Democrats far from dead in State House races

Our friends at Saint Petersblog citing data from a polling firm we think highly of, St Pete Polls have run a succession of articles showing a strong Republican tide in State House races. They even theorize the GOP should be able to jump above 80 seats in the House (a majority they enjoyed from 2004 to 2006 and again from 2010 to 2o12) if current trends hold and thus will have a veto-proof majority in 2015. I am not pretending this cycle is not filled with risk for House Democrats, with the numerous pick up opportunities that are on the map having been ceded before qualifying and the general national mood which is anti-Obama to say the least. But the Democrats have done a better job than some folks might think in doubling-down on incumbent protection and have some other external factors that will help several sitting members who are in danger of losing their seats.

But let’s establish something right now: Polling in many of these races will not give a true picture of what is happening because the ground effort of Florida Democrats in the three largest MSA’s in the state this campaign cycle is unprecedented the party’s history. Polling models based on 2010 turnout are quite possibly going to be off the mark in the largest urban areas of the state.

Per Saint Petersblog:

The Republican incumbents appear safe: Keith Perry, Ross Spano, Kathleen Peters, and Michael Bileca hold comfortable leads according to surveys by St. Pete Polls commissioned by SaintPetersBlog. Perry leads Democrat Jon Uman by 16; Spano leads Democrat Donna Forre by 13; Peters leads Democrat Scott Orsini by 11; and Bileca leads his Democrat Kristopher Decossard by 15. Democrat incumbent Amanda Murphy is up 7 on Republican Chris Gregg.

The Democrat incumbents are in trouble: Mike Clelland, Karen Castor-Dentel, Linda Stewart, Mark Danish, and Jose Javier Rodriguez all trail their Republican challengers. Clelland trails Scott Plakon by 19; Castor-Dentel is behind Bob Cortes by 15 (!); Stewart is down six to Mike Miller; Danish trails Shawn Harrison by 3; and JJR is down seven to Daniel Diaz Leyva.

The Democrats are playing all defense: There is not one single House seat on the board where a Democrat is poised to knock off a Republican incumbent.



No argument on the Republican incumbents. Candidate recruitment this cycle for the Democrats just wasn’t good enough and many of these GOP-held seats are now simply 2016 dry runs when Democratic turnout in non-base areas will without question be higher. I won’t quarrel with the third point either. But it is the second where I have problems.

Rep. Clelland is in a difficult seat and is likely to lose. But I am not convinced he is going to lose by a 20 point margin or something resembling it. We’ve seen unlikely legislative victors in previous elections hang on in tough circumstances.  Former Rep. Plakon is no doubt the favorite but Clelland has raised money effectively and will be competitive. Rep. Castor-Dentel’s seat is being worked extensively by progressive groups and I remain confident she will be competitive. Rep. Stewart has residual name ID and a history of over preforming in local elections. When combined with the field efforts of the Crist campaign and other local entities Stewart in my mind remains a slight favorite. Rep. Danish is no doubt in a dogfight with former Rep. Harrison which could go either way. Rep. JJR fell behind in a period when Governor Scott was inundating the airwaves with ads in Spanish and Governor Crist made multiple mistakes on the Cuban Embargo issues. However, Miami-Dade is seeing an unprecedented amount of attention for a Democratic campaign for Governor from Charlie Crist- the most the county has seen since 1978. I have no doubt that Crist’s efforts will push JJR into a more competitive situation. Will this be enough to save him? It is too early to tell, but in my mind the race is still a toss up.

Polling is underway from the firm in HD-65 (Rep. Zimmerman) and HD-68 (Rep. Dudley), both in Pinellas County. I am anxious to see those results because my sense is both Zimmerman and Dudley are over-performing currently. While national trends are an issue, but Rep. Dudley’s strong and firm stand on the anti-consumer behavior of Duke Energy has motivated activists and voters on his behalf. Rep. Zimmerman over performed in his losing 2006 and 2008 races as well as his victorious 2012 one. Republican Chris Sprowls has been too busy playing Tallahassee politics and thus an opening exists for Zimmerman to claim victory in a minor upset.

Certainly some ominous signs exist in the polling done by St Pete Polls but I am convinced Democrats remain in a stronger position today then those polls represent. When coupled with the coming massive field effort the Coordinated Campaign is undertaking, Democrats will be highly competitive in every seat Saint Petersblog discussed with the potential exception of the Plakon-Clelland race.



  1. Keep Dreamin · ·

    I realize you are working closely with the party on the Sheldon camping but the very least you could do was be honest. But Democrats are going to lose everyone of those seats and more.

    Peter has polling and you don’t. You’re basing it on nonsense like we are going to turn out more voters. That shit never works.


    1. This fake phony blog is run by a phony racist blogger and funded by Charlie Crist and the Florida Democrats. The goal is to keep women and blacks in “there place.” You expect objectivity here?


  2. Dudley will win. Zimmerman has a shot and Sarnoff is only down a bit per the st Pete polls.


  3. What in the world needs to happen to the FDP? I can’t take another veto proof Republican majority!! This is simply unacceptable? Is it a pipe dream to hope for Democratic majorities by 2020?


  4. I really don’t believe in polling for state legislative races. Too many local factors involved in each race. The few such polls I’ve seen over the years have been wildly unpredictable. Obviously, we are probably going to lose Clelland and Zimmerman. I think Linda Stewart & JJR will survive, with Castor-Dental pure toss-up. Everybody in the political chatter class seems to be ignoring Lorena Grizzle’s challenge of Larry Ahern. True, Lorena hasnt raised much cash, but she doesnt really need to due to already high name id. The name Grizzle is just like Young in Pinellas politics. Her mother (the late Sen. Mary Grizzle) was revered and served almost 30 years in the FL Legislature representing the very same areas where Lorena is now running. Ahern is weak to start with, so this could be a race flying under the radar. Lorena is a Special Ed Teacher and is running on education issues. Check out her website:


  5. I’m usually a fan of the St. Pete blog, but I’m confident that this polling simply isn’t that strong. Looking at the data, they’ve polled HD 30 as a 15 point Republican advantage in turnout. And low and behold, Castor is down by 15 points. Automated polling very much skews white, older and male (yes, in older Republican households, the man picks up the phone). The partisan breakdown results continue for the Stewart race. I’ve easily seen automated polling be off by an amazing 15-20 points. The only interesting thing in this polling is that they use registered voters and ask whether they are going to vote. This polling could, however, spell a motivation problem for Democrats that many predicted when a former Republican is the top of the Democratic ticket (and Obama’s not helping either. I’m not sure Crist was relying on Obama to gin up motivation when he pegged his future to Obama, but the irony is that Obama is anything but a motivator right now for so many different segments of the Democratic base).


  6. A voice of reason · ·

    The poll numbers in these races are all skewed.


  7. Concerned Democrat · ·

    Great article and spot on. Scorsch’s issues and biases are obvious. He is married to the House GOP campaigns.


  8. The owners of this fake blog are racists. They had twitter suspend our account because they are Crist operatives. They do not want the precious racist Florida Democratic Party hurt. Several months ago, Leslie interviewed Nan Rich for her popular radio show. During that time, she found out that Emily’s List refused to even include Rich on their list, let alone endorse her. NOT EVEN INCLUDE HER. Did this blog run by Crist and the racist Florida Democrats do anything to ensure that Rich got a fair shake in the party? Crist refused to debate her. This was tantamount to disrespect. Where was your voice? Crist ignoring a woman who was running for Governor, the first and the recipient of NOW’s Susan B. Anthony Award deserved better.

    Who is Leslie Wimes? She is an advocate for women. She stands by the principles of the Democratic party. You wonder why she brings up race? Seriously? Like women, blacks don’t have a voice in Florida. She is trying to change that by starting the Democratic African American Women’s Caucus. I’m helping her get the word out. I set up the Wikipedia page because I think it is incredibly powerful that she is giving a voice to black women when they YES THEY will sway your Democratic election and none of you have made any attempt to listen to what’s impt to them. Instead you say she’s talking too much about race. Any one of you that says that is a bigot and a bully because there is no way that you cannot acknowledge that race is an issue in America. And berating Leslie isn’t going to make it go away. Demeaning her will not make it go away. Calling her names doesn’t make it disappear. It only proves that you are intimidated by the conversation.

    The Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic Women’s Club is refusing to certify the caucus. They want Leslie and her black friends to stay under the thumb of an all white executive leadership.

    Enabled by AstroTurf blogs like this that are funded and backed by Charlie Crist and the Florida Democratic Party, racism and sexism prevails.

    We will be launching a boycott of this blog. Get the word out readers.


    1. 1000 Girlfriends,
      You are delusional. Give it a rest.


  9. hancockross · ·

    I wonder what Trotter thinks about these polls.


  10. My God, My God My God. I pray for a State that is united by the issues that we face as a whole and not by gang related issues. We must help each other solve the problems we face in our districts. It can’t matter the party that solve the issue. We must share the state and all that it has to offer. Vote Pilip Garrett for FL House District 70.


  11. […] have a slight edge of holding the seat. Rep. Zimmerman as we have discussed on multiple occasions previously on this website has routinely over-performed running ahead of top of the Democratic ticket even in […]


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