True to form, Florida was one of the epicenters of national politics this past election night. Campaign spending is estimated to have surpassed $400 million. This spending was fueled by a competitive presidential race, several high profile congressional races, large infusions of independent expenditures by Michael Bloomberg and Sheldon Adelson (among others), and competitive state legislative races. Also adding to the heavy campaign spending was the October spending by ActBlue and Forward Majority, two heavily funded Democrat-aligned groups that took aim at Florida Republicans, spending tens of millions on TV, mail, radio and social media ads.
Despite being outspent at an estimated 3-1 margin, Republicans had one of their best nights in decades, flipping two Miami-Dade congressional seats, gaining five seats in the Florida House, taking one seat in the Florida Senate and strengthening their hold on power going into a crucial redistricting year in 2021. In addition, Florida demonstrated its election reforms put into place since the disputed 2000 recount worked, resulting in quick, accurate reporting of Election Day, early and absentee voting.
Public polling in Florida has been inaccurate the past eight years, and 2020 was no different as most public media polls showed Joe Biden winning the state of Florida handily, Republicans possibly losing one congressional race, and heavy down ballot losses. Donald Trump won the state with nearly a three point margin. His strong performance with Hispanics powered ballot strength across the state and up and down the ballot, but proved especially effective in Miami-Dade, where he lost by 30 points in 2016, but only lost by nine points on Tuesday.
Florida has 29 members of congress, with 16 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Over the last few election cycles, Democrats have picked up a number of seats after a more liberal Florida Supreme Court redrew congressional and state Senate districts. There were six competitive seats in 2020 – HD 7 (Stephanie Murphy – D), HD 13 (Charlie Crist – D) HD 15 (Scott Franklin – R), HD 18 (Brian Mast – R), HD 26 (Debbie Mucarsel-Powell – D), HD 27 (Donna Shalala – D). HD 26 and 27 flipped from Democratic to Republican—now Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar, respectively—and all others held. This was noteworthy, as Republicans are expected to gain an additional two congressional seats when the census numbers are released and districts are redrawn by the Republican-dominated legislature.
State Senate Races
Since 1992, Republicans have controlled the Florida Senate. Currently, the partisan makeup of the Florida Senate is 23 R – 17 D , down from a Republican peak of 28 R – 12 D in 2010. On election night, there were four competitive state Senate seats (SD 3 open DEM Tallahassee), SD 9 (open REP Central FL), SD 39 (open REP Miami-Key West), and SD 37 (DEM Jose Javier Rodriguez). Senate Republicans swept three of the four competitive seats and enlarged their majority to 24-16, pending a recount in SD 37 where Republican newcomer Ileana Garcia has a 40 vote margin. She will be joined by Senator-elect Jason Brodeur in SD 9 and Senator-elect Ana Maria Rodriguez in SD 39 – both former House members. Loranne Ausley will be the new Democratic Senator representing Tallahassee, also from the House. Incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson is beginning to assemble his leadership team now.
State House Races
In 1996, Republicans gained control of the Florida House for the first time since Reconstruction, and the Democrats have not challenged for control since. The last several months, outside groups have poured tens of millions into Florida, challenging Republican House members all across the state. Before the election, Republicans had 72 members, Democrats 48. After election night, Republicans took their majority to a 78-42 majority. There were 15 competitive House seats, with Republicans winning the overwhelming majority of these races. Republicans ran strong in Miami-Dade County, saving every single incumbent seat and flipping two others. Incoming Speaker Designate Chris Sprowls will have a large working majority in the Florida House.