Special Election Gives Florida Democrats a Pick-Up Opportunity

by
October 23, 2013

A special election in Florida will present House Democrats with their best test case yet this cycle to see if they can put a dent in the GOP’s majority — or perhaps even take the speaker’s gavel.

Later this week, Floridians will lay to rest the dean of their congressional delegation, Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Even as respects are being paid, both parties will be gearing up to elect his successor in the 13th District.

In recent cycles, Young’s political dominance papered over the competitive nature of the district. He never won re-election with less than 56 percent of the vote, but President Barack Obama carried the district in both of his national campaigns.

As the first truly competitive special election of the cycle, the 13th District presents an ideal stage for the national parties to test messaging and strategy before 2014. Timing remains an open question because Florida law gives Republican Gov. Rick Scott significant leeway on scheduling a special election, but local operatives expect a contest in the next several months.

Some operatives warn it is premature to characterize the race as a harbinger for next fall. They caution not that many true tossup seats remain on the House battlefield map, so different tactics and strategies will be deployed elsewhere in the country.

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