Sunshine State’s 27 CDs.

Currently, the delegation stands at 17R-10D. Democrats are poised for gains, but the actual increase may be smaller than intended. Two South Florida seats, those of Republicans Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), a freshman, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), a 14-term veteran and former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appear designed to elect Democrats but these districts have a history of bucking voting trends at the congressional level. Though Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s 27th CD voted 53 percent for President Obama in 2012, the congresswoman didn’t even draw an opponent in 2014 and notched a 60-37 percent win when last contested.

There is little doubt that Democrats will convert Districts 10 and 13, while Republicans will take back District 2, a seat they lost in the 2014 election.

The Orlando-anchored 10th District becomes 15 points more Democratic on the Obama scale and switches 13 points when looking at gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s (D) performance in his 2014 statewide losing effort. Incumbent Rep. Dan Webster (R) can’t win this seat, but he may survive by moving into neighboring District 11, an open CD because Rep. Rich Nugent (R) is not seeking re-election. The 11th gains a significant chunk of Lake County from Webster’s current 10th, meaning the congressman will have a foothold in the new district. If he can win nomination, FL-11’s Republican history will allow him to continue his congressional career.

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Democracy Corps: Four-State Senate Data

Nov. 12, 2015 — The Democracy Corps, a liberal political research group founded and run by James Carville and national Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, just released their new study on four pivotal Senate races. The organization, Women’s Voices Women Votes Action Fund is a co-sponsor of this particular survey. Though the analysis spin was pro-Democratic Party for the upcoming election, the actual numbers suggest something that’s not quite as conclusive.

The purpose of the four state poll — conducted during the Oct. 24-28 period of 400 likely voters in each domain — Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin — was to demonstrate the power of what they are terming the “RAE Coalition” (defined as the progressive “Rising American Electorate”). The demographic groups comprising this subset are unmarried women, people of color, and millennials (those born in the early 80s to the early 2000s). The premise is that this coalition now claims a majority of people in each of these states. The Democrats’ problem is that the aforementioned demographic segments have low voter participation rates.

Interestingly, the Democracy Corps poll, as it relates to ballot questions for each tested state, actually produced better Republican numbers than most other recent polls. This is particularly true in Ohio and Colorado.

The pollsters, Greenberg Rosner Quinlan Research, developed a two-way race in each state and, in two instances (Colorado and Florida), picking potential candidates who may, or may not, be on a general election statewide ballot.

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Worsening News for Vitter in Louisiana; Webster’s Landing Zone

Nov. 9, 2015 — We’ve been spending a lot of time analyzing and reporting upon the Louisiana governor’s race, and with good reason. It isn’t often that we see a sitting US senator who attempts to run for his state’s gubernatorial office fail to win. Yet that very scenario may occur later this month when Sen. David Vitter (R) attempts to switch offices.

The news got even worse for the embattled candidate yesterday when Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who placed fourth in the jungle primary last week, publicly endorsed Democrat John Bel Edwards. Dardenne’s message was obviously personal. “The Republican brand has been damaged by the failed leadership of Bobby Jindal during this last term. David Vitter’s governorship will further damage that brand as I and others have pointed out during the campaign,” he said with Edwards standing next to him at the podium.

As we’ve repeatedly cited, the governor’s race has been trending badly for Vitter during the past two months and the chances of a Democratic upset now appear good. Therefore, with his Senate seat in the cycle next year, what will happen to his federal position should Vitter lose the governor’s race?

It is reasonable to believe that should a Vitter loss occur, the state’s 2016 Senate election will become a more viable Democratic target opportunity. Originally believed to be a safe seat for a Vitter re-election, a new campaign involving the embattled senator would obviously be a difficult one should he seek another term.

To complicate matters, at least two members of the state’s congressional delegation, representatives Charles Boustany (R-LA-3) and John Fleming (R-LA-4), have already expressed interest in running statewide next year. Both, among others, are already vying behind the scenes to replace Vitter by appointment should he actually be elected governor.

Since Vitter is already willing to relinquish the Senate seat in exchange for becoming governor, it is reasonable to assume that, should he be unsuccessful on Nov. 21, he will not seek re-election. Such would actually be the best Republican Party scenario, because the state and national political leaders could then start anew with a fresh candidate, presumably either Boustany, Fleming, or another elected official, who could run free of the negative baggage that Vitter obviously possesses.

FL-10; 11

We have reported on several occasions that representatives David Jolly (R-FL-13), Gwen Graham (D-FL-2), and Daniel Webster (R-FL-10), will be left without seats once the new Florida redistricting plan is formally adopted. The state Supreme Court will likely take final action on Nov. 10.

Jolly is already abandoning his House re-election effort, and instead is running for the state’s open Senate seat. Graham says she will make a decision about her own political future after the new lines are officially adopted. It is unlikely that she will run for the House, and she, too, could hop into the Senate contest, or sit out a cycle and challenge for a statewide position in 2018.

Rep. Webster attracted a great deal of attention in the past few weeks by running for House Speaker even though his 10th District seat is sure to go Democratic, this by his own admission. But now, Webster may be finding a political life preserver. Rep. Rich Nugent’s (R) announcement this week that he will not seek re-election in the 11th District, which the court generally left intact as a Republican seat, is now open for the 2016 election. The 11th borders Webster’s Orlando-anchored district before moving northwest stretching as far as the city of Ocala. It is conceivable that Webster would have a fighting chance to win here in a Republican primary. He does have a home within the confines of this CD, which gives him some background within the region.

Earlier this week Webster confirmed that he is at least considering hopping into the 11th, likely his best option from which to continue his congressional career. But, it is certain that he will attract primary opposition from sitting and former elected officials who either already or previously represent large chunks of the current district.

Florida Rep. Nugent to Retire

Nov. 4, 2015 — Three-term Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL-11), the former Hernando County Sheriff, surprisingly announced Monday that he will not seek re-election next year, making this the 26th open seat for the 2016 election cycle.

Nugent cited the long absences from his family and a lesser desire to serve as chief reasons for retiring after a short stint in the House. According to his announcement release the congressman stated, “we care deeply about shrinking the size and scope of government; we care deeply about restoring America’s place in the world. We’ll get somebody new with real fire in the belly who shares our beliefs and is ready to give it a shot in Washington.”

Nugent’s tenure in office was not without controversy. A former member of the House Rules Committee, the congressman was relieved of his post when he voted for fellow Florida Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL-10) in the early 2015 Speaker’s election. In response, then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) quickly removed both men as members of the partisan rules body.

His first election to the House raised eyebrows as well. When Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL-5) retired in 2010, she did so just as the filing deadline expired, thereby giving then-Sheriff Nugent the only inside track to the seat. He was the one potential major candidate who was given pre-announcement notice of the impending vacancy, and took full advantage of the lack of competition for the open House seat.

The Central Florida 11th District stretches from Ocala and The Villages communities in the northeast, west to the Gulf of Mexico, and then south as far as Spring Hill. The relatively compact seat is safely Republican and did not experience much change as it relates to the proposed congressional re-districting map that currently sits before the sate Supreme Court.

It is in this area that Nugent may have tipped his hand too early. The proposed redistricting plan makes only cosmetic changes to his CD and leaves it intact as a core Republican seat. But, the plan is not yet final, and seeing that they have another open seat to work with, it is conceivable the court could still change the boundaries to provide a better geographic flow and benefit the Democrats. The seat sits between Rep. Corinne Brown’s (D-FL-5) Jacksonville-Gainesville-Sanford-Orlando district and representatives David Jolly (R-FL-13) and Kathy Castor’s (D-FL-14) CDs, both in the Tampa Bay region. All of these districts were declared illegal, and the Nugent seat is certainly close enough to all of them to make further late changes plausible.

FL-11 now becomes the fifth open seat just in the Sunshine State. Nugent joins representatives Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), Alan Grayson (D-FL-9), David Jolly (R-FL-13), and Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) as members who will not be returning to Congress as House members after the next election. DeSantis, Grayson and Murphy are all running for the Senate.

It is also possible that Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2), who the redistricting plan displaced from her 2nd District in the northern Florida Panhandle, will also join the list of House members not seeking re-election. She may enter the Senate race, challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Corinne Brown for the newly constituted 5th District that now will encompass the city of Tallahassee, which is Graham’s political base, or skip an election and run for a statewide post in 2018. The congresswoman says she will decide her 2016 political plans once the new congressional lines become final.

The Florida Switch

Oct. 20, 2015 — Central Florida House Republicans are getting nervous. The new redistricting plan, which the state Supreme Court is likely to soon adopt, is not kind to the middle-state GOP incumbents. In preparation, press rumors are floating that several members will switch districts in order for each to have a winnable place to run next year.

Under the lower court’s proposed map, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) is the odd man out. His current Orlando-anchored district goes from a 46 percent Obama district to one where the president scored 61 percent. Therefore, the new 10th District becomes unwinnable for Webster even by his own admission.

Ironically, Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D) 9th District, now a 62 percent Obama district becomes even more Republican than the new 10th. The new southeastern Orlando suburban 9th would carry a 56 percent Obama rating, but even this Republican improvement would not yield a GOP victory particularly in a presidential election year. The 9th will be an open seat because Rep. Grayson is running for the Senate.

Rep. John Mica’s (R) 7th District is currently a 47 percent Obama district that would move to 49 percent Obama because the city of Sanford is annexed, which makes it a virtual tie at the presidential level (Mitt Romney also scored 49 percent). The open 6th District, northeast of the 7th that hugs the Atlantic coast from Daytona through Volusia County, is the seat Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) is vacating to run for Senate. This district gets more Democratic, too, but should remain in Republican hands. Originally, the 6th gave 41 percent of its votes to Obama; now, it would be 46 percent.

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Florida Redistricting Lines
Almost Complete

Oct. 13, 2015 — The Republican troubles in the US House look to be getting worse as the long-awaited Florida redistricting process is at last taking shape. The state Supreme Court struck down portions of the map back in early July and, with the state legislature not passing new legislation in their abbreviated special session, the high court returned the plan to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to serve as the redistricting special master. The original lawsuit was filed in Lewis’ court.

On Friday, Judge Lewis released his map, choosing one of the Democratic plaintiffs’ submissions, saying this plan best fulfills the Supreme Court’s sated objectives. The new map now goes to the Supreme Court for final approval.

The partisan numbers figure to favor Democrats by one to as many as four seats. Most likely, assuming no additional retirements among incumbents, the Democrats will probably gain one or two seats. There is a scenario, however, where Republicans could still break even. The Florida delegation splits 17R-10D under the current map.

The members likely to lose under the new configuration are representatives Gwen Graham (D-FL-2) and Dan Webster (R-FL-10) the latter of whom, ironically, is currently a candidate for House Speaker. Rep. David Jolly’s 13th District will also go Democratic, likely to former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) who said he would run if his St. Petersburg home was drawn into the district.

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First Florida Map

Aug. 10, 2015 — Prior to the opening of the special state legislative session convened to re-draw the Florida congressional map, Sunshine State legislative leaders released their initial plan late last week. It is likely that his map will not pass in its current form, but it does provide a good starting point.

The plan radically changes four districts and makes several more competitive, but allows the GOP a chance at maintaining its 17-10 delegation majority.

Three districts are designed to change hands. What the state Supreme Court isolated as the focal point for declaring eight of the 27 districts as legally non-conforming, Tampa Bay’s District 13 — Rep. David Jolly (R) — would become decidedly more Democratic according to the 2012 presidential election result. The addition of St. Petersburg to this seat, as directed by the court, represents a Democratic voter increase of 9.2 percent based upon the previous configuration. With incumbent Jolly now in the Senate race, FL-13 becomes a prime conversion opportunity for Democrats most likely in the person of former Gov. Charlie Crist.

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Senate No-Go’s in Florida;
A California Democrat Fights Back

Aug. 3, 2015 — Three House members who had been very public about considering US Senate bids in their respective states, yesterday announced their decisions not to pursue a statewide campaign.

In what is becoming the most unpredictable of all Senate races, another surprise occurred in Florida.  Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Pensacola), who had been hiring staff, beginning to raise money, and even assembling an initial campaign schedule suddenly reversed course and will not join the growing field of Republican candidates.

Gainesville Rep. Ted Yoho (R), potentially a victim of the mid-decade, court-ordered congressional redistricting process, also reached the same conclusion about his own prospective Senate campaign.  So did California Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles).

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