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EveryDistrict State Spotlight: Florida

Overview

Florida is a perennial bellwether state. Only once in the last 50 years has the winner of the presidential election lost Florida (Bill Clinton in 1992).

Despite this, Republicans have long held control on the state level. Republicans have controlled the Florida State Senate since 1994, and currently have a 23–16 majority (with one vacancy). Republicans have controlled the Florida State House since 1996, and currently have a 76–41 majority (with three vacancies). Florida is a Republican trifecta state, with Republicans controlling the governorship and both houses of the state legislature.

This year, however, there are meaningful opportunities for Democrats to win back power.

To win the majority, Democrats need to pick up 5 seats in the State Senate, and 20 seats in the State House.

Only the even-numbered State Senate districts are on the ballot this year. In the State Senate there are two seats that lean Democratic-Senate Districts 18 and 36 in Tampa and Miami areas, respectively-and one seat that leans slightly Republican, District 8, centered around Gainesville, home of UF. Then, there are another three seats that lean slightly more Republican: Senate Districts 20, 22, and 24. Districts 20 and 22 are along the I-4 corridor, while 24 is in St. Petersburg.

In the State House, there are two seats that lean Democratic: House Districts 103 and 120, both in South Florida. There are another 18 that lean slightly Republican: House Districts 30, 47, 63, 67, 69, 105, and 115. 21, 27, 36, 42, 53, 59, 72, 83, 89, 93, and 119. Perhaps not surprisingly, these districts are clustered mostly around the Orlando, Tampa, and Miami metro areas.

The Candidates

In Florida, EveryDistrict has endorsed nine candidates running for the state legislature.

Janet Cruz currently serves in the Florida House of Representatives and is running for the State Senate; before running for office she was an optician. Barbara Cady is already an active volunteer in her community; she works with Meals on Wheels, the Osceola County Planning Commission, the Osceola Affordable Housing Committee, and FLNOW (National Organization for Women), to name just a few. Jennifer Webb is a small business owner. Linda Jack has had a varied career; she began as an elementary school teacher and is now a veterinarian. Anna Eskamani has served for the last six years as a Senior Director for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida where she managed a team across 22 counties. Javier Estevez was born and raised in Miami and is the son of Cuban immigrants. Joy Goff-Marcil has served on the Maitland City Council since 2013 and just ended her year-long term as Vice Mayor. Jeffrey Solomon is a chiropractor, and in 2005 was selected to serve as the United States Olympic Team Staff Chiropractor in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Jason Haeseler is a veteran who’s been motivated to run for office because of his daughter; she was born with a congenital heart defect and he’s watched as politicians in Tallahassee have cut funding for heart research and options for medical care, the same care that saved his daughter’s life.

What’s At Stake

Health Care

Florida, like many Republican-controlled states, has been on the front lines of fighting the Affordable Care Act and has refused to expand Medicaid. Florida was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by 26 states seeking to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Florida has consistently performed poorly in assessing its health care system; the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund ranked it 48th out of 50 states.

Florida Republicans have also been busy limiting women’s access to health care. In addition to many of the regulations imposed on women in states controlled by Republican lawmakers, this year Florida passed legislation that was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott (R) that required the Florida Department of Health to contract with the Florida Pregnancy Care Network (FPCN) to distribute grant money for pregnancy support and wellness. The contract requires FPCN to subcontract only with providers that “exclusively promote and support childbirth,” permanently funding fake clinics, commonly known as anti-choice crisis centers (CPCs) with taxpayer dollars. This makes Florida the first state to codify into law a requirement to contract with a specific organization to distribute grants to anti-choice organizations seeking to discourage people from obtaining abortion care.

Voting Rights

In Florida, more than 10 percent of the adult population is prohibited from voting because they’ve had felony convictions. While most states restore voting rights to felons after they’ve completed their sentences, Florida’s arbitrary system requires those who have completed their sentences and probation to ask the governor and other Cabinet members to restore their right to vote. In November, voters will have a choice; they can vote on a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would restore voting eligibility to most felons once they’ve completed their sentences.

Gun Safety

Florida has long been the NRA’s testing ground for new legislation to loosen gun safety regulations. The state has now become infamous for pioneering the “Stand Your Ground” legislation; Florida first passed the legislation in 2005 and 24 states have now enacted similar legislation. The legislation made national headlines in 2012 when Trayvon Martin was killed while walking unarmed, and again this year when a father was shot and killed in front of his three kids over a parking space dispute.

The Florida legislature did pass — and Governor Rick Scott did sign — a limited package of reforms following the devastating shooting in Parkland in February. The legislation raised the minimum age for gun purchases from 21 to 18 (the NRA is now suing over this part of the legislation), banned bump stocks, and enacted a waiting period to ensure a background check is complete. The legislation also controversially provided funding for a program to arm certain school employees. The legislation did not ban assault weapons, did not ban high capacity magazines, nor did it strengthen background checks, measures that Democratic lawmakers in Florida have tried to enact for years.

The Environment

This month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report commissioned by the United Nations with a dire warning on climate change. This report should be a wake up call, but it also confirms what scientists have now been saying for decades: man-made climate change is real, and the planet will face dire consequences if substantial steps aren’t taken to address it. Despite this, Republican legislators in Florida have continued to deny climate science.

Florida, surrounded by water on all sides, has already started to see the devastating effects of climate change from superstorms like Hurricane Michael that devastated the Florida Panhandle this month. Florida’s tourism-driven economy depends on clean water, and this year’s red tide algae blooms (caused by runoff from fertilizer and waste) that are killing fish and sea life haven’t helped. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have promised to invest in clean up measures. But under Governor Scott (who is now running for the U.S. Senate), Florida has rolled back regulations to control development and its impacts, including fertilizer and waste runoff, slashed funding to protect waterways, appointed board members who were deferential to polluters, and reversed course on a plan to purchase 60,000 acres of land for environmental reclamation.

The Incumbents

Five of EveryDistrict’s endorsed candidates are running against incumbents: Dana Young (SD 18), Chuck Clemons (HD 21), Bob Cortes (HD 30), Amber Mariano (HD 36), and Mike La Rosa (42). Young has voted to loosen gun safety laws, restrict women’s access to health care, and restrict voting rights. Clemons has voted for several pieces of legislation that would undermine gun safety. LaRosa has been an anti-choice champion, recently co-sponsoring three pieces of legislation that would limit women’s access to health care. Cortes also sponsored one of those pieces of legislation, while Mariano has sponsored legislation to loosen gun safety laws.

What You Can Do

State legislative candidates in Florida are required to file fairly regular campaign finance reports; the most recent reports were filed at the beginning of October. This gives us a good picture of where our candidates stand heading into the final month. We compared cash on hand between EveryDistrict’s nine candidates and their opponents.

EveryDistrict’s nine candidates had almost $1 million less cash on hand than their opponents. That’s $1 million less that our candidates have to spend to communicate their message and get out the vote.

This is where you come in. You can help close the gap by making a donation today. Our “Two for Twenty” campaign has identified the 20 of our candidates who need your support the most. Whatever you can give — $5, $25, $100, or $500 — will make a huge difference in making sure our candidates have the resources they need to fund their campaigns through Election Day. You can make a donation using this link: Crowdpac.com/c/EveryDistrict2for20.

We know they can win with your support.

Want to learn more? Visit our website, EveryDistrict.us, where you can learn more about our plans for 2018 and sign up for our email list. Questions? Send us a note at info@everydistrict.us.