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Every State. Every race. Right here.

This is number 45 in a planned series of 50 entries between now and November, looking at each of the 50 states in terms of every race on that state's ticket--Presidential, Gubernatorial, Senate, House, State legislatures--the whole Busted Flush! Special attention paid to identifying and promoting the most important contests per state.

We’re in the election’s home stretch right now, and it’s time to take on the last of the really big (more than 10 House District) states. Florida, today the focus is on you!

A shout-out to 50-state diary fan Donnamarie, who has been looking forward to this one. I hope it meets the high expectations you've come to have over the course of three generations.

Here’s Florida’s Congressional map:
http://www.nationalatlas.com/...

I put off reviewing the Sunshine State as long as I could. I know precious little about it, and it’s odd enough to defy categorization, culturally and politically. Native writers as diverse as Marjorie Rawlings, John D. MacDonald and Elmore Leonard have attempted to capture the essence of Florida and left the reader aware of several different flavors of toxic, tropical eccentricity, a good deal of it violent.  A disproportionate number of "News of the Weird" stories seem to be centered in Florida, to the point where a lot of native Floridians cringe whenever there’s a new story about tiny tots expelled from kindergarten for possessing a plastic spork, school boards voting to ban Heidi from the library, or the guy hospitalized after drinking from barrels of hazardous waste on the theory that he would get superpowers—the reader’s first thought is, "Oh please, oh please don’t let it have happened in Florida again!" And then, of course, there were a few incidents in recent national elections that maybe you heard about.

When Joel Garrou divided North America into nine culturally distinct nations, one of those nations consisted of giving South Florida and the Caribbean islands a distinction all to themselves.  When political people declare that Florida is "not really a Southern State", they usually are thinking about the part of Florida south of Orlando, only.

NORTH Florida is as thoroughly Dixie as East Texas, South Virginia or North Louisiana, and runs the political gamut from middle of the road to extreme right wing.

WEST Florida, on the Gulf Coast, is the source of most of the "News of the Weird" tales, and is sometimes nicknamed the "Red Riviera" for being particularly enamored of vicious Republican partisanship and devoid of class. Pensacola on the North end and Fort Meyers/Naples on the South end are the most thoroughly crimson right wing bastions in Florida, tapering gradually to a manageable pink and then white as the territory converges on both sides  towards Tampa Bay in the middle, which is a key swing region.

EAST Florida, on the Atlantic, is a swing region like the cotton belt, with some heavily blue areas tempered by some equally heavily red areas. I’m, including Orlando as well as Jacksonville and Daytona as part of this region.

SOUTH Florida consists of four counties—Palm Beach, Broward, Monroe and Miami-Dade—that between them have about 1/3 of the state’s population and (with one exception that I’ll get to in a moment) is the most solid, safely blue part of Florida. Almost all of those people are squashed together on the very southeast coast and the Keys; farther inland, the land mass of the geographically large 23rd, 16th and 25th  Congressional districts consist mainly of barely habitable scrubland, everglades, Seminole reservation land and Lake Okeechobee. The population of those districts is mostly concentrated in coastal cities.

The exception to South Florida’s blueness is the Miami Cuban-American population, the only Latino group that does not presently vote mostly Democrat, and the source of the only Latino Representatives in Congress. Their hostile reaction to the 2000 Elian Gonzalez affair was one of a number of factors that ended up costing al Gore the Presidency. As we’ll see when I discuss the all-important South Florida Trio below, trends among Cuban-Americans are changing as time passes, and we have a history-making opportunity this year to influence this demographic toward the Democrats and make the most populous chunk of Florida a solid blue stronghold.

BLOGS: The 50-state blog project’s Florida entry is FLA Politics.

http://www.flapolitics.com/

PRESIDENT: : The ultimate toss-up state, leaning Obama as of this writing, but with a Republican State Government that is unencumbered by ethics, decency or even fear. My guess is that, like Kerry and Gore before him, Obama will get a majority of the votes and McCain will be declared the winner of the 27 EVs. Unlike Ohio, Colorado and Missouri, Florida is still completely dominated by Republicans—the Governor, SoS and AG will see to it that black voters are caged, Democratic precincts have insufficient and inaccurate voting machines, ballots will be designed creatively, and if worse comes to worst they can declare voting Democrat to be a felony punishable by loss of voting rights.

And yet, we MUST continue to compete in Florida. It’s too big and too swing to ignore, and it’s only going to become bigger—another three or four new Congressional Districts on the way come 2012. And people will just continue moving to the Sunshine State until population, pollution, crime, Republican School Boards and rising ocean levels make the place no longer a desirable relocation spot. Better their state than mine.

Ignore Florida and it becomes legitimately a Republican stronghold without the need to cheat. Keep hammering away at it, and we’ll eventually make it a blue stronghold, or, second best, catch them cheating and ride the wave of scandal as the Republicans go to jail. At the very least, we keep them spending time and resources here that they won’t be able to use in Ohio, Missouri and Virginia.

SENATE: Not up this year. Nelson (D) won handily in 2006; Martinez (R) is going to be one of the big fights of 2010.

GOVERNOR AND OTHER STATEWIDE: Not up for another two years. Currently dominated by Republicans.

STATE LEGISLATURE:  

House of Representatives: 43 D, 77 R. Deficit of 34, 18 seats needed to flip.

Senate: 14D, 26 R. Deficit of 12, 7 needed to flip.

We need to go after as many seats in both houses as we can, and work on others in 2010, in order to flip at least one body in advance of the next round of redistricting.  I don’t know whether we’ll be able to, but if Crist gets in for a second term, we risk being shut out of redistricting entirely. Again.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS:

District 1— Jim Bryan (D) v. Jeffrey Miller (Inc R). Pensacola and the far west panhandle, the most Republican district in Florida. Not on the map; however, Bryan is both a vietnam vet and a successful businessman, and if there’s a Democrat that the "Red Riviera" will respond to, it’s him.

http://www.bryanforcongress.org/

District 2—Allen Boyd (D). A swing district comparable to Jim Marshall’s in Georgia, consisting of the panhandle east of the 1st, and including Tallahassee. They drew this in 2002 to try and get Boyd out, and failed, so I guess this means there is still support for some Democrats in North Florida, if they’re blue dog enough. Safe Dem.

District 3—Corrine Brown (D) is unopposed in a squashed burrito-looking district that crammed every black voter they could find from Jacksonville to Orlando.  The reward for bending over and getting Republican dominance in the neighboring 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 24th districts is that we get this one. Why should the Republicans bother here? They got five districts of their own to outvote her!

District 4— Jay McGovern (D) v. Anders Crenshaw (Inc R). Used to be, Nassau/Duval counties in Northeast Florida made up a compact, square district with all of Jacksonville, that was safe blue.  Now they have it divided and diluted into four districts, three of which are deep red. This one, which sprawls across the Georgia border, has not on the map since 1992.

(See district 3: all the Democrats went to that district)

http://www.jay4congress.com/

District 5—John Russell (D) v. Ginny Brown-Waite (Inc R). North Gulf Coast. This one is a third tier pickup possibility, largely due to Waite’s repulsiveness, which is high even by Red district standards.

http://www.johnrussellforcongress.com/

District 6—Tim Cunha (D) v. Cliff Stearns (Inc R). A boomerang-shaped district in the middle of North Florida. Cunha, and attorney, is fighting hard in a district designed to thwart Democrats, and he may be making a race of it.  His campaign posts regular diaries on Kos, which get highlighted in Election Diary Rescue.

(See district 3: all the Democrats went to that district)

http://www.timcunha.com/

District 7—Faye Armitage (D) v. John Mica (Inc R). North Coastal Florida, from just below Jacksonville to Daytona Beach. Another district carefully drawn by Republicans to include just enough Gooper voters to outnumber the good guys. Winnable on paper, results have been disappointing for years. Armitage is doing her best to reverse the trend.

(See district 3: all the Democrats went to that district)

http://www.fayeforcongress.com/

District 8—Alan Grayson (D) v. Rick Keller (Inc R). Orlando area. OK, all GOP seats so far are long shots at best, but this is the first of several genuine top tier pickup possibilities. Grayson is a hard-running, hard-fundraising campaigner, and Keller is a weak back-bencher who reneged on a term limits pledge and who is definitely vulnerable in a district that has been gaining Democratic population. Cook Report calls it a toss-up. And you betcha the DCCC and Act Blue have been including this one. Keep an eye on this one and consider a donation to Grayson.

http://www.graysonforcongress.com/

District 9— Bill Mitchell (D) v. Gus Bilirakis (Inc R). Suburbs north of Tampa. Another solid pickup prospect, though not quite as good as the 8th. Mitchell, a Navy vet, is a good fit for this district. Bilirakis is a freshman, but he inherited the seat from a long-serving relative with the same last name, and (as with Duncan Hunter Junior in CA-52), a lot of people didn’t know the seat was open last time around.  Tampa is a blue stronghold, especially compared to the rest of Gulf Coast Florida, but the Republicans broke it up into one safe Dem district and three that lean GOP. This one is worth watching.

http://www.billmitchellforcongress.com/

District 10—Bob Hackworth (D) v. Bill Young (Inc R). A bluing St. Petersburg district that nonetheless continues to re-elect Young for the extreme seniority. It’s not on the map this year, but Young will retire before too long, and then this will be one of the most favored pickup opportunities out there. Meanwhile, Hackworth is out there softening Young up.

http://www.bobhackworth.com/

District 11—Kathy Castor (Inc D). Safe Democrat. Basically, the Republicans put as many Democrats in the Tampa area as they could get into this district to make the neighboring 9th, 10th and 12th as Republican as they could. The silver lining is, no race going on here.

District 12—Doug Tudor (D) v. Adam Putnam (Inc R). Suburbs west of Tampa.  The Republicans love Adam Putnam, who is apparently the male equivalent of Tracy Flick, and who probably got his well-deserved share of wedgies, wet willies and the dreaded Rear Admiral in high school, and has been taking it out on humanity ever since.  Last year he managed to get the Democrat disqualified on a technicality and was given a by for re-election. I’m glad that didn’t happen this time around.  Because of widespread loathing for Putnam on the left, Tudor gets a good deal of attention on Kos.

http://www.teamtudor.org/...

District 13— Christine Jennings (D) v. Vern Buchanan (Inc R). Sarasota area, south of Tampa Bay. Another top tier race, this cone is the rematch of the 2006 nailbiter between the same candidates, which was narrowly given to Buchanan despite a massive undervote and a touch-screen ballot on which the Congressional race was hard to spot.  On paper, a solid GOP district that sent even the loathsome Katherine Harris to Congress, so it oughta be off the map, right?  Except that Jennings led last time around up to the shocking and tainted election day upset, so with fair voting, she oughta win this time, right? Except that Buchanan is now the incumbent, and may have more of an advantage. My outlook is it’s a tossup. If Obama gets a landslide, Jennings is in. If McCain steals the state, Buchanan probably will too.  Help Jennings here:

http://www.christinejennings2008.com...

District 14—Robert Neeld (D) v. Connie Mack (Inc R). Porter Goss’s old hibernating grounds. Fort Myers is the South Florida equivalent of Pensacola, and will be the last district in the tropics to turn blue. Neeld is doing his best to make it happen sooner rather than later.

http://neeldforcongress.com/

District 15—Steve Blythe (D) v. William Posey (R). An open district just north of Palm Beach County. I haven’t heard too much about this one, the energy having been sucked out of it by the neighboring 16th and 24th districts, and by the national attention drawn to the Cuban districts far to the south--but an open seat is an open seat, it’s not the most pro-Republican district around, and Blythe may well pull it off in a wave year.  A solid second tier opportunity.

http://www.blythe2008.com/

District 16—Tim Mahoney (Inc D) v. Tom Rooney (R). This sprawling district that spans both coasts of Florida, plus a lot of scrubland in between, is maybe second only to Nick Lampson’s Texas district in incumbent danger. It was drawn to be solidly GOP, and was taken by Mahoney at the 11th hour because the incumbent, Mark Foley, was caught reaching through the Internet Tubes to fondle young boys. I think Mahoney will hang on this time—he’s won the fundraising race with surprising ease—but he’ll have to fight to hold on here for as long as the district retains its current demographics.

http://www.timmahoneyforflorida.com/...

District 17—Kendrick Meek (Inc D) is unopposed in a Miami district drawn to concentrate Democrats.

District 19—Robert Wexler (Inc D)—a blue part of Palm Beach County and a safe hold for the incumbent, who is one of the better and more outspoken progressives in the House.

District 20—Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (Inc D)—another blue part of Broward County and another safe hold. Wasserman-Schultz is a longstanding Dem powerhouse and usually a good vote for our side, although she ruffled some feathers on this site by initially praising the Republican Cuban delegation. She’s since backpedaled and worked for their challengers (more on their importance below). Bottom line is her seat is safe.

District 22—Ron Klein (Inc D)—the upscale shoreline of most of Broward and Palm Beach, that turned blue over the past decade. They didn’t gerrymander it quite as much as some of the others, since they were relying on popular incumbent Clay Shaw to make it on his own. After several close shaves in 2002 and 2004, Shaw was finally beaten in 2006. This year, the Republicans aren’t putting up much of a fight. Safe hold.

http://www.ronkleinforcongress.com/

District 23—West Palm Beach/Broward and a lot of scrubland. A safe African American seat for Democrat Alcee Hastings.

District 24—Suzanne Kosmas (D) v. Tom Feeny(Inc R). This district is not in South Florida, but about halfway up the Atlantic coast, and was drawn especially for Feeny by obliging Republicans. Feeny is one of the more overtly corrupt Goopers left in the House after 2006, and Kosmas is a popular State Representative with a good chance to take the district. Cook Report calls it a toss-up. Show her some love below:

http://kosmasforcongress.com/

Districts 18, 21 and 25—the South Florida Trio—(Annette Taddeo in the 18th; Raul Martinez in the 21st, and Joe Garcia in the 25th) are THE BIG ONES for Florida 2008, and I’ve lumped them out of order to show that they are a package deal.

The Presidential race in Florida is important, and the state legislature is vital, but I’m calling these three House districts THE BIG ONE because they are not only about flipping House districts. They’re also about changing the voting patterns of the most crucial voting bloc in the state, a bloc that, if they became Democrats for the long term, would probably be efficient to turn Florida overall into a blue state. And so that helpd both the Presidential race (now and in the future) and our legislative prospects (now and in the future). And nothing political in Florida is more important than that, it seems to me.
As mentioned above, Cuban Americans are the single largest— maybe the only—Republican voting bloc in the four major counties of South Florida. The most rabid anti-liberal Cubans are the ones who personally remember running away from Castro’s Cuba, many of whom had mob connections under the Batista dictatorship and who lost huge sums. In the early 80s, some of them used to fly over in light aircraft and buzz Havana, trying to provoke an international incident.  It’s understandable that their outlook isn’t influenced favorably by the sight of young activists in those Che Guevara T-shirts.  The younger generations of Cubanos do not remember Castro, and are much more likely to join the non-Cuban Latinos in support for the Democratic party over time. This trend cannot help but continue over time, especially in the event that a post-Castro Cuba eventually becomes the kind of place where the older Cubans can return.  The question is when.  We want it to happen NOW, and these House races represent the first time in which a serious challenge to the Cuban-Republican House members has been mounted from the latino Democratic party.  

Flip one of these seats in 2008, and it will send ripples through the Miami Cuban community. Flip two, and it will send shock waves. Flip them all, and we will have achieved a sea change in Miami politics, maybe all of Florida politics.  In a state that leans GOP by a small margin, shifting this bloc will cement a Democratic majority in the state.  Additionally, it will cement Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties, with about 1/3 of the state’s total population and 1/3 of their House districts as solid, solid blue, meaning that even if the Republicans run the table on redistricting, they will find it impossible to gerrymander any Republican districts in an area with 1/3 of the total districts.

And that’s why I’m calling the South Florida Trio the most important thing for Floridians to focus on in 2008.

Each of the three has different strengths and weaknesses. Taddeo has the most pro-Democratic district of the three, including the Keys as well as Miami; but she is also the least well known, and has the longest-serving opponent, a woman who has managed to pass herself off as a moderate with some success and who occasionally mentions something other than Bush talking points and the need to "liberate Cuba".  Martinez is the best known and has the biggest polling advantages.  Garcia is arguably the most charismatic candidate, and has the least senior opponent. All of them are at or near the top of the radars of the DCCC and the netroots, and all three have legitimate chances to win.

http://annette2008.com/
http://www.raul2008.com/
http://www.joegarcia08.com/...

REDISTRICTING FLORIDA: As Sarah Palin might say, I’m going to ignore that question. It would take a tremendous effort to come up with a great redistricting map, and we won’t be able to use it unless we get both houses of the state legislature AND defeat the incumbent Republican Governor by 2011, which ain’t likely.  What we need to do is to get one of those three things so that we at least have a seat at the table and can prevent them from locking all of our hard-earned gains of the decade into districts merged with one another.  Florida will gain three or four seats in the next round, and will keep growing until it becomes no more pleasant to live in than Joe Biden’s native Scranton, and thus people stop moving there. They utterly maxed out GOP representation last time around, and so it’s hard to see how they’ll be able to make ALL of the new ones Republican, especially if we’ve diluted the Miami Cuban GOP proclivities to the point where they’ve lost the GOP chances in Miami-Dade, but you know they’re going to try.    

Go look at what I did with New York, Illinois and California to see my plans for reducing Republicans there and neutralizing any gains they give themselves in Florida.

What do YOU think?

 Previous diaries in this series, including THE BIG ONE for each state:

Delaware(lower house of the State Legislature): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Arkansas(Obama, for want of any other contest): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Illinois(Dan Seals, IL-10): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Texas, Part One(Michael Skelly, TX-07):  http://www.dailykos.com/...

Texas, Part Two(Rick Noriega, TX-Sen): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Utah(building infrastructure): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Massachusetts(Using our majority to govern well): http://www.dailykos.com/...

North Carolina(Kay Hagan, NC-Sen):  http://www.dailykos.com/...

Hawaii(Using our majority to govern well; also, preparation for Governor, possible open Senate race in 2010): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Mississippi(Ronnie Musgrove, MS-Sen): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Oregon(Jeff Merkley, OR-Sen):  http://www.dailykos.com/...

Ohio(Tie: Obama, and State Legislature, both houses): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Maryland(Frank Kratovil, MD-01): http://www.dailykos.com/...

North Dakota(State Legislature, upper house): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Alabama(Bobby Bright, AL-02): http://www.dailykos.com/...

California, Part one(Charles Brown, CA-04): http://www.dailykos.com/...

California, Part two(Russ Warner, CA-26): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Vermont(Gaye Symington, VT-Gov):  http://www.dailykos.com/...

Iowa(Rob Hubler, IA-05): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Virginia(Obama): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Wyoming(Gary Trauner, WY-AL): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Pennsylvania (State Legislature, both houses): http://www.dailykos.com/...

New Mexico(Harry Teague, NM-02): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Kentucky(Bruce Lunsford, KY-SEN): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Nebraska(Scott Kleeb, NB-SEN): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Friggin’ IDAHO (Larry LaRocco, ID-Sen): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Maine (CHEERS to Tom Allen, ME-Sen): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Wisconsin (State Legislature, both houses): http://www.dailykos.com/...

New Jersey(Linda Stender, NJ-07): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Oklahoma (Andrew Rice, OK-Sen): http://www.dailykos.com/...

South Dakota(State Legislature, upper house): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Colorado(Obama): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Georgia(Jim Martin, GA-Sen): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Rhode Island(governing well): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Michigan(State legislature, upper house): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Alaska(Mark Begich, AK-Sen): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Missouri (Jay Nixon, MO-Gov): http://www.dailykos.com/...

West Virginia (GORGEOUS Anne Barth, WV-02): http://www.dailykos.com/...

South Carolina (Linda Ketner, SC-01, Rob Miller, SC-02): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Nevada (Jill Derby, NV-02): http://www.dailykos.com/...

New York, Part One (State Senate): http://www.dailykos.com/...

New York, Part Two(State Senate): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Tennessee (State Senate): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Washington (Darcy Burner, WA-08) http://www.dailykos.com/...

Minnesota (Al Franken, MN-Sen): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Connecticut (Jim Himes, CT-04): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Kansas: ( Don Betts, KS-04): http://www.dailykos.com/...

Originally posted to AdmiralNaismith on Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Poll

Best thing about Florida

8%5 votes
5%3 votes
3%2 votes
8%5 votes
17%10 votes
6%4 votes
5%3 votes
6%4 votes
0%0 votes
6%4 votes
3%2 votes
1%1 votes
0%0 votes
1%1 votes
24%14 votes

| 58 votes | Vote | Results

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