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Florida Republicans Seek the Next Marco Rubio | Farm Team

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Ros-Lehtinen said the GOP is confident about its prospects in Florida.

Republicans expect a similarly crowded field to challenge freshman Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in the 26th District. But GOP operatives consistently mention two top candidates for the seat: state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo. Republicans also suggested state Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Anitere Flores and Rene Garcia as potential candidates for that seat.

Meanwhile, Republicans expressed concern about the 13th District if Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young ever retires. The 82-year-old consistently tops Roll Call’s retirement watch list with his feeble fundraising.

Young coasted to re-election this past cycle, but the composition of his district is competitive. Republicans are privately concerned that his name identification has helped them hold on to the seat. A different Republican on the ballot could mean a more difficult race than in the past.

Several Republicans could run for Young’s seat if he retires. Local operatives named state Sen. Jack Latvala, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and former Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield as potential candidates.

Republican operatives also suggested Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson’s 9th District as a potential pickup. Grayson came back to Congress last year with a 26-point victory, but Republicans say the district could be competitive with the right candidate.

Specifically, Republicans are hunting for a candidate with Puerto Rican heritage who can win the GOP primary. They suggested former state Rep. John “Q” Quinones, but he failed in 2012 to win the GOP nomination.

Quinones exemplifies the GOP’s problem in this district: Any Republican nominee who can put the seat in play is unlikely to make it through the primary.

Nonetheless, Republicans express confidence overall about their prospects in Florida.

“We are not worried about the future,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We’ve got good candidates.”

Farm Team is a state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress. The column runs on Thursdays. The previous Farm Team focused on Democrats in Florida.

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