The results of the Florida primaries, which will take place on August 23, will likely have a major impact on the midterms and on the political landscape.
Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis will likely win reelection in November, but Democrats are seriously contesting the governorship. Democrats’ two major candidates are agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried and Congressman Charlie Crist, a former governor. Fried has faced ethical questions, has run an erratic campaign, and lags in the polls. Crist, who has been in politics for thirty years, has lost runs for statewide office twice in a row and last won an office statewide 16 years ago.
It’s not clear who the better general election candidate would be. Fried is a fresh face and has won statewide more recently than Crist, but her far-left positions and scandals have hurt her. Crist is more moderate and came close to winning the governorship in 2014, but his reelection victory for Congress in 2020 was underwhelming, and many consider him a washed up perennial candidate. DeSantis looks pretty certain to beat either one, but DeSantis’s reelection margin could influence his standing as a potential presidential candidate.
In the race for Florida’s first congressional district, Congressman Matt Gaetz is the incumbent. The federal government has been conducting a sex-trafficking investigation into Gaetz. He has one main challenger, Mark Lombardo, a businessman and veteran. Gaetz has spent about $5 million more than Lombardo. Despite his ethical issues, if Gaetz wins the primary, he will likely win the general election. A Lombardo victory, on the other hand, would free Republicans of Gaetz as a problem.
Congresswoman Kat Cammack represents Florida’s third congressional district. Cammack is a rising star who had no problems until a few weeks ago when she compared opponents of gay marriage to racists. But Cammack has a significant funding advantage and high-profile endorsements. If she loses, it will demonstrate again the potency of cultural issues. If she wins, she could position herself for a later run at higher office.
Florida’s seventh district has four main Republican candidates: businessman and veteran Cory Mills, state representative and National Guard officer Anthony Sabatini, former congressional aide Rusty Roberts, and pastor and veteran Brady Duke. Mills has led most polls and has received endorsements from classic conservative figures. Sabatini is very controversial and has secured endorsements from far-right figures. The race is likely to go Republican, but if Sabatini gets the nomination, he could put the seat at risk this November.
Crist gave up his seat in the 13th district to run for governor, and redistricting made it more Republican. Businesswoman and veteran Anna Paulina Luna has led most polling, raised lots of money, and has prominent endorsements. Luna is also a telegenic Latina, so if she wins, she will likely have a bright future in the GOP. Attorney Kevin Hayslett is running and has received support from several local politicians. Attorney and former congressional aide Amanda Makki is running as well. She is also telegenic and has a fascinating personal story – she fled Iran due to oppression. So she could become a prominent figure if she wins.
Florida has a new seat, the 15th district, up for election. All media outlets rate it as “likely Republican.” State representative Jackie Toledo is a conservative Latina who will likely become a significant voice in the GOP if she wins. Former secretary of state Laurel Lee has raised a substantial sum of money and enjoys the backing of prominent party officials. As a charismatic female, she could also gain a high profile if she wins. State senator Kelli Stargel is also running and received endorsements from some local officials. Veterans Kevin McGovern and Demetries Grimes have raised money effectively as well and could be competitive.
Florida’s primaries could decide control of the House of Representatives or at least play a significant role in the margins of a Republican majority, should the party win one. The state’s primaries could also help shape the future look of the Republican caucus. And finally, the primaries could serve to help or hinder DeSantis’s likely presidential ambitions.
Todd Carney is a lawyer and frequent contributor to RealClearPolitics. He earned his juris doctorate from Harvard Law School. The views in this piece are his alone and do not reflect the views of his employer.