(The Center Square) – Twenty of Florida’s 40 state Senate seats – all the odd-numbered districts – are on Tuesday’s ballot, with Democrats needing to win at least 13 to end two decades of Republican control of the chamber.
By all accounts, polls, fundraising assessments and “influencer” insights, that is not likely. While some forecast Democrats could turn between two and four districts, others project Republicans could hold their ground and add as many as three seats to the 23-17 majority they had in 2020.
Two Democratic incumbents already have been re-elected and another Democrat is assured a Senate seat because they do not face Republican challengers.
Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, will represent Senate District 19; Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, will represent Senate District 33; and Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, has won the Senate District 35 race by virtue of winning the Democratic primary in August.
Of the remaining 17 Senate seats on the ballot, 11 are held by Republicans, with eight of those winning elections in 2016 by 10% or more.
Democrats would need to retain all six of the seats they now hold and take at least four of the 11 now held by Republicans to gain a 20-20 chamber split.
Across the 17 contested races, Republicans have established a significant fundraising advantage. Direct donations to Florida Legislature campaigns are limited to $1,000, but donations to political action committees allow for limitless contributions that can be spread around to various candidates.
An example of the disparities in PAC dark money campaign contributions is U.S. Sugar, which the Florida Division of Elections (FDOE) documents has donated $485,000 to the Republican Senate committee and $25,000 to the Democratic Senate committee. Disney has given $215,000 to the Republican Senate committee and no money to the Democrats’ Senate Victory committee.
Further complicating Democrats’ odds for challenging GOP control of the chamber was a decision early in the campaign to target “winnable” races rather than more broadly complete. That strategy identified only two GOP-controlled seats – Senate Districts 9 and 39 – as races where limited resources are being dedicated to flip blue.
Well-funded GOP campaigns also have forced Democrats to spend money in defending seats normally regarded as safe for Democratic candidates. Among them: Senate District 3 in the Tallahassee area and Senate District 37 in Miami-Dade County.
Senate District 9: Attorney Patricia Sigman defeated four Democrat opponents to take on Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur for the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. David Simmons, who is leaving the Legislature.
Brodeur did not face a GOP primary challenge in this central Florida purple district, which spans Volusia and Seminole counties that has a near-even voter registration base, presaging an expensive campaign for a seat Republicans have controlled since the 1990s.
Polls put Brodeur ahead but have Sigman trailing closely and within striking distance in a Republican stronghold where Democrats are becoming increasingly competitive.
Senate District 39: Rep. Javier Fernández defeated Daniel Horton-Diaz in the Democratic primary and is challenging Republican Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez in one of the state’s highest-profile races for the Miami-Dade County districts.
The winner of the Fernández-Rodriguez election will assume the seat vacated by term-limited GOP Sen. Anitere Flores in a district where Democrats have a slender voter registration advantage.
Senate District 3: Rep. Loranne Ausley is expected to succeed moderate term-limited Democrat Sen. Bill Montford and keep this Tallahassee-area district blue in her race against Republican Marva Preston, who is running an aggressive campaign and remains doggedly within striking distance.
Senate District 37: Incumbent Democrat Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez is expected to win another four years in Tallahassee, but Republican challenger Ileana Garcia’s well-funded campaign has made that anything but a slam dunk.
The SD 3 and SD 37 races also are among campaigns where Democrats also are being targeted by well-funded, third-party campaigns.
This article was initially published at TheCenterSquare