TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - With about two months before Florida’s primary, the most exciting event to watch outside the Democratic nomination for governor is the mad scramble to fill congressional seats.
The departure of four U.S. House members, Florida’s acquisition of a new seat in Congress and a redistricting process that has shaken up the state’s political maps have combined to create interesting races in the Aug. 23 primaries.
Qualifying for Florida’s ballot ended Friday, and while there’s a competitive primary between U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried for the Democratic nomination to face Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, congressional races will get a lot of attention as Republicans try to regain power in the U.S. House.
One of the most crowded primaries is for an Orlando-area district that favors Democrats. Former U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Corrine Brown are among 10 candidates. Brown of Jacksonville recently served two years in prison in a charity and tax fraud case. The conviction was thrown out and she pleaded guilty to a single tax fraud count to avoid a second trial.
Grayson, known for his inflammatory remarks, was first elected to Congress in 2006, but lost reelection. He returned to Congress in 2011 for two more terms before giving up the seat for an unsuccessful Senate bid. Two years later, he lost an attempt to be elected to the U.S. House again.
The seat is open because Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings is running for Senate. Among other Democrats on the ballot are state Sen. Randolph Bracy. There are six Republicans seeking the nomination.
In a district between Tampa and Lakeland that should favor the GOP, five Republicans are seeking the nomination, including former Secretary of State Laurel Lee, state Sen. Kelli Stargel and state Rep. Jackie Toledo. Five Democrats are seeking the nomination.
Several Democrats were hoping to replace Crist in a St. Petersburg seat, but the district was redrawn to favor Republicans, and all dropped out other than Eric Lynn, who served as an adviser to secretaries of defense during President Barack Obama’s administration.
On the Republican side, Anna Paulina Luna and Amanda Makki — who came in first and second respectively in the 2020 GOP primary — lead a field of five.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick will face a primary to keep the South Florida seat she won in a January special election. Former Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, who lost last year’s primary to Cherfilus-McCormick by five votes, is on the ballot, as is state Rep. Anika Omphroy.
In a redrawn district extending from the Orlando area to the Atlantic coast, eight Republicans, including state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, are seeking the nomination. Four Democrats are also facing off in the district that leans Republican. The seat is open because Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is leaving office.
Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, who is in his sixth term, is facing a primary challenge from far-right activist Laura Loomer in a central Florida district. Two years ago, Loomer easily beat five other Republicans to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel in a Palm Beach area district. Loomer lost the general election by 20 percentage points.
Jared Moskowitz, a former state representative who has served as the state’s emergency management director under DeSantis, is the best known of six Democrats hoping to replace retiring Rep. Ted Deutch in a heavily Democratic South Florida district. Six Republicans are also on the primary ballot.
In legislative races, seven candidates for Senate and 28 House candidates are already guaranteed victory with no primary or general election opponents.