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Issue #24: Stephanie Murphy leaving the FL-07
What does the latest retirement mean for Orlando?
Florida politicos got a last bit of pre-Christmas news when Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy announced she would not be running for re-election. This came as a major surprise to observers. Murphy was not only expected to run for re-election, but was at one point considered a possible Senate candidate against Rubio. With fellow Congresswoman Val Demings making the statewide play, everyone assumed Murphy would run for re-election in the 7th.
Its the holidays, but lets do a rapid-fire look at Murphy and the future of the 7th.
Stephanie Murphy’s Rise
Stephanie Murphy burst onto the political scene in 2016. Following Florida’s Congressional re-draw, the new Florida 7th was a perfectly-divided district. The seat, which included all of Seminole and northern Orange County, was neck-and-neck between Obama and Romney in 2012. Congressional Incumbent John Mica was a strong on-paper incumbent. However, Mica seemed to never take his re-election serious enough - causes major worries in GOP circles. Stephanie Murphy, meanwhile, burst onto the scene with strong ads and impressive fundraising. With an out-to-lunch incumbent against a dynamic challenger, the result was a flip for Democrats.
Murphy was no doubt aided by the 7ths swing to the left, backing Clinton over Trump by 7%.
Murphy now sat in a Clinton +7 district and heading into the 2018 midterm, was in solid position to win re-election. As the midterm grew solidly blue, Democrats and Republicans came to view the 7th as a solid Democratic hold. Focus for the GOP went into defending districts like the 26th and 27th. Murphy had a strong opponent in State Rep Mike Miller. However, Miller wound up struggling to keep up in money and lost the race by 15%. That same day, Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson won the district by 10 points.
This meant that Murphy was not only out-performing the top of the ticket races, but this was a seat solidly to the left of Florida. Murphy’s district was now voting 10 points to the left of the state.
The 2020 election was a similar story for Murphy. She was always projected to win re-election and faced Republicans who struggled to gain traction. The 7th continued to be solidly Democratic; with Seminole County flipping blue. Murphy won re-election by 12%, 2 points higher than Biden’s 10% win.
While Biden did about the same in the 7th as Nelson and Gillum, this actually meant the 7th was further to the left of the state. Biden’s 3% statewide loss meant the 7th was now 13 points left of Florida.
Redistricting and the 7th
The big question that has risen out of redistricting in Florida is what will become of the 7th. While I have long expressed a belief that the GOP would not try to gerrymander the maps to death - largely out of a lack of desire to go through years of suits, trials, and depositions - I long felt the 7th was the most vulnerable to GOP attacks. However, when the State Senate released its first four draft maps, all kept the 7th largely the same.
The four drafts offer different versions for the 7th, but the differences are very small and don’t alter the district much. This new 7th, which gains part of Volusia and trades precincts in Orange, would remain steadily Democratic.
All four drafts give Biden 9% wins in the 7th.
This would for-sure be a seat Murphy could have held onto, and even a seat Democrats can win if its open.
The big question is the house drafts. The State House release two plans. One of the plans has a 7th similar to the Senate drafts. Their second plan, however, aims to restrict Democrats to two seats in Orlando, not 3. Democrats currently hold the 7th, 9th, and 10th. The plan below keeps Democrats packed in the 9th and 7th.
I delve into these Congressional drafts more here.
Five of the six drafts retain the Orlando status quo. We’ll see what the final plan ends up being.
Who Could Run?
If the version of the 7th we see in the five drafts comes to fruition (aka least change) - then who might run? This is all breaking news, and I’m in Ohio visiting family so I haven’t had my ear to the ground as much. However, both parties have plenty of names to pull from.
The Democratic name that has rapidly popped up as a potential candidate is State Representative Anna Eskamani. Easily one of the most liberal members of the legislature, Eskamani won her seat in 2018; flipping it to Democrats.
Eskamani has shown herself to have a strong fundraising network and would likely generate outside left-wing aid. In a Biden +9 seat, Democrats might not feel the pressure to moderate their choice in a primary.
If Eskamani doesn’t run, Democratic State Rep Joy Goff-Marcil, who knocked off a GOP incumbent in 2018, would be another strong candidate. Her district covers both counties.
I will leave a more detailed look at candidate potential for another time. Its late here and I must get to sleep so that I can go with family to Cleveland and see the house from “A Christmas Story.”
Yes you read that right, no apologies. Its a great movie.