Republicans added to their dominance of the Florida House in Tuesday’s elections, winning almost every battleground race and defeating two incumbent Democrats.
The Florida House Republican Campaign Committee said late Tuesday that Republicans are expected to hold 85 seats in the 120-member House, the largest GOP majority in history. The election also gave Republicans a super-majority, which is important for procedural reasons and will help smooth the way for passing the party’s priorities.
“Tonight was historic,” incoming House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said in a prepared statement. “Florida voters are sending the largest Republican majority ever to Tallahassee because they support the direction Republican leadership has taken our state. The Florida House will continue to pursue a bold, conservative agenda for the nation to follow that gives citizens more freedom and opportunity to achieve their American Dream.”
Republican Susan Plasencia knocked off Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, in House District 37 in Orange and Seminole counties, while Republican Danny Alvarez defeated Rep. Andrew Learned, D-Brandon, in Hillsborough County’s District 69.
More broadly, GOP candidates dominated Democrats in swing areas of Central Florida, the Tampa Bay region, and South Florida.
Smith, one of the highest-profile Democrats in the House, cruised to wins in his past three races in Orange County. But he ran this year in a redrawn district that included part of Seminole County, and Republicans heavily backed Plasencia, who received about 52 percent of the vote, according to the state Division of Elections website.
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Meanwhile, Learned received 43 percent of the vote as he lost to Alvarez in a redrawn district where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats.
About an hour before polls closed, Learned sent out a campaign email that seemed to foreshadow his defeat.
“It’s a tough district, in a tough year, with tough national headwinds … yet still, we’re in the fight,” Learned said in part of the email.
Republicans have controlled the House since 1996 and went into this year’s election cycle with 77 seats, according to the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, which Renner chairs.
Most of the competitive races this year were clustered in a few regions, with Republicans sweeping almost all of those races Tuesday.
In Central Florida, for example, Rep. David Smith, R-Winter Springs, was re-elected in Seminole County’s House District 38, while Republican Doug Bankson won an open seat in District 39 in Orange and Seminole counties and Republican Carolina Amesty won an open seat in District 45 in Orange and Osceola counties..
In the Tampa Bay area, Republican Karen Gonzalez Pittman won an open seat in Hillsborough County’s District 65.
Meanwhile, in South Florida, Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, was re-elected in Broward County’s District 100, Republican Peggy Gossett-Seidman won in Palm Beach County’s District 91 and Republican Vicki Lopez won in Miami-Dade County’s District 113.
In a somewhat-rare bright spot for Democrats, Lindsay Cross won an open seat in Pinellas County’s District 60.