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Handicapper downgrades Donna Shalala, Mario Diaz-Balart chances

As the Tampa Bay Times downgraded Donna Shalala’s chances at winning a seat in Congress, the Democrat may have tensed up. But other Democrats had reason to celebrate the new Times rankings.

Polling has undercut Shalala, once seen as a lock to succeed Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinenen. The former Bill Clinton-era Cabinet member faces former Univision journalist Maria Elvira Salazer in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

“Salazar narrowly led Shalala in a recent Mason-Dixon poll, but Shalala was up by a mid-single-digit margin in polls by the New York Times/Siena College and by a Democratic polling firm. Shalala can still win, but it won’t be as easy as previously expected,” according to the Times.

The paper moved the seat from “Highly Vulnerable” for a flip, a category with no Florida races at the moment, to merely “Vulnerable.”

Other shifts?

Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart now sits on the list as “Vulnerable,” not “Potentially Vulnerable,” to an upset from Democrat Mary Barzee Flores, a former judge, in Florida’s 25th Congressional District.

“Diaz-Balart began this election cycle unlikely to face a serious challenge, thanks to his eight terms and prominent family name in this heavily Cuban district, which stretches from Miami to Republican-leaning precincts around Naples and Fort Myers,” The Times wrote. But Flores made it a race.

An open race to succeed U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in the 15th Congressional District, now ranks as “Vulnerable,” not “Potentially Vulnerable. That still gives Republican Ross Spano an edge over Democrat Kristen Carlson.

And the paper similar put the open contest to succeed Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District in its “Vulnerable” column now, but still giving the benefit to Republican Mike Waltz over Democrat Nancy Soderberg.

The Times today also moved Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan from “Vulnerable” to “Potentially Vulnerable,” pretty much the exact opposite of what happened to Diaz-Balart.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at

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