U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor will serve a ninth-term after a successful re-election against Republican challenger James Judge Tuesday night.
Castor, a Democrat, took 60% of the vote based on early vote totals, with remaining ballots not sufficient to bridge the gap. Judge, on the other hand, held about 40%. The pair were competing for Florida’s 14th Congressional District, a deep-blue seat based in Tampa.
Despite a successful Primary, Judge faced an enormous uphill climb against the incumbent. Judge took the Republican nomination after winning the Primary with 53% of votes. Castor became the official Democratic nominee after collecting 90% of votes.
Castor was favored to win re-election. To take the district, Judge would’ve needed a strong appeal across party lines, a hard get as a Donald Trump-aligned member of the National Rifle Association.
The district had a heavy Democratic lean after redistricting — of the voters in the district, 217,506 (42%) are registered Democrats, 140,291 are registered Republicans (28%) and an additional 151,068 (30%) are third-party or nonpartisan voters.
The map, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, has been criticized for shifting multiple Democratic-leaning districts into Republican-favored jurisdictions, resulting in CD 14 becoming somewhat of a Democratic sink after taking part of St. Petersburg under its wing. Under the new CD 14 lines, about 58.8% of voters favored Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election compared to 39.72% who voted for Republican Donald Trump.
Besides Castor’s advantage of the partisan makeup of the district, the Democratic incumbent also dominated the fundraising game.
Two weeks out from the General Election, Castor’s campaign total sat at just over $1.5 million, with $406,971 still in the purse, according to federal campaign finance reports. Judge, on the other hand, has raised a total of $191,529, with $10,395 cash on hand.
Castor’s strongest challenger since her 2006 election, Mike Prendergast in 2010, spent about $500,000 and lost by 20 percentage points, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Oddly, the most contentious portion of the race hasn’t even been between Judge and Castor. The Primary was preceded by high-profile court battles over who should even appear on the Republican ballot, with entrepreneur Jerry Torres and Judge clashing over the matter.
Shortly after qualification week, the Division of Elections disqualified Judge for signing the wrong partisan candidate oath. Judge blamed a staff error at the state agency for the mix-up and argued regardless that Florida law only required an oath to be signed. He sued and had his candidacy restored just in time for his name to be printed on vote-by-mail ballots.
But then Torres faced trouble. The Florida Democratic Party sued over the revelation that Torres’ final qualifying forms had been notarized while he was out of the country. The Democratic lawsuit, with Judge’s moral support, led to a judge booting Torres from the race, even though his name still appeared on the ballot. The candidate appealed, and just days before the Primary election, won his case before the First District Court of Appeal.