The outcomes in Florida’s Primary Election on Aug. 30 were pretty much what we expected. Even the ousting of Rep. Corrine Brown, an icon in the Democrats’ camp, was predictable. Ander Crenshaw, the Republican who has long represented House District 4, decided to retire, and now former Jacksonville sheriff John Rutherford will run to keep that seat in GOP hands.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, Republican who represents House District 6, won his primary with more than triple the votes of his top competitor among three.
Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio is gearing up to run again for the US Senate while Republican Glo Smith will attempt to take on the man who trounced Brown in the Primary.
What are the chances for a Republican taking the seat Brown once held? How concerned is the Rubio camp about running against former Republican now Democrat Patrick Murphy? Will Crenshaw’s seat be a lock for Republicans?
This election cycle has been so crazy it’s hard to predict what will happen.
Start with Brown’s departure. Brown has long been enmeshed in controversies over questionable earmarks and racially charged statements. She once told a member of George W. Bush’s cabinet who described himself as ‘Mexican-American,’ “You all look alike to me.”
Brown is facing a slew of federal charges involving fraud and a charity. That eased the way for Al Lawson, a Democrat who served in Florida’s legislature for almost three decades, to oust an incumbent who for years was considered undefeatable. Redistricting helped make Brown vulnerable; most of her core support is in Jacksonville. Stories about her holding barbecues on Sunday and then bussing voters to polls were legion in this city.
Most media would say Lawson is a shoo-in because of the makeup of the newly drawn district. However, media don’t fully know Lawson’s challenger Glo Smith.
Smith is a natural when it comes to public speaking, and she has experience in both the public and private small business sectors. She also has a background in children’s services. If given a chance and even modest support from her party, she could possibly pull off a big upset. Her greatest challenge is money.
The redistricting was opposed by Brown. Politico reported on the Florida Supreme Court decision:
“The new court-approved map shifts Brown’s seat to an east-west configuration, which drops its black voting age population from 50 to 45 percent, a move Brown has said means it will no longer elect a black candidate. She sued in federal court to stop implementation of the new map, which had been on hold pending a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court.”
The former shape of the district led many in media to call it one of the “most gerrymandered” in the nation. Whether Dems can count on loyalty now that Brown is gone is up in the air, but if Smith did win the seat, it would be a collective slap in the face to Democrats whose socio-economic policies are being seriously questioned not just by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump but by many US voters.
When it comes to races, none will be more closely watched in Florida than the US Senate race pitting incumbent Marco Rubio against Murphy. Murphy’s career path has been similar to that of former Republican now Democrat Charlie Crist. Murphy won his US House seat after his supporters ran an ad teeming with racism.
Rubio polls well against Murphy, but once the dynamics of the race heat up, he may have to work a little harder because Murphy has the advantage of the heated GOP primary history when it comes to creating ads and rhetoric. Most Republicans, despite the controversial Gang of 8 bill, want Rubio to keep his seat. He has a dedicated team of volunteers and strategists who will now need some of the people they tangled with during the intense GOP primary.
The Dem primary, by contrast, was dull as a butter knife because the outcome as we now know was predetermined by the party machine.
Florida’s other US senator is a Democrat who has basically rubber-stamped everything President Barack Obama proposed.
Regarding Crenshaw’s former House seat, Rutherford is favored to win because the district is heavily Republican. Whether Rutherford’s Democrat opponent David Bruderly can mount a viable opposition is unknown, but it isn’t likely to move the needle towards a Democrat in District 4.
DeSantis will face a challenge from Democrat Bill McCullough, but DeSantis has done an excellent job for his constituents. Before Rubio decided to run again for the Senate, DeSantis planned to run for the seat. DeSantis deferred once Rubio made his decision.
Going forward the race for Brown’s former seat will be one to watch. Should Glo Smith get support from the GOP, she could pull off an upset.
Whatever the outcomes, both Brown and Crenshaw were icons in Florida politics. Crenshaw didn’t draw controversies like Brown did, but both managed to direct money to their districts and apparently satisfy the voters who continued to return them to office. As for Brown, she’ll have her hands full dealing with those federal charges. Some might say it’s long past time for her to be held accountable for some of the decisions she made while holding office.
Details on all the Primary races are posted at Florida Election Watch.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Aug. 31, 2016)
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