November 9, 2012
The elections have come and gone and, needless to say, there were a few surprises. Florida, for example, was widely expected to award its 29 electoral votes to Mitt Romney. As of today, the race remains “too close to call” in Florida, but it is believed that President Obama will eventually be declared winner in the state.
There is no doubt that the Democratic Party apparatus did a model job in turning out its base to vote in Florida. This is not only evident from the unexpected Obama victory in the state, but also several congressional seats that were up for grabs in which Democrats were victorious.
After the recent census, Florida was awarded an extra two congressional seats, bringing the state’s total to 27 (plus its two U.S. Senate seats). Currently, Republicans hold 19 out of the 25 U.S. House seats in Florida (Democrats only six. Due to this week’s election results, however, Republicans will control only 17 of the 27 (Democrats 10), meaning that Democrats picked-up the two seats Florida gained after the census, plus flipped two others. The two Republican incumbents who lost their seats were David Rivera from Miami and conservative firebrand Allen West from West Palm Beach, both first elected in the Republican electoral wave of 2010.
The electoral gains made by Democrats in the state can be attributed mainly to two things: the party’s success in turning out its voters and the recent redistricting process that drew new boundaries for the state’s congressional , state Senate, and state House districts.
Despite the surge of Democratic voters nationwide, Republicans managed to keep control of most of their congressional seats and by extension, their majority in the House of Representatives. This was due, in part, to state legislatures with Republican majorities who were tasked with redrawing districts after the census. Florida’s Republican-led Legislature, however, was restricted due to a series of constitutional amendments passed in 2010 that prohibit gerrymandering and drawing federal and state legislative districts to protect incumbents or favor a political party. This made several congressional seats much more competitive than they otherwise would have been.
This also made state legislative seats more competitive. In fact, the biggest upset in Florida during this week’s election was the narrow loss of a powerful Central Florida Republican legislator: Chris Dorworth, who was in line to be speaker of the Florida House in two years. Despite out-raising his opponent 12-1, he was defeated by just over 123 votes out of nearly 74,000 cast, becoming yet another Republican casualty of the Obama voter turnout juggernaut.
Lawmakers are already jockeying to replace him, and one possibility being floated around is that Rep. Richard Corcoran who is slated to become speaker during the term immediately following what would have been Dorworth’s speakership, may simply become speaker two years early and serve in that role for four years.
Never a dull moment in Florida.