Voter registrations show five Senate contests should be in play

Republican Jay Collins and Sen. Janet Cruz battle in SD 14, which has a close mix of Republican, Democratic voters.

Five state Senate districts have close enough balances between registered Republican and Democratic voters to offer potential close contests this fall, including three held by incumbents.

The voter registration book closing for the Aug. 23 Primary Election shows only a handful of Florida’s 40 new Senate districts show proportions of Republican and Democratic registered voters within 5 percentage points of each other, giving either party a realistic shot at winning.

The close districts include two with Republican incumbents: Senate District 36 in Miami-Dade County, held by Sen. Ileana Garcia, and Senate District 10 in Central Florida, held by Sen. Jason Brodeur. The other race featuring an incumbent is held by a Democrat: Senate District 14 in Hillsborough County, where Sen. Janet Cruz is running.

The remaining two tight contests are open seats, for Senate District 12 in Central Florida and Senate District 18 in Pinellas County.

The latest voter registration numbers show Florida had 14.3 million eligible voters registered for the Aug. 23 Primary Election, with between 274,000 and 427,000 voters registered in all of Florida’s 40 Senate districts that came from this year’s redistricting map.

Thirteen of the Senate seats already are filled for the next term, with eight Republicans and five Democrats winning their seats either in open Primary Elections last month, or on qualifying day in June when no one else filed for the seats.

Of those being contested this fall, Republicans hold strong voter registration advantages of at least 5% yet less than 15% in six districts, and nearly insurmountable voter registration advantages of 15% or more in seven more districts.

Democrats hold strong voter registration advantages in four Senate districts still being contested, and nearly insurmountable leads in five others.

That leaves potential close contests in:

SD 14: Cruz is being challenged by Republican Jay Collins for the open seat. Democrats have 5,000 more registered voters in the district, about a 1.4% advantage of the electorate.

The vote in those precincts went Democrats’ way by 4 points in the 2020 General Election presidential contest between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

SD 36: Garcia is being challenged by Democrat Raquel Pacheco. Democrats also have the voter registration edge there, with about 3,000 more registered voters, or about 1.2% of the electorate.

The precincts there went for Biden by less than 1 point in the 2020 election.

SD 10 in Seminole County and north-central Orange County: Brodeur is being challenged by Democratic Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil. Republicans hold an advantage of only a couple hundred registered voters, about 0.1% of the electorate.

The precincts there went for Biden by 4 point last cycle.

— SD 12 in Polk County: Republican Rep. Colleen Burton faces Democrat Veysel Dokur for the open seat. Republicans hold a 3,000-vote advantage, good for about 0.9% of the electorate.

Trump won the vote in the SD 12 precincts by 9 points in the 2020 General Election.

— SD 18 in Pinellas: where Republican Rep. Nick DiCeglie faces Democrat Eunic Ortiz for the open seat. Republicans hold a 16,000-person lead in voter registration in SD 18, good for a 4.2% advantage.

Trump had a 5-point edge there in 2020.

In each of those districts, independent voters and those registered with minor parties combine to make up about a third of the electorate, so they should have a major say in the elections.

Republicans hold voter registration advantages that look nearly safe but still are in the range of upsets — 5-15% — in six contested districts: Senate District 23 in Polk and Hillsborough counties; Senate District 8 in Brevard and Volusia counties; Senate District 9 across several north-central Florida counties; Senate District 20 in the south Tampa Bay area; Senate District 21 in Pinellas and Pasco counties; and Senate District 13 in Lake and Orange counties.

Democrats hold such advantages — relatively safe but not out of the range of an upset — in four contested districts: Senate District 38 in Miami-Dade County; Senate District 3 in the eastern Panhandle; Senate District Senate District 17 in Orange County; and Senate District 26 in Palm Beach County.

Republicans hold virtually insurmountable voter registration advantages — of 15% or more — in Senate District 4 in northeast Florida, Senate District 33 in southwest Florida, Senate District 27 in southwest Florida, Senate District 7 in northeast Florida, Senate District 1 in the western Panhandle, Senate District 11 west-central Florida, and Senate District 2 in the central Panhandle.

Democrats hold virtually insurmountable voter registration advantages in the contests for Senate District 25 in central Florida, Senate District 30 in southeast Florida, Senate District 24 in southeast Florida, Senate District 5 in Jacksonville, and Senate District 16 in eastern Tampa Bay.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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