Floridians help swing US House control to Democrats

Jacksonville-area US Reps. Ted Yoho, John Rutherford, Al Lawson re-elected

Since the beginning of last year, 34 lawmakers have each received more than $100,000 from pharmaceutical companies. (Getty Images via CNN)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Northeast Florida U.S. Reps. John Rutherford (R-Jacksonville), Ted Yoho (R-Gainesville) and Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) easily won their bids for re-election, but at least two Republican incumbents fell to Democratic challengers, helping shift control of the U.S. House.

The hotly contested 6th Congressional District, the seat Ron DeSantis left to run for governor, was one of several of Florida's 27 House races that were considered in play.

The 6th, which includes Flagler, part of Putnam and Volusia counties and is considered safe Republican territory, saw a spirited campaign between Democrat Nancy Soderberg -- an administrator at the University of North Florida and former National Security Council and United Nations official -- and Republican Michael Waltz, a former Army Green Beret who served in Afghanistan. 

At the votes poured in, Waltz's lead grew, winning 56 percent of the vote.

RETURNS: Florida's U.S. Senate, House races

Florida is a perennial political battleground state, and it's no different this year in races for the U.S. House that could help decide which party controls the chamber in Washington.

Former U.S. Cabinet secretary Donna Shalala won election to a South Florida House seat, flipping it into the Democratic column for the first time in decades.

Shalala defeated Republican former television journalist Maria Elvira Salazar on Tuesday in the Miami area's 27th District. It's the first foray into elective politics for the 77-year-old Shalala, who was President Bill Clinton's secretary of Health and Human Services throughout the 1990s.

Shalala also was president of the universities of Wisconsin and Miami and headed the Clinton Foundation from 2015-2017.

Salazar is a 56-year-old Cuban-American. She had sought to capitalize on the district's strong Hispanic presence and cast Shalala as past her prime.

Next door, in the 26th District, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell ousted GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo f, switching it to the Democratic column.

Voters in the district, which runs from south of Miami to Key West elected Mucarsel-Powell, who is originally from Ecuador. She sought to tie Curbelo closely to policies of President Donald Trump seen as unpopular in the district. She also stressed addressing gun violence with ads about her father's shooting death.

Tim King, of Gainesville, Florida, voted Tuesday with hopes of "getting more Democratic seats" in the House and Senate.

"That was the biggest thing," said King, a 63-year-old middle school custodian who voted at Trinity United Methodist Church.

"I'm not a fan of Trump," he added. "I just don't like the way he operates. ... I think he's a bully. I think he's a gangster. I think he's a playboy. He's turning the White House into a joke. That's my opinion."
Robert Major, 51, a registered Republican from Fort Lauderdale said there is too much fighting among those with different political affiliations and opinions.
"I honestly believe that people need to learn to get along," said the electrician, while working at a construction site in Coral Gables, an affluent suburb of Miami. "It's that simple ... it's childish to me."

In Florida, headed for automatic re-election with no GOP or write-in opponents are Reps. Frederica Wilson of Miami-based District 24; Val Demings of the Orlando area's District 10; Lois Frankel of Palm Beach County's District 21; and Kathy Castor of District 14, in the Tampa area.

A fifth incumbent Democrat, Rep. Alcee Hastings, faces only token write-in opposition in South Florida District 20.

Some other competitive House races were closely watched.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who toppled longtime GOP Rep. John Mica in 2016, is in a tight re-election race against Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in the Orlando area's 7th District. And in Sarasota, veteran GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan has had a tough fight trying to retain his 16th District seat against Democratic attorney David Shapiro.

One other competitive seat is the Lakeland-based 15th District, where Republican Dennis Ross decided to retire this year. Democrat Kristen Carlson, an attorney who has worked as a prosecutor and also as general counsel to the Florida Department of Citrus, is battling Republican state Rep. Ross Spano for the seat.

Two other incumbent Republicans, Mario Diaz-Balart in the 25th District and Brian Mast in the 18th District, have appeared on national upset-watch lists, but most recent polls indicate they will prevail.  


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