Florida's U.S. House Incumbents Have Strong Showings Statewide As Spano Loses
Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin, with the backing of a leading ally of President Donald Trump, was on the verge Tuesday night of toppling incumbent U.S. Rep. Ross Spano in one of Florida’s most closely watched congressional primaries.
Meanwhile, Kat Cammack of Gainesville appeared set to emerge from a large Republican field seeking to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., in a conservative North Florida district.
And state Rep. Byron Donalds of Naples held a slim lead over state House Majority Leader Dane Eagle of Cape Coral in a contentious and expensive multi-candidate GOP primary in Southwest Florida. They were competing to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., in a Republican stronghold.
Meanwhile, Democratic incumbents Al Lawson, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Frederica Wilson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz were all set to fend off primary challengers, as were Republicans Matt Gaetz, John Rutherford, Bill Posey and Brian Mast, according to unofficial numbers posted Tuesday evening on the state Division of Elections website.
Entering the primary, Republicans held 14 of the 27 seats in the congressional delegation. Tuesday night’s results set the lineup for the Nov. 3 General Election.
All but two of the state’s congressional seats will have contests between Republicans and Democrats in November.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, did not draw any challengers, while U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican, only faces two write-in candidates.
Most incumbents are also considered safe because of the makeup of voters in their districts.
In a contest being watched in South Florida’s Congressional District 26, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez was ahead of Omar Blanco in Tuesday’s Republican primary and was poised to take on U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in November.
Spano, a former state House member, was elected in 2018 in Congressional District 15, which includes parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties.
Franklin on Tuesday night had a strong showing from voters in Polk County. He also drew support from Gaetz, who has close ties to the president, and members of the Barnett family that founded Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets.
Spano had support from numerous House Republicans and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
But Spano also has been dogged by federal investigations into his 2018 campaign finances. Spano is alleged to have illegally borrowed money that he loaned to his campaign. He has insisted the exchange wasn’t intentional.
Republicans make up 36 percent of the registered voters and Democrats account for 35 percent in the district. Franklin is now poised to face Democrat Alan Cohn, a former television reporter, who defeated state Rep. Adam Hattersley in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Franklin was among a number of congressional candidates backed Tuesday by Gaetz, including conservative commentator Anna Paulina Luna, who was atop a five-candidate Republican field in Congressional District 13 and appeared ready to take on incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist in November.
Gaetz also backed Laura Loomer, a conservative internet provocateur who was outpacing a six-way field to taken on Frankel in Palm Beach County’s Congressional District 21.
Crist, a former Republican governor, issued a statement on his pending matchup with Luna in their Pinellas County district.
“Voters of Pinellas County need and deserve someone in Washington who deeply understands the district on a personal level -- and nobody knows Pinellas County better than Charlie Crist,” the statement said.
In Southwest Florida, the combative Republican primary in Congressional District 19 in Collier and Lee counties seesawed Tuesday as the numbers came in, with Donalds up several hundred votes over Eagle and Casey Askar, a Naples businessman.
The bitter contest was capped Tuesday morning when a text went out purportedly from Donalds, stating he was dropping out of the race.
Donalds responded to the “dirty politics” by saying, “I did not drop out of the race. This illegal text sent to the whole district is absolutely false and old edited footage from 2012!”
Democrat Cindy Lyn Banyai of Fort Myers was ahead of David Holden of Naples in the Democratic primary in the district.
In North Florida’s District 3, Cammack was ahead of a field of 10 Republicans in the race to replace Yoho. Cammack was Yoho’s campaign manager and his former deputy chief of staff.
Holding second place was Judson Sapp of Orange Park, who had the backing of Gaetz.
Sapp, the CEO of W.J. Sapp Railroad Contractor, has worked for U.S. Sen. Connie Mack and in the Legislature for now-Florida State University President John Thrasher.
On the Democratic side, Adam Christensen, a scientist at Essential Validation Service who lives in Gainesville, held a narrow edge over Philip Dodds, a strategist at Healthcare IT and member of the Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee and Tom Wells, a small business owner.
The district includes all or parts of Alachua, Bradford, Clay, Marion, Putnam and Union counties.