Last Call for 10.17.22 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

A digest of the day's politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink.

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Two Florida Congressmen will take the stage Tuesday for a debate over who would best represent the 2nd Congressional District in North Florida.

U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn and Al Lawson will square up for the opening tip-off at noon at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. The race is Florida’s only U.S. House race between two incumbents following this year’s redistricting process and one of only two such races nationwide during the General Election.

City & State Florida’s Jim Rosica, who will moderate the debate hosted by the Capital Tiger Bay Club, calls it a tough situation for both candidates. Lawson has been respectful to Dunn — blaming Gov. Ron DeSantis for grouping them together by eliminating his prior minority access district — and Dunn has called Lawson “a nice guy,” Rosica told Florida Politics.

“But I don’t think ‘Big Al’ will be reticent tomorrow to highlight the policy differences between himself and his GOP opponent, such as whether Dunn’s conservatism will play in places like majority-Black and Democratic Gadsden County. And Dunn will no doubt bring up whether Lawson’s politics match the new CD 2 as a whole,” Rosica said. “I think both men likely will go into this forum with the mindset that it’s the political fight of their careers.”

Dunn likely holds the advantage in CD 2, given Republicans’ past performance in the area. Had the district existed last decade, former President Donald Trump would have carried the district by more than 11 percentage points in 2020 and Gov. Ron DeSantis would have taken it by nearly 8 points in 2018.

FiveThirtyEight gives Dunn a 98% chance to win and predicts a 14-point margin. The most recent polling, from four weeks ago, shows Dunn up by 6 points.

Despite Lawson’s uphill battle, the new seat isn’t entirely out of reach for Democrats. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham flipped a similarly drawn seat blue in 2014, a year Republicans gained a net 13 seats in the House and won the generic ballot by nearly 6 points.

However, some election pundits believe Florida has grown redder in recent years, particularly given Trump’s 2020 victory in Florida and the possibility of politically motivated relocations to the Sunshine State under DeSantis.

More crucially, national Democratic forces are seemingly unwilling to spend big in CD 2. Last month, Lawson told POLITICO the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wasn’t going to play in his race, and fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus criticized the DCCC for not showing support for a loyal member.

Although the candidates have served in Congress since 2016, both are electorally unproven at the congressional level given the prior partisan leanings of their respective old districts. Tomorrow will be an opportunity for each to show how competitive they and their parties are in the next decade of North Florida politics.

Evening Reads

—“Perla was his boss. He was her ace. Inside the covert op behind Ron DeSantis’ migrant flights” via Sarah Blaskey, Nicholas Nehamas and Carl Juste of the Miami Herald

—“DeSantis backs Elon Musk in Ukraine internet flap” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—“Polling continues to give Kamala Harris the edge against DeSantis in potential 2024 faceoff” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—“Val Demings, Marco Rubio get set for their only Senate debate Tuesday” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel

—“Republicans gain edge as voters worry about economy, Times/Siena poll finds” via Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times

—“The sleeper state Republicans are targeting to win the Senate” via Natalie Allison of POLITICO

—“New Ashley Moody ad buy highlights immigration, funding police” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics

—“Some Pinellas Republicans endorse Democrat Eric Lynn for Congress over Anna Paulina Luna” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times

—“Randy Fine challenges Brevard Superintendent to debate on proposed property tax increase” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Florida coastal living reshaped by hurricane housing codes” via Arian Campo-Flores and Deborah Acosta of The Wall Street Journal

—“In Seminole, wells may be contaminated by Hurricane Ian’s floods, officials say” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel

—“Universal gave Disney some competition in 2021, new report says” via Gabrielle Russon for Florida Politics

—“Why are fans going to Guardians games dressed as SpongeBob SquarePants?” via Jonathan X. Simmons of

Quote of the Day

“I’m just thinking to myself, ‘He’s doing this for free.’ Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Good Lord!”

— Gov. Ron DeSantis on the “kerfuffle” between Elon Musk and Ukraine over Starlink.

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