TALLAHASSEE – Republican congressional candidates largely won the night Tuesday, with victories up and down the state, according to unofficial results posted on the Florida Division of Elections website.
In one of the more closely watched races, GOP incumbent María Elvira Salazar had pulled in 57 percent of the vote as of 9:45 p.m. to defeat Democratic challenger Annette Taddeo, a state senator, in Miami-Dade County’s Congressional District 27. The race was the most-expensive South Florida congressional race.
Republican newcomers heading to the U.S. Capitol include:
— State Sen. Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach, who took about 60 percent of the vote in Northeast Florida’s Congressional District 4, defeating Democrat LaShonda “L.J.” Holloway. “We said we have to protect and secure our borders, we have to make sure parents are the deciders of their child’s education, and Americans need to be able to work and provide for their families,” Bean said in a statement. “And together, we will do just that.”
— Anna Paulina Luna, an Air Force veteran who beat Democrat Eric Lynn by a margin of 53 percent to 45 percent in Pinellas County’s Congressional District 13. She will take the place of former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor Tuesday.
— Cory Mills, a veteran and defense-industry consultant who won in Central Florida’s Congressional District 7. He received 58 percent of the vote to defeat Democrat Karen Green and replace U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat who did not seek re-election.
Another winner Tuesday night was GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis: He dictated the state’s new congressional lines, vetoing lawmakers’ initial map and calling them back to Tallahassee for a special legislative session to adopt his plan. Republicans on Tuesday increased their number of seats in the congressional delegation from 16 to 20.
DeSantis’ plan included the contentious dismantling of Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson’s district, which has stretched in recent years from Jacksonville to Gadsden County and was designed to help elect a Black candidate.
The redistricting plan put the district in the Jacksonville area, leading Lawson to run against U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., in North Florida’s Congressional District 2. Dunn received about 60 percent of the vote Tuesday to easily defeat Lawson.
The DeSantis map also included a new Congressional District 15 in the Tampa Bay region. It was won by former Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who handily beat Democrat Alan Cohn by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. Lee resigned in May as secretary of state to run for the congressional seat.
One bright spot for Democrats was a win by Maxwell Frost in blue-leaning Congressional District 10. The progressive activist beat eight other candidates in August’s Democratic primary and will be the first member of Gen Z in Congress. Frost triumphed over Republican Calvin Wimbish by a margin of 59 percent to 40 percent.
Also, Democrat Jared Moskowitz – a former state House member who had been the emergency management director under DeSantis – received about 52 percent of the vote to defeat Republican Joe Budd in Congressional District 23.
Also, businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who won a special election earlier this year to replace the late Congressman Alcee Hastings, won a full term in Congressional District 20, besting Republican Drew Montez Clark by a whopping 72 percent to 28 percent.
In the Panhandle’s Congressional District 1, incumbent Republican and conservative firebrand Matt Gaetz received 67 percent of the vote for a commanding victory over Democratic challenger Rebekah Jones.
Jones, a former Florida Department of Health data analyst, drew national attention when she said DeSantis’ administration manipulated COVID-19 data. She is scheduled to stand trial early next year on charges that she improperly accessed one of the department’s computer systems.
A slew of incumbents in safe districts also won re-election.
Republicans winners were U.S. Reps. Kat Cammack in Congressional District 3, Mike Waltz in District 6, Bill Posey in District 8, Daniel Webster in District 11, Gus Bilirakis in District 12, Vern Buchanan in District 16, Greg Steube in District 17, Scott Franklin in District 18, Byron Donalds in District 19, Brian Mast in District 21, Mario Diaz-Balart in District 26 and Carlos Gimenez in District 28.
Democrats returning to the U.S. Capitol are Darren Soto in Congressional District 9, Kathy Castor in District 14, Lois Frankel in District 22, Frederica Wilson in District 24 and Debbie Wasserman Schultz in District 25.
— Jim Rosica is editor-in-chief of City & State Florida, a sister publication of the News Service of Florida.