Another Open Seat Possible in Fla. Next Year

Posted May 9, 2003 at 6:13pm

Adding to the expected flurry of political activity in the Sunshine State next year, Rep. Dave Weldon’s (R-Fla.) admission last week that he is considering a Senate bid creates the potential for yet another competitive open-seat House race.

Weldon is among a handful of Florida House Members running or looking at running for the seat of Sen. Bob Graham (D), who officially kicked off his presidential bid last week. Graham has not said definitively whether he will seek re-election if he does not win the Democratic nomination for the White House.

While Weldon decides whether to run for the Senate, a number of people are being encouraged to seek the central Space Coast-area district he has held since 1994. State Sens. Bill Posey (R) and Mike Haridopolos as well as Brevard County Commissioner Nancy Higgs (D) are the three most likely candidates.

Posey said last week that he would definitely run if Weldon did not. According to one Florida Republican, the veteran lawmaker would be considered the frontrunner for the nomination because he has established name recognition and the proven ability to raise money.

All three have never lost an election, and Higgs is described as the only Democrat who could win the conservative district, where voters typically embrace anti-tax, pro-business and pro-environment stances. George W. Bush would have won 52 percent of the vote in the redrawn 15th in the 2000 presidential election.

“It’s a moderately conservative district,” said one lobbyist familiar with state politics. “I don’t think that district can attract an ideologue conservative.”

Among the other potential candidates mentioned are Florida GOP Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan, state Rep. Mitch Needelman (R), former state Rep. Randy Ball (R), Brevard County Sheriff Phil Williams (R) and ex-Palm Bay City Councilor Helen Voltz (R). Democrat Jim Tso, who took 37 percent of the vote against Weldon in 2002, is also mentioned.

Weldon’s 15th district is the sixth potential open seat created by the open Senate seat’s domino effect.

As long as Graham does not run for re-election, Reps. Mark Foley (R) and Peter Deutsch (D) appear certain to vacate the 6th district and 20th district, respectively, for the Senate race. Some potential House candidates have already begun readying their campaigns for those seats.

Florida Reps. Alan Boyd (D), Katherine Harris (R) and Alcee Hastings (D) have all indicated they might also make a run for Graham’s seat, although none is thought likely to eventually do so.

“Every district in Florida has a line of people to run,” the lobbyist said. “I think right now folks just need to wait and see what unfolds.”