Diaz-Balart, Dunn on election fast track
South Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart locked up another term in Congress when he did not draw an election opponent Friday, while North Florida Republican Neal Dunn is virtually guaranteed of getting reelected in November.
Diaz-Balart, who has served in the U.S. House since getting elected in 2002, was the only candidate who qualified in Congressional District 25 before a noon Friday deadline, according to the state Division of Elections website. District 25, which is made up of parts of Miami-Dade and Collier counties and Hendry County, was the only district that will be uncontested this year.
But Dunn drew only two write-in opponents, Kim O’Connor and Kristy Thripp, making him a virtual lock to win a third term in Congressional District 2, which includes all or parts of 19 counties stretching from Bay County to Marion County. Diaz-Balart is from Miami, while Dunn is from Panama City.
In all, 25 of the state’s 27 U.S. House members are running for reelection in November, with North Florida Republican Ted Yoho and Southwest Florida Republican Francis Rooney deciding against seeking another term.
The decisions by Yoho and Rooney have set off mad scrambles for their GOP-leaning seats, with 14 candidates qualifying before the Friday deadline to try to replace Yoho in Congressional District 3 and 13 seeking to replace Rooney in Congressional District 19.
The crowd of candidates in District 3, which is made up of Alachua, Bradford, Clay, Putnam, Union and part of Marion counties, has 10 Republicans, three Democrats and a write-in candidate.
Among the candidates in District 19, which is made up of parts of Lee and Collier counties, are three state House members. House Majority Leader Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, qualified Friday, joining Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, seven other Republicans, two Democrats and a write-in candidate.
Decisions by two Democratic state lawmakers to try to unseat two Republican congressmen also will likely draw heavy attention in the coming months.
State Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, qualified Thursday to run against Republican incumbent Vern Buchanan in Congressional District 16, which is made up of Manatee County and parts of Sarasota and Hillsborough counties. Buchanan, of Longboat Key, was first elected to Congress in 2006, while Good has served in the state House since she won a special election in 2018.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Adam Hattersley, D-Riverview, qualified to try to run against Republican Congressman Ross Spano in Congressional District 15, which is made up of parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. Hattersley and Spano, however, will have to win primaries before they could square off in November.
Another high-profile race is expected in South Florida’s Congressional District 26, where Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican, is trying to topple Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The district is made up of Monroe County and part of Miami-Dade County.