Voter registration trends move Lindsay Cross’ HD 60 into the battleground column, as Ed Montanari threatens

When laying data on a graph, the trend lines are clear: Democrats are losing ground while the GOP quickly gains it.

House District 60, anchored by parts of the city of St. Petersburg, has long been considered a safe seat for Democrats. Incumbent Rep. Lindsay Cross won the seat two years ago by a margin of more than 8 percentage points against Republican challenger Audrey Henson.

But data shows trends may be shifting in Republicans favor and some estimate that changes in voter registrations may bring the district into competitive territory for the GOP. That may be even more true with Ed Montanari on the ballot, a moderate Republican who has enjoyed bipartisan support as the only Republican member of St. Petersburg City Council.

A look at historic voter registration data for the district available on the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website shows that in 2020, the last Presidential Election year, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 7 percentage points. As of May 1, that advantage has shrunk to just under 3 percentage points.

Further, Republicans have won the district before, under far less favorable registration trends. For example, Republican constitutional officers and other countywide candidates swept the district in 2020. While some victories within the district were narrow, Republican Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who like Montanari has broad cross-party appeal, won the district by 16 percentage points.

The shifting trends are not a Midterm anomaly as some may suggest — it was a banner year for Republicans throughout Florida. When comparing voter registration data from May 2023 to this year, there was a 2.3-percentage-point shift in registrations in favor of GOP voters.

When laying data on a graph, the trend lines are clear: Democrats are losing ground while the GOP quickly gains it. In fact, if the rate of change within voter registration data stays relatively consistent, it can be reasonably estimated that Democrats’ advantage would shrink to just over 1 percentage point by book closing ahead of the 2024 General Election in November.

The data paints a troubling enough picture for Cross and Democrats, but it gets even worse when looking beyond just the numbers.

Henson — who, like Montanari, ran on a moderate platform appropriate for a district that historically has skewed blue — posted an underperformance at the ballot box compared to other Republicans. While she lost by more than 8 percentage points, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis lost the district by just 4 percentage points.

Compounding that, Charlie Crist topped the ballot for Democrats, and HD 60 is his home district. Meanwhile, Wilton Simpson, then Senate President, won his race for state Agriculture Commissioner in 2022 by 1 percentage point within HD 60. Attorney General Ashley Moody carried the district by a half-point.

All signs point to a competitive race between Cross and Montanari. In a sign of just how big a pickup opportunity it is for Republicans, GOP leadership has directed $25,000 to Montanari’s campaign and has helped by putting a ground team in place to knock on thousands of doors. And House Speaker-designate Daniel Perez endorsed Montanari early, offering support in November and pledging the full backing of the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, which works to elect conservatives to the House.

As I noted in October when Montanari first joined the race, it will be one to watch.

Montanari is an ideal candidate in the battleground district where Democrats carry a slight voter registration advantage with just under 40,000 voters compared to just under 37,000 Republican voters, according to the most recent voter registration data from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections. And again, that’s a drop of about 1,000 voters for Democrats since late 2023 and an increase of a little less than 1,000 for Republicans, further supporting claims that the district is changing.

Montanari is known for his calm demeanor, quiet disposition, thoughtful consideration of policy and moderate approach to governance.

The last time Montanari won an election was in November 2019, which earned him a second term representing District 3 on the St. Pete City Council. At the time of his election, and as it remains today, the district was the only in the city with a voter registration advantage favoring Republicans, but it was narrow. At the time, Republicans had about 1,500 more registered voters than Democrats.

While the voter registration advantage was slim, Montanari’s victory was not. He won by nearly 8 percentage points.

Montanari’s re-election victory in 2019 came during the Donald Trump presidency, at a time when Democrats were finding down-ballot success by tying Republicans to the nation’s controversial fire-starter of a Commander-in-Chief. Montanari’s opponent that year attempted to tie Montanari to Trump, with mailers and door hangers depicting Montanari with a photoshopped red “Make America Great Again” hat atop his head.

The attempt not only didn’t work, it backfired. Those who worked with Montanari knew he was nothing like the Trump brand of Republican — all but one of his colleagues on the Council endorsed his re-election campaign and they were all Democrats.

None of this should suggest anyone should count Cross out. While Montanari hasn’t lost his moderate approach to politics, his endorsements underpin the partisan nature of House races, with a host of Republican backers ranging from current and former state Senators to School Board members.

Cross has served as a likable lawmaker who, even in disagreements, has maintained good relationships with Republican colleagues.

She also has a strong résumé to run on, including work as an environmental scientist that plays well in a state particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

And while Democrats have in recent years struggled to keep up with GOP candidates in fundraising — outside funding has largely evaporated as the state becomes more and more solidified as a GOP stronghold — Cross has managed to maintain a funding lead, though Montanari has been chipping away at it steadily.

Cross has raised, between her campaign account and affiliated political committee, Moving Pinellas Forward, more than $293,000. Montanari, meanwhile, has raised just over $249,000 between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Ed Montanari.

Further evidencing the battleground nature of this race, the two raised almost identical sums in April and May at a little less than $53,000 each.

While Cross should not, and no doubt is not, counting Montanari out, neither should he count her out. Where Montanari’s latest fundraising included a $30,000 boost from prominent conservative donor Joseph White, Cross didn’t take in anything less than $5,000, an indication of grassroots support.

The bottom line is, Democrats might still have a statistical edge in a historically blue district, but as has been seen in recent years throughout the state — and specifically in both Pinellas and neighboring Hillsborough counties in 2022 — the GOP is closing in even in urban areas.

Don’t blink in this race, or you might miss something.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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