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Race Ratings: Florida Offers Democrats Chances at Pickups

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Steve Southerland's race in the 2nd district is one to watch in Florida.

A bit more than half of Bilirakis’ current district falls in the redrawn 12th, which stretches from the western coast inland, north of Tampa. It’s not the most GOP-friendly in the state, but comfortably Republican enough that it shouldn’t be in play this cycle. The former state Representative, who succeeded his father, has no serious primary or general election challengers.

13th district
Incumbent: Bill Young (R)
21st term (66 percent)
Rating: Safe Republican

Former Congressional aide and attorney Jessica Ehrlich (D) announced earlier this week against Young, but that doesn’t mean she has a real shot of beating him.

“Bill Young has represented Pinellas County honorably and admirably, but over his more than 40 years in Congress, he’s changed. Representative Young has lost touch with our values and our priorities and has become a symbol of what’s wrong with Washington,” she said in a statement, telegraphing a likely stump-speech talking point.

But Ehrlich, who worked for then-Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), will have a steep road to unseating Young, who was first elected to Congress in 1970.

Florida Democrats tell Roll Call that while the district appears to be a prime pickup opportunity on paper — it would have voted more than 53 percent for Barack Obama in 2008 — the reality is that voters know and like Young, and a majority are probably going to vote for him in 2012, as their parents and grandparents probably did before. Young won with 66 percent of the vote in the current 10th district, which is very similar to the redrawn 13th.

One flag, however: While Young had $220,000 in the bank at the end of last year, he raised just $88,000 in the fourth quarter.

If Young, 81, who has said he is running for re-election, ends up not being on the ballot, this district becomes a good opportunity for Democrats. Republicans in the state said there’s a bench of solid GOP candidates, but without a well-known incumbent, it could be a hard district to keep on the R side of the ledger.

14th district
Incumbent: Kathy Castor (D)
3rd term (60 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic

The top opponent of Castor, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe (R), suspended his bid for the Tampa- and St. Petersburg-anchored seat earlier this month citing the Democratic-leaning nature of the new lines. That was good news for Castor, who should cruise to a solid victory this cycle.

The second installment of Florida House race ratings (covering the 15th-27th districts) will run Thursday.

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