Florida’s 13th Congressional District, once seen as an easy Republican flip, has turned into a fierce battleground, with Democratic nominee Eric Lynn refusing to give far-right Republican Anna Paulina Luna an easy win.
Lynn, regarded as a moderate, has seen strong momentum in fundraising and cross-party support in hopes of keeping the seat blue. But Republicans have the upper hand in voter registration, and Luna has backing from several key Republican leaders — including former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Before redistricting, the seat was considered one of the most competitive in the country. But redistricting turned the district red, annexing the Democratic stronghold St. Petersburg by placing it in a neighboring congressional district. New boundaries shift CD 13 west, covering the Pinellas County communities of Clearwater, Pinellas Park, Seminole and Palm Harbor.
Now, Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly 31,000, with 208,668 GOP voters (37.4% of the electorate) and 178,023 Democrats (31.5%), according to the latest L2 voter data. Another 164,112 voters (29.2%) are registered without party affiliation.
The race also has no incumbent in the running, with U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist vacating his seat in order to run for Governor. Luna ran against Crist two years ago unsuccessfully, at a time when the district favored Democrats.
When the new map was first approved, two leading Democratic candidates — state Reps. Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner — decided to drop out. That left one Democrat, former Barack Obama administration official Lynn, without any Primary challengers.
Luna, on the other hand, faced a competitive Primary against prosecutor Kevin Hayslett and Republican strategist Amanda Makki. The Air Force veteran won the nomination, taking 44% of the vote to Hayslett’s 34% and Makki’s 17%, after the Republican Primary gradually turned into a contest of who could out-Trump their opponents.
Two weeks out from the election, polling found the two nominees locked in a dead heat. Lynn and Luna were separated by less than 1 percentage point, with Luna posting 45.9% support to Lynn’s 45.3% support, according to the survey results from St. Pete Polls. Nearly 9% of those polled were still undecided.
So how did Lynn become a competitive candidate in a race that was supposed to be an easy grab for Republicans? Well, it helps to have money in the bank.
Lynn reported a cash-on-hand advantage in the most recent fundraising reports, with $592,321 in available spending money several weeks out from Election Day — a benefit of having no Primary opponent. Luna, on the other hand, reported $480,191 in available spending money as of Oct. 19, the final day of the most recent finance reports.
But Luna has come out on top as the highest fundraiser, amassing a whopping $3.06 million this cycle, while Lynn has only collected $2.01 million. However, much of Luna’s funding was spent defending her spot on top in the GOP Primary.
As for endorsements, Luna has established herself among notable names in Trump territory, which may dismay or encourage Republican voters, depending on their views of the former President. Notably, a June poll found that Trump remains popular with 85% of Republicans in the district. Just one in seven said they disapproved of him.
Some of Luna’s endorsements have received criticism even from within her own party, with backing from controversial U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert and Byron Donalds as well as Turning Point Action, founded by conservative activist Charlie Kirk.
Luna has also been endorsed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
Perhaps one of his strongest campaigning tools, Lynn has earned endorsements from several well-regarded GOP figures, including: Beverly Young, the widow of former U.S. Rep. Bill Young who endorsed Makki in the Primary; Bob Schmidt, the Republican Mayor of Belleair Shores; Jim Olliver, the Vice Mayor of Seminole; and former Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala.
He has also earned endorsements from organizations like VoteVets. Crist has endorsed Lynn as his successor.
Like many Democrats this cycle, Lynn has honed in on abortion rights in his campaign messaging in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Leading up to the election, Lynn’s campaign has been working hard to appeal to nonpartisan voters, as well as moderate Republicans, highlighting Luna’s strong views on abortion limitations. His campaign has relied heavily on a quote attributed to Luna in which she states she’s “a pro-life extremist.”
Will this strategy work? Candidates will find out on Election Day, but demographic data of the district shows women outnumber men by about 38,937 voters. The largest voting bloc in the district is actually Democratic women, consisting of 108,520 individuals. That bloc is followed by Republican men and women, made up of 105,969 and 105,781 voters, respectively. So it’s possible this messaging impacts a large number of female voters, but that’s not a guarantee.
The contest is a key race for both parties as Democrats fight to keep the district blue in an election year that, by most analyses, is likely to flip control of the House to a Republican majority. Meanwhile, CD 13 is a key pickup opportunity for Republicans as they pursue that goal.
The pair will have their final faceoff on Nov. 8.