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Despite Florida’s recent turn to the right, it still functions as a swing state. As a result, it has several competitive congressional seats this cycle. The congressional election results could decide who controls the state house – and these seats will matter beyond 2022, because some rising political stars are competing for them. While statewide races in Florida will draw most of the national attention, the congressional races should not be overlooked.

Florida’s 13th congressional district is home to former governor and current Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist. After Crist lost two statewide races, he ran for the district’s congressional seat. Crist narrowly ousted the Republican incumbent in 2016, then cruised to reelection in 2018. In 2020, as President Donald Trump exceeded expectations in Florida, Republican nominee Anna Paulina Luna gave Crist a battle, losing by only six points.

Redistricting has made this district more Republican, however, and most political analysts have it marked now as “likely Republican.” Republican candidate Paulina Luna is back to run again. An Hispanic Air Force veteran, she is young and telegenic. She won her primary by double digits. Assuming she wins the seat, she will likely be a major voice for Republicans.

The Democrats’ nominee, Eric Lynn, is a former Defense Department official who has run for office before. He is not controversial and might prove a formidable candidate in a more favorable cycle for Democrats. But he does not appear to have the necessary support to win this year.

Florida’s growing population resulted in a new congressional district. This situation often prompts sitting members to leave their districts and run for other seats. Thus, Florida’s 15th district has no incumbent. Republicans are running former Florida Secretary of State and Circuit Judge Laurel Lee. Like Luna, Lee won her primary by double digits and is also telegenic and charismatic. She has forged a successful career prosecuting criminals and fighting for voter integrity, and she is close with many of statewide Republican officials. This race is also rated “likely Republican.” Lee would be an effective voice for Republicans on many issues, especially law and order and ballot protection.

Former TV news anchor Alan Cohn is the Democrats’ nominee. Cohn has run for the seat twice. He doesn’t seem to have any negative baggage, and as a former TV news anchor, he likely has solid name recognition. Still, the adverse national environment for Democrats is probably too much for him to overcome.

Florida’s 27th district has a Republican incumbent, Maria Elvira Salazar. In 2020, Salazar scored an upset by defeating Democratic incumbent Donna Shalala. Salazar is a former anchor for a Spanish speaking news network, and she has used her experience to help Republicans reach out to Hispanic voters.

Salazar’s opponent is State Senator Annette Taddeo, who has run for numerous offices; she was a gubernatorial candidate earlier this year before dropping out. Despite Taddeo’s reputation as a perennial candidate, she has run a credible campaign. But the national environment has led most analysts to rate this seat “leans Republican.” If Salazar wins big, the seat could become out of reach for the Democrats in future cycles.

These three Republican candidates represent constituencies that the GOP wants to reach in greater numbers. Each has proven to be an effective surrogate in that effort. With Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, as well as Governor Ron DeSantis, all likely harboring national ambitions, these three might have the opportunity to run statewide in coming cycles. Few paid much attention when DeSantis won his race for Congress in 2012. Tuesday could be the start of bigger things for some Florida politicians – not just the ones whose names you already know.

Todd Carney is a lawyer and frequent contributor to RealClearPolitics. He earned his juris doctorate from Harvard Law School.

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