Newspaper article Roll Call

Special Election Gives Florida Democrats a Pick-Up Opportunity

Newspaper article Roll Call

Special Election Gives Florida Democrats a Pick-Up Opportunity

Article excerpt

A special election in Florida will present House Democrats with their best test case yet this cycle to see if they can put a dent in the GOP's majority -- or perhaps even take the speaker's gavel.

Later this week, Floridians will lay to rest the dean of their congressional delegation, Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Even as respects are being paid, both parties will be gearing up to elect his successor in the 13th District.

In recent cycles, Young's political dominance papered over the competitive nature of the district. He never won re-election with less than 56 percent of the vote, but President Barack Obama carried the district in both of his national campaigns.

As the first truly competitive special election of the cycle, the 13th District presents an ideal stage for the national parties to test messaging and strategy before 2014. Timing remains an open question because Florida law gives Republican Gov. Rick Scott significant leeway on scheduling a special election, but local operatives expect a contest in the next several months.

Some operatives warn it is premature to characterize the race as a harbinger for next fall. They caution not that many true tossup seats remain on the House battlefield map, so different tactics and strategies will be deployed elsewhere in the country.

But before the either party can win the seat, they must choose a nominee. Both primary fields will remain in flux -- at least until after Young's funeral on Thursday.

For Democrats, the highest-profile contender is Alex Sink, their 2010 gubernatorial nominee. Sink has not entered the race, but most Florida Democratic insiders assume she will run.

Sink would join a Democratic field that already includes attorney Jessica Ehrlich, who was in the midst of her second campaign for the seat in as many cycles when Young died. Ehrlich had mediocre fundraising, bringing in low six-figure hauls. Plus, the DCCC did not include her in its Jumpstart program, a designation for its top tier candidates.

Even after Young announced his retirement two weeks ago, Florida Democratic sources insisted that Ehrlich would not have an easy path to the nomination. …

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