Florida’s federal political contests: hot or not? We rate them all

by | May 22, 2022

A Friday ruling by Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal means that the maps backed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the GOP-controlled legislature are currently the maps everyone is working from. But anything could happen between now and…well, whenever the courts put a final stamp of approval on Florida’s political landscape.

Based on this new lay of the land, we’re taking a stab at labeling which federal races, from the U.S. Senate on down to Florida’s 28th Congressional District in the Keys, are hot…or not.

While some incumbent lawmakers may end up facing tough opponents, others appear to be coasting to re-election or sliding into new seats with relative ease due to the lack of serious opposition in August or November. Notably, the filing deadline for federal and state candidates (and many local races) is Friday, June 17th, at noon. Anything can happen between now and then, but here’s a look at what are likely to be the state’s hottest federal races:

U.S. Senate – Rubio vs. Demings: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ (hot)

As of this weekend, incumbent Senator Marco Rubio had not yet filed the necessary paperwork, including qualifying fees or petition signatures, to run for re-election. Then again, neither has Democrat frontrunner Val Demings. Both are expected to do so next month. Meanwhile, five other Democrats, four Republicans, and five other candidates from third parties, no party or write-in candidates are also seeking the job.

Both Rubio and Demings have each raised about $30 million, and both have spent $17 million, leaving about $13 million cash on hand as of the last report.

Despite the fundraising parity, multiple media outlets, polls, and other forms of analysis all point to Rubio in command of the race. The RealClearPolitics.com polling average has Rubio at +9 points over Demings, and no poll on the index has ever shown Demings leading. But this is Florida, and statewide contests here seemingly have a way of creeping closer than anyone usually expects.

U.S. Congress

Reminder: Our ratings and district numbers are based on the new congressional maps. If a court intervenes, some central and south Florida contests might be affected, but less so than CD-4 and CD-5 in northeast Florida. 

CD-1: ❄ (not hot) – Barring a prosecutorial surprise that grows increasingly less likely by the day, incumbent U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz is going to coast to victory. The district remains one of the most Republican in the state at R+34. Democrat Rebekah Jones is running for her ego alone. Nothing more needs to be said.

CD-2: ❄❄❄ (frozen) – Incumbent Republican Neal Dunn will coast to victory with no primary opponent, and no Democrat opponent filed so far.

CD-3: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – Further east, incumbent Republican Kat Cammack enjoys an R+18 advantage and is expected to win easily despite a small number of primary and general election opponents. Rumors are swirling that some gun rights activists are looking to mount a challenge over her vote on a red flag law, but she’s a powerful force in the area and will be tough to beat regardless.

CD-4: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ (flaming hot) – If the redistricted maps hold up in court, Democrat Al Lawson is out of job, replaced by a Republican. As currently drawn, CD-4 is R+15, and Republican Jason Fischer is already assuming the mantle, running television ads in anticipation of an expensive race that will include Navy veteran Erick Aguilar.

CD-5:❄❄ (cool runnings) – Incumbent John Rutherford will likely coast to victory in this newly renumbered district thanks to an R+23 advantage and a lack of monied opponents.

CD-6: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – Incumbent Republican Michael Waltz’s newly drawn district will give him a six point boost (R+28) over the old district’s R+22 advantage.

CD-7: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ (flaming hot) – With Democrat Stephanie Murphy resigning from CD-7, Republicans are licking their chops thanks to the redistricting swing from D+5 to R+14. Among the notable names vying for her seat: Conservative firebrand State Rep. Anthony Sabatini and defense consultant Cory Mills.

CD-8: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – No matter which maps are ultimately adopted, Republican Congressman Bill Posey won’t be impacted. CD-8 remains an R+23 district no matter what.

CD-9: ❄ (not hot) – Incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Darren Soto is quietly hoping the new maps are adopted, as his advantage moves from D+5 to D+9.

CD-10: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – Based on endorsements and financial support, Democrat Maxwell Frost appears to be running far ahead of other Democrats in the D+29 district once held by Val Demings.

CD-11: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ (hot) – Incumbent Republican Dan Webster used to have it easy in his old R+37 district. But new congressional maps have cut that to R+19, and some hungry GOP challengers are also looking to pick him off. Right-wing performance artist Laura Loomer has outraised Webster $491,000 to $413,000 as of March 31st. Webster may be counting on bringing big PAC money to bear, but will it be enough?

CD-12: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – Webster’s loss is incumbent GOP Rep. Gus Bilirakis’s gain. He should be able to easily dispatch a handful of GOP challengers and coast to an easy win thanks to an R+34 advantage.

CD-13:  πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ (flaming hot) – Charlie Crist knew the long knives were coming. His old R+1 district got turned into R+12 thanks to a redistricting gift to the turncoat Republican who is now the leading Democrat running for governor. A handful of Republicans are vying to replace him, including Anna Paulina Luna, the current Republican money-leader. She lost to Crist in 2020, and needs to defeat other GOP candidates in August, including Amanda MakkiKevin Hayslett, Audrey Hensen and Christine Quinn. In a newly drawn district, any of them have a shot at this early point.

CD-14:❄❄ (cool runnings) – Incumbent Democrat Rep. Kathy Castor is expected to coast to any easy win. Her district’s borders have changed, but if anything her chances have actually improved from D+12 to D+14 under the new maps.

CD-15: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ (flaming hot) – This will be one of the top primaries to watch. Once an R+14 GOP advantage, the district as currently drawn is only half as red as it used to be at R+7. But that’s not stopping Republicans from duking it out for the job. Among the obvious Republican frontrunners: Conservative workhorse Kelli Stargel, whose leadership in the Florida Senate left her mark on everything from Florida’s budget to pro-life legislation. But she won’t have it easy, with an allegedly self-funding former Army vet named Jerry Torres pledging to spend a chunk of his personal fortune to win. They are joined by former Congressman Dennis Ross, State Rep. Jackie Toledo, and Laurel Lee, who bailed out of her job as the state’s top elections official to parachute into the race last week.

CD-16: ❄❄❄ (frozen) – Incumbent GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan has no primary opponent, and just one Democrat challenger in this R+14 district that is largely unchanged from previous maps.

CD-17: ❄❄❄ (frozen) – Another snoozer, but GOP incumbent Greg Steube isn’t complaining. The new map shaved 10 points from Republicans but is still R+22 and Steube has no primary challenger.

CD-18: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – New map, new incumbent, same outcome. Assuming the map holds up in court, incumbent Brian Mast will move to CD-21, while incumbent freshman GOP Rep. Scott Franklin will likely be able to hold down the fort in south-central Florida.

CD-19: ❄❄❄ (frozen) – Byron Donalds, the GOP incumbent, will almost certainly coast to an easy win in this R+26 district that remains largely unchanged regardless of which map survives.

CD-20: πŸ”₯ (warm) – By far the safest Democrat district, incumbent U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick will easily coast to victory if she can hold off her previous special election challenger, Dale Holness, who only lost to her by five votes in last year’s special election. While the power of incumbency should give Cherfilus-McCormick a slight edge, this is still an interesting race to watch.

CD-21: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – Incumbent GOP Rep. Brian Mast has a handful of challengers as usual, but the district is solid Republican and he’ll likely coast to an easy win in this R+14 district.

CD-22: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – Incumbent Democrat Lois Frankel finds herself in largely the same situation as Mast, with a handful of challengers but none of them able to overcome the power of incumbency in this D+14 district.

CD-23: ❄ (not hot) – With Ted Deutch retiring, Jared Moskowitz looks like a shoe-in for the D+9 seat, but he does have some challengers who want to make some hay out of the fact Moskowitz served in the DeSantis Administration. That fact will likely help him more than hurt him in the general election, though.

CD-24: ❄❄❄ (frozen) – Democrat incumbent Frederica Wilson will easily coast to a win in this D+51 district.

CD-25: ❄❄❄ (frozen) – Nobody’s going to beat Debbie Wasserman Schultz in this D+18 district.

CD-26: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – While the newly drawn district shaves a third of Republican support, it’s still R+14 for presumed incumbent Mario DΓ­az-Balart.

CD-27: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ (flaming hot) – Incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. MarΓ­a Elvira Salazar has the most competitive seat in the state, at D+1, but that’s an improvement over the D+4 seat she had before. Rumors have swirled, but Democrat Annette Taddeo has vehemently denied interest in the race, with a spokesman claiming she’s still running for governor. She’s definitely got a better chance to win CD-27 than to win the Democrat primary for governor and unseat Ron DeSantis.

CD-28: ❄❄ (cool runnings) – Incumbent GOP Rep. Carlos GimΓ©nez has no current Democrat opponent. He should easily dispatch any Republicans who file. So far, both of his previously filed challengers remain filed in the old CD-16.

Next week, we’ll take a look at statewide and Florida legislative races, including the rapidly-heating challenge to Democrat Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book by former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, and more.


  1. Anonymous

    Jones is beating Gaetz in the polls.

    • Anonymous

      Yea, a Listener Group poll that she paid for. It’s garbage, and if you believe it, I have a bridge to sell you.

    • DG Smith

      Both “polls” so far were done by Jones’ marketing form. The same company did one that showed Crist +13 in a head-to-head race against DSantis, which is very much at odds with results from other pollsters.

  2. darthaggie

    Jones won’t win her primary.

  3. Young Fauci

    Rebekah Jones leads by 6%. Even if you have some doubts about the poll – the race is a toss up.

    • Anonymous

      Okay, Rebekah.

  4. annonymous

    I hope Kelli Stargel wins CD15…she’s one of the few conservative legislators who is actually effective. Dennis Ross was a yawnfest in Congress.

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