State House Race Ratings – June 1

Today we unveil our initial ratings of House races for 2014. It should be strongly noted that these ratings are based on current circumstances in each district, factoring in the historic performance numbers for Democrats or Republicans as a secondary consideration . In some very winnable seats, Democrats do not have viable candidates or any candidate currently. Tomorrow, we will be running Obama (2012) and Sink (2010) percentages in each House district so our readers can get a feel for Democratic performance at least at the very top of the ticket in each seat. It should be strongly noted though that top of the ticket performance tends to be the high-water mark for Democrats in most seats, although some exceptions do occur in certain districts with very popular local Democrats running (Linda Stewart’s HD-47 would be an example, and hence why we feel she remains a favorite in that seat).

Off-year elections are generally more difficult for Democrats. We’ve outlined the reasons why on numerous occasions and no need exists to rehash our observations today.  However, a few seats throughout the state actually perform better for Democrats in off-years. One such seat is HD-21, a Gainesville-area district that has been held by a Republican for 22 of the last 24 years despite a clear Democratic edge in the area. Between 2002 and 2012 the seat had been gerrymandered by the GOP, but Democratic failures in the 1990s (I worked as a college student twice on the then-HD-22 race) and then in 2012 have been stunning. The current Republican incumbent Rep. Keith Perry has a strong base of support in west Gainesville even among some Democrats. He remains a favorite against Democrat Jon Uman but the seat will be competitive.

While two incumbent Democrats fit in our likely Republican category — Rep. Mike Clelland and Rep. Carl Zimmerman — we would rate the Zimmerman’s seat as a better possibility for the Democrats to hold on to. Clelland is an impressive member but his district is very difficult for any Democrat. His 2012 victory against Rep. Chris Dorworth was a perfect storm — a good Democratic candidate, a highly damaged Republican incumbent with high negative name ID thanks to the Orlando Sentinel and other media and a better than expected Obama performance in the district. Former Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, who was forced south into HD-30 last cycle to make way for Dorworth, has returned to this area to run and is the favorite.

Rep. Zimmerman’s seat is also quite difficult for the Democrats to hold but the incumbent has run ahead of the top of the ticket in each of his three previous races (he lost in 2006 and 2008 but won in 2012 each race was against GOP Rep. Peter Nehr). Zimmerman’s district is also more Democratic than Clelland’s, but the Republicans have a potential superstar candidate here in Chris Sprowls. We start both races in the “Leans Republican” category.

The other seat the Democrats are in serious jeopardy of losing at this moment is the district in which Rep. Plakon ran in 2012. Incumbent Rep. Karen Castor-Dentel is the slightest of favorites to hold this seat. The Republicans are high on Robert Cortes but he faces a primary in August. This was always going to be a difficult hold for Castor-Dentel and the Democrats, and this race could be decided by external factors and how strongly the top of the ticket runs for the Democrats in November.

Currently several Democratic incumbents who sit in difficult districts are favored in our analysis for re-election. Each of these districts we start in the “Leans Democrat” category. While the Democrats have targeted several Republican incumbents and an open seat Pinellas, currently the GOP is favored to hold each and every one of those seats. A variety of factors are conspiring at this early stage to make this cycle a “hold” rather than a “win” one for the Democrats. While this is different than the expectation a year ago around House races, it is today’s reality thanks to the national political winds and a number of internal Democratic Party issues.

We will be updating these ratings every Sunday after the close of qualifying.

Our full ratings list after the jump.

All seats not listed are assumed safe for the party of the current incumbent at this point in time (this includes open seats).

Likely Democrat

HD-49 (Saunders)

Leans Democrat

HD-36 (Murphy)

HD-47 (Stewart)

HD-63 (Danish)

HD-68 (Dudley)

HD-84 (Lee)

HD-112 (Rodriguez)

Toss Up

HD-30 (Castor-Dentel)

Leans Republican

HD-21 (Perry)

HD-29 (Clelland)

HD-65 (Zimmerman)

HD-67 (Open)

HD-69 (Peters)

HD-89 (Hager)

HD-114 (Fresen)

Likely Republican

HD-27 (Santiago)

HD-41 (Wood)

HD-42 (LaRosa)

HD-53 (Tobia)

HD-58 (Raulerson)

HD-59 (Spano)

HD-66 (Ahern)

HD-72 (Pilon)

HD-85 (Rooney)

HD-93 (Moraitis)

HD-103 (Diaz)

HD-115 (Bileca)

HD-120 (Raschein)


  1. Honestly Clelland has no chance.


  2. Cheryl · ·

    The keys seat ( Rascein ) is a democratic leaning district.

    How do you figure it is likely Republican?


    1. Raschein was the legislative aide in that district for something like 10 years and is very popular. She also is the primary cosponsor of several pieces of gay rights legislation.


  3. Janine · ·

    This is a wildly optimistic projection for some Democrats. Clelland and Zimmerman are toast. Castor-Dentel probably gone also. Stewart a d Danish in trouble. Dems could be down to 40 or less quite easily.


  4. Doug Head · ·

    Pretty obviously this ought to be about the Republican legislature and their failures, not the individual legislators. How can the State Party get that message going?


  5. Timothy · ·

    If anything this is biased towards the Ds. Pretty accurate though I’d say Danish is a toss up and Clelland likely R.


  6. Dems forever · ·

    It would nice if we had some truths laid out here.

    This assessment of the House campaigns is basically accurate but why is it this way?

    The temptation of this author to simply leave us assuming the current leadership of Mark Pafford
    Is to blame is an effective technique.

    Two factors explain the difficulty.

    1- the destruction of the house operation and caucus under former designated leader Darryl Rouson. Instead if protecting incumbents Rouson unwisely began randomly targeting republican seats throwing the operation into chaos.
    2- the continued need of the party to placate Nan Rich supporters. If the primary were cleared more focus could be put on house races. Rich is getting more support from the FDP than Crist the eventual nominee is getting because of arcane party rules.


  7. Need to be pointed out also that despite great pronunciations about how strong Charlie Crist was going to be he is not and he’s going to have no coattail effect for these Democratic House candidates were struggling


  8. Fla Dem · ·

    So many seats to protect and so few to really win is the initial reaction to this. I hope this is simply a snapshot in time and doesn’t end up being an actual projection. I know it’s meant to be a snapshot but if we don’t change things this will be the final. Down to 42 or 43 seats.


  9. Democratic Guy · ·

    I hate to say it. Other than one or two that I might change slightly this is a pretty accurate assessment of where things sit.


  10. Margaret · ·

    The number of seats which we could actually win is between 10 and 12. Yet it appears the only thing we will be able to do this cycle is hold seats.

    The party has to take some blame for that. The blame starts with the last cycle when he left so many seats on the table that could’ve and should’ve been won in a reapportionment year.


  11. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    I think it is very possible Dudley, Danish and Stewart all lose as well.


  12. I do think Fresen and Diaz get beat in the right circumstances.


  13. I would put Clelland into Likely Republican and Stewart into toss up. As far as Joe Saunders, I think Likely Democratic is an understatement 🙂


  14. […] let us again focus on the State House. On Sunday we unveiled our initial House Race Ratings which essentially rated 77 seats as Republican 42 as Democrat and one as a toss-up.  Yesterday, my […]


  15. […] general trend towards the Republicans has taken place since our initial ratings four weeks ago.  We have moved a total of nine seats towards the Republicans in the past four weeks including […]


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