Kevin McCarthy-aligned Super PAC just booked $1.4M in Tampa Bay ad buys

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The Congressional Leadership Fund just made a $125M ad buy nationwide.

A super PAC linked to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy just announced $1.4 million in TV ad buys in the Tampa Bay market.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC aligned with Republican House leadership, announced the reservations as part of a $125 million buy across 48 markets. Part of the first round of airtime reservations across the country, the move shows a GOP path to majority status could run through the region.

“There is palpable energy for retiring Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and winning a House Majority behind Leader Kevin McCarthy, and this is a testament to that,” CLF President Dan Conston said. “Our reserves are a significant down payment on the firepower we’ll need to win and elect tremendous GOP candidates across the country. We’re pressing deep into Democrat territory to elect the largest possible majority this fall.”

CLF leaders said the bulk of the money, $111 million, will be spent trying to flip seats now held by Democrats. In Tampa Bay, the money could be spent on offense or defense. But the market certainly covers seats Democrats hold but Republicans want.

Most notably, the GOP wants Florida’s 13th Congressional District back. Rep. Charlie Crist has represented the district since 2016, when he defeated then-Republican Rep. David Jolly.

But Crist is running for Governor, leaving the seat open. Moreover, a new congressional map just signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis significantly shifts the partisan lean of the seat. While voters in the former lines for CD 13 favored Democrat Joe Biden for President by 4 percentage points in 2020, Republican Donald Trump won the district under the new lines by 7 points.

There is a crowded field of both Republicans and Democrats, but the seat now represents a good chance for a GOP pickup in the midterms.

Another prospect? Florida added a new House seat based on the 2020 census, and there is an open House seat in Tampa Bay as a result: Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Trump won this district too, but with just 50.86% of the vote, compared to Biden’s 47.74%. That makes it one of the most competitive congressional districts in Florida.

Rep. Scott Franklin, a Lakeland Republican, told The Ledger he intends to seek re-election in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, a safe GOP seat stretching from east Lakeland south to Hendry County. That leaves CD 15 up for grabs.

Also of note, the Republican National Committee this week sent out a statement slamming Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in March added Florida’s 14th Congressional District to its target list.

That said, the map just signed by DeSantis leaves CD 14 as a heavily Democratic one where Biden won with 58.8% of the vote and Trump won just 39.72%. That’s a much bluer lean than when the NRCC turned its sights on Castor last month, and it seems less likely this will be where the CLF directs its ad messaging.

But leaders say the airtime could potentially be used in 46 separate districts, and about $14 million could be used to defend GOP turf.

That leaves a possibility the money could also be used to secure Rep. Vern Buchanan’s re-election. He faced nationally backed Democrats in 2018 and 2020 and, while he fended them off, he’s constantly in the Democrats’ crosshairs. Buchanan just announced he will seek re-election in Florida’s 16th Congressional District, where Trump won with 53.81% and Biden received 44.95% of the vote.

Just as newsworthy as a media buy in Tampa Bay may be the fact that it’s the only media market where CLF will spend dollars in its first round of reservations.

That’s despite the prospect of flipping an Orlando-area seat held now by Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat. The incumbent already announced she won’t seek another term in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, and the new map shows a more Republican lean in that seat than recent cycles. About 52.1% of voters in the new seat backed Trump while 46.57% voted for Biden, despite Biden winning under the old lines by 10 percentage points.

The NRCC also recently put a seat held by Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, on its target list after the incumbent announced he would not seek re-election. The Fort Lauderdale area seat gets renumbered as Florida’s 23rd Congressional seat under the new map. Biden won there with 56.18% of the vote to Trump’s 43.05%.

And the CLF announced no dollars for Miami airwaves. That’s despite both Reps. Carlos Giménez and María Elvira Salazar, Republicans who flipped seats red in the 2020 election, bracing for difficult re-election campaigns.

Salazar represents Florida’s 27th Congressional District, where Trump won with just 49.76% to Biden’s 49.49%, the most closely divided district in the state. Giménez is expected to run under new lines in Florida’s 28th Congressional District, where Trump took 52.79% to Biden’s 46.45%.

There also are seats in North Florida markets that could be competitive. Republicans hold an edge now in Florida’s 4th Congressional District in Jacksonville. Trump won 52.61% of the vote in the new seat and Biden won 45.92%. This offers another chance for the GOP to flip a Democratic seat from blue to red in the midterms.

Meanwhile, Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat now representing east Jacksonville, had his seat disassembled under the map. Lawson told POLITICO that if he seeks re-election, he will run in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District against Republican Rep. Neal Dunn. Trump won that seat with 54.86% of the vote to Biden’s 43.83%. This appears the only congressional district in Florida where two incumbent Congressmen could face off in the 2022 midterms.

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]



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