Politics

Florida House Primary Results: Contests Set in Tossup Seats; A Few New 115th Faces Likely Known

With redistricting earlier this year and many retirements, the Florida delegation is getting a makeover

Randy Perkins won the Democratic primary in Florida's 18th District, a tossup seat vacated by Rep. Patrick Murphy. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Updated as of 10: 50 p.m. | With Florida primary races now settled, the general election can begin to take shape in the state's two tossup seats that Democrats need to secure the House majority.

In Florida's 18th District, which Rep. Patrick Murphy is vacating to run for Senate, the national Democrats' preferred candidate won. Wealthy businessman Randy Perkins defeated Jonathan Chane. Perkins poured more than $3 million of his own money into his campaign and is prepared to spend much more in the general. 

But Republicans are ready to pounce. With a leaked Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee memo exposing some of Perkins' vulnerabilities — mostly stemming from the business dealings of his disaster recovery company — the GOP hopes they'll be able to overcome Perkins' millions.

[Self-Funders Fight for Florida's 18th District]

Republicans are especially confident in their attacks on Perkins now that they've nominated Brian Mast, who served in the Joint Operations Special Command and lost both legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan.

The DCCC's memo on the district from April warned that if Mast were the GOP nominee, Perkins "will be vulnerable to character attacks and will likely see a lot of outside spending." 

Republican Rebecca Negron came in second in the primary for this seat. She represented one of the GOP's few chances to send a woman to Congress as part of its freshman class next year. 

In the state’s other tossup race — the 26th District — Democrats got the candidate they didn't want. Former Rep. Joe Garcia narrowly defeated DCCC-backed Annette Taddeo. He'll face off against GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, one of the 10 most vulnerable incumbents, in a district that became more Democratic in redistricting. Garcia won this seat in 2012 before losing to Curbelo two years later. He had two aides resign in a fraud investigation in 2013, which is one reason the DCCC put its weight behind Taddeo as a stronger general election candidate this time around. 

Safe GOP Seats

With five of Florida's eight open House seats in safe GOP districts, Tuesday's primaries likely decided the next five Republican members of Congress — and the ideological make-up of next year's conference

In the 1st District, state Rep. Matt Gaetz won the eight-way primary, and will likely replace retiring Rep. Jeff Miller. Gaetz had received support from diverse corners of the party, ranging from Mike Huckabee's PAC to the more moderate, pro-business Republican Main Street Partnership. 

[One-Third of Florida Delegation Retiring]

The 2nd District is currently held by Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham, but recent redistricting turned it into a safe Republican seat. Graham is leaving the seat to explore a gubernatorial bid in 2018.  

It will likely be held by doctor Neal Dunn, who narrowly won Tuesday's primary in a victory for the GOP establishment. The House Freedom Fund — the political arm of the Freedom Caucus — and the Club for Growth had backed attorney Mary Thomas in what had turned into a proxy war between two factions of the GOP conference. 

In the 4th District, former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford won with 39 percent of the vote, defeating his closest competition, state Rep. Lake Rey and attorney Hans Tanzler III. Current GOP Rep. Ander Crenshaw is retiring

[Exit Interview: Ander Crenshaw

6th District Rep. Ron DeSantis hadn't planned to run for re-election to his safe Republican seat because he'd started the year running for Senate. But he dropped back down to the House race after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election. DeSantis easily won his primary Tuesday night. 

[How Rubio's Decision Scrambles Florida House Races]

Thanks to redistricting, current 10th District Rep. Daniel Webster's district is too Democratic for him to carry. But he'll likely now be calling the new 11th District home. In Tuesday's primary, Webster defeated Justin Gabrelle, the former chief of staff to current 11th District Rep. Rich Nugent, who's retiring. Webster was able to pull off what Virginia's J. Randy Forbes did not, when he tried a similar maneuver earlier this year. 

And in the 19th District — the one Florida district currently represented by a House Freedom Caucus member — self-funder Francis Rooney defeated former Budget Committee staffer Chauncey Goss by 23 points. 

Rooney will likely replace Rep. Curt Clawson, who's retiring. A big-time GOP fundraiser in the Sunshine State and the former ambassador to the Vatican, Rooney is a more establishment-Republican than Clawson, having supported the presidential bids of Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Safe Democratic Seats

Indicted Rep. Corinne Brown lost her primary in a dramatically redrawn 5th District. Veteran state Rep. Alan Lawson defeated her by 9 points with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Lawson could be a more conservative voice in the Democratic caucus. He criticized Brown for participating in House Democrats' sit-in against inaction on gun control legislation earlier this summer. 

Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson gave up running for re-election to his 9th District seat to run for Senate. He lost that primary Tuesday night, while his wife lost her bid to replace him.

Dena Grayson was tied for second place with 28 percent of the vote, with 95 percent of precincts reporting. State Sen. Darren Soto won the contest. 

[Alan Grayson Marries Woman Running to Replace Him]

In the newly safe Democratic 10th District, former Orland Police Chief Val Demings handily defeated self-funder Bob Poe in this Orlando-based seat. Demings had the backing of the DCCC and EMILY's List. 

Former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz won her primary, despite the controversy that led to her recent DNC resignation. Hacked emails showed DNC staffers favoring Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her primary challenger Tim Canova who was backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. 

Contact Pathé at simonepathe@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter at @sfpathe.

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