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The Florida Republican Party is flourishing, with a deep bench available for the next competitive or open-seat race. But the local party’s primary concern is protecting its 17-to-10 edge in the House delegation.
“We’re going to make sure that Floridians understand that [no matter what Democrat is] challenging one of our incumbents, that this is about Nancy Pelosi,” Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said, referencing the House minority leader. “Beyond that, Florida has a whole host of folks that could do any number of things, whether it’s run for Congress or Senate.”
The Sunshine State GOP is grooming a new generation of future House and Senate candidates. Most of the recruits are unknown to a national audience, but then, so was Republican Sen. Marco Rubio a few years ago.
Republicans frequently cite the man who holds Rubio’s former position in the legislature, state Speaker Will Weatherford, as a future statewide candidate.
“The star conservative right now is Will Weatherford,” said Florida GOP strategist Rick Wilson.
Interviews with several Florida Republican operatives yielded three more names of likely future statewide candidates, either for governor or Senate: state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, state Attorney General Pam Bondi and former congressman and current state Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam.
The GOP’s bench for House races is much less certain, given that the state’s congressional boundaries remained mired in litigation.
Democrats argue that courts will strike down the current congressional map under the state’s new Fair Districts law. Their hope is that the courts will issue a map more favorable to Democrats.
Republicans have expressed confidence that the courts will uphold the House map they drew last year. Under those lines, the GOP’s two best pickup opportunities are in the Miami region: the 18th and 26th districts.
“Miami is just loaded with GOP talent,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told CQ Roll Call.
Republicans are lining up to challenge freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat, in the 18th District. GOP recruits include Juno Beach Vice Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Andel, businessman Gary Uber, former state Rep. Carl Domino, state Rep. Gayle B. Harrell, state Sen. Joe Negron and St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery.
But some Republicans are also excited about the potential candidacy of Adam Hasner, who lost a House race last cycle to now-Rep. Lois Frankel in the 22nd District. One source went so far as to call Hasner “the sacrificial lamb” for running in a tough district for Republicans, but Hasner has ties to the 18th District, better territory for Republicans.