Florida Chamber political tool identifies swing seats on latest legislative maps

Software available to members looks at data from major elections in the past five years.

Where should Florida’s business community tactically wield its influence in the midterms? The Florida Chamber of Commerce unveiled its exclusive 2022 Florida Partisan Performance Index map during a special webcast to its members Friday.

Applying the tools to Florida’s just-approved redrawn legislative maps, Chamber analysts said there are few swing seats but plenty of drama in store this year.

For what it’s worth, the most exciting race could well be one in east Hillsborough County pitting two incumbents, Reps. Mike Beltran and Andrew Learned, against one another.

Beltran, a Lithia Republican, and Learned, a Brandon Democrat, both live under the new map in proposed House District 69.

“In all likelihood they will be running against one another in a very competitive district,” said Alex Coelho, data director for the Florida Chamber Political Institute.

Learned, for his part, welcomed the challenge.

“Bring it on. I won the toughest matchup last year, and I’m prepared to do it again,” he wrote on Twitter. “Let’s get to work.”

But why is this one particularly competitive? The Chamber tool studies precinct-level data on voter performance based on the past five years. That includes how voters in the district cast ballots in the last two presidential elections and the 2018 gubernatorial race. In this case, the new district came out as R+1 — closer, actually — and it’s trended more purple over time.

Similar data can be gleaned for Senate and House races across Florida. The Chamber said it will keep its eyes and analysts paying attention to several races. Learned and Beltran are among 19 incumbent House members seeking re-election who land in a district with another colleague on the new House map (H 8013).

Coelho spotlighted five other House races with potentially explosive member-on-member fights, and many involve Primary battles between members with similar ideologies. He noted such intra-party fighting could occur in House Districts 22, 29, 42, 74 and 116.

“But I don’t anticipate all five becoming member (versus) member primaries,” he said. In some cases, incumbents will shift political plans. He noted both Reps. Mike Caruso, a Delray Beach Republican, and Christopher Benjamin, a Miami Democrat, have announced they will move to ensure they run in districts containing much of their existing constituency.

Overall, the new maps result in fewer swing districts where both Democrats and Republicans can play. The new House map has 15 true swing districts, based on Chamber election analysis, and the Senate map (S 8058) has just three.

As for where they are? The Tampa Bay region seems to be a key district, as does Greater Orlando and the suburbs around the Gold Coast. While the city cores in all regions seem reliably blue, any chance of Democrats finding a path to a majority in the next decade starts with expanding influence into the immediately surrounding communities.

Chamber maps identify proposed House Districts 36, 39, 45, 65 and 69 as key battleground areas in Central Florida.

Meanwhile, Republicans have had some success, particularly in 2020, in swing districts in South Florida counties, and battlegrounds were identified in proposed House Districts 87, 94, 100, 111, 115, 119 and 120.

On the Senate side, the Chamber sees just three swing seats. Those are proposed Senate Districts 3, 10 and 40. Those are respectively home to Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley and Republican Sens. Jason Brodeur and Ana Maria Rodriguez, all three freshmen elected in 2020 and who have filed for re-election.

Some places not in the swing zone? Senate Districts 36 or 38, the likely options for Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia to run for re-election. Both districts lean Democratic. The latter, where she now lives, comes in as a D+8 district by the Chamber’s calculations, enough to be considered a strong blue seat. The Chamber did note Republicans performed well amongst Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County, when Sen. Garcia won a contested race for her current D+7 seat. Based on Florida Chamber polling, they expect this trend to continue benefitting Republicans in 2022.

Chamber leaders made a partisan index tool, which will be behind a firewall but accessible online to members. Frank Walker, Executive Vice President of Government and Political Relations for the Chamber, said the business group will use the data tactically as it engages in the 2020 election.

“For the right things to happen in Florida, we need to reunite the business community,” he said.

Jacob Ogles

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 [email protected].

One comment

  • politics

    February 6, 2022 at 10:27 am

    We do not believe in power hording. learn this from the natives and where they ended up. knowledge is sucky

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