TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida is sending a lot of new faces to the U.S. House. Ten, to be exact, in one of the state’s largest turnovers in its Washington representation.
Four members of Congress decided they’d had enough, three chose to pursue other political opportunities, one was defeated in her primary and two lost in Tuesday’s general election.
That means more than a third of Florida’s 27-member congressional delegation will be freshmen.
The most notable new addition is former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who has revived his career as a Democrat. The most notable subtraction is Republican Rep. John Mica, who had won 12 straight elections without a serious challenge - until political newcomer Stephanie Murphy toppled him Tuesday.
One reason for the changes: The Florida Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw congressional maps to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment that requires compact political districts drawn in a way that doesn’t favor political parties or incumbents.
Here’s a look at the new members of Florida’s congressional delegation to be sworn in in January.
Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz will replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, who has served the western Panhandle for 16 years. Gaetz is the son of former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz. Among issues he has pushed in the Legislature are the legalization of low-THC medical marijuana, the open carry of handguns and increased prison time for sexual offenders.
Republican Neal Dunn will replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who decided to explore a run for governor instead of seeking a second term when her redrawn district became more Republican. Dunn is a urologist from Panama City who served in the Army for more than 10 years after becoming a doctor. He campaigned as a political outsider who criticized career politicians. The district also includes parts of Tallahassee.
Republican and former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford will replace Republican U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who is retiring after 16 years in Congress. Rutherford worked in law enforcement for 41 years, including 12 years as sheriff. He also represented the Florida Sheriff’s Association before the Legislature, which he said taught him how to compromise.
Former Democratic state Sen. Al Lawson will replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, whom he beat in the August primary. The district was redrawn to include parts of Lawson’s home of Tallahassee. That, combined with the fact that Brown is facing federal fraud charges, helped unseat the incumbent after 24 years in office. Lawson served for 28 years in the Legislature, including 10 years in the Senate. He has worked as an insurance agent and a lobbyist.
Democrat Stephanie Murphy will replace Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica in this central Florida district. Prior to his defeat Tuesday in a redrawn district that included more Democrats and minorities, Mica had easily won 12 consecutive U.S. House races. Murphy was an infant when her family fled Vietnam. She’s a businesswoman who previously worked on national security issues as a civilian employee at the Pentagon.
Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto will replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who gave up his seat in an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate. Soto has served in the state Legislature since 2007 and will be the first person of Puerto Rican heritage to represent Florida in Congress.
Democrat and former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings will replace U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster. Well, sort of. Webster will still be in Congress, but representing District 11. He switched seats after this Orlando-area district was redrawn to become more Democratic. Demings will now represent the district she narrowly lost to Webster in 2012, before it was redrawn.
Crist beat Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who first decided to abandon the seat and run for Senate when the district redraw made it more Democratic. Jolly changed his mind when it became clear Sen. Marco Rubio would run for re-election. Crist’s victory is his first as a Democrat after serving as a Republican state senator, education commissioner, attorney general and governor. And it marks his first victory since leaving the Republican Party in 2010, when he lost a U.S. Senate race as an independent. Crist also lost the 2014 governor’s race as a Democrat.
Republican Brian Mast will replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who left office to challenge Rubio. Mast is a former Army bomb technician who lost both legs and a finger after an explosion in Afghanistan six years ago. He has since received an online economics degree from Harvard University.
Francis Rooney, a former ambassador to The Vatican, will replace U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, who is leaving office after only one full term. Rooney has been a top Republican donor. His company, Manhattan Construction Group, built the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers stadiums, and the presidential libraries of George W. and George H.W. Bush. He will become Congress’ wealthiest member.
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