Florida Republicans began the 2020 election cycle with a 23-17 majority in the state Senate, and they likely will enter the 2021 legislative session with that same advantage.
Twenty of the Senate's 40 seats were on Tuesday's ballot, and the makeup of the chamber will remain unchanged unless Republican challenger Ileana Garcia defeats incumbent Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez after a recount in their Senate District 37 battle in Miami-Dade County.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Garcia had a 21-vote lead out of 215,411 ballots cast – 48.53% to 48.52% – over Rodriguez, one of the Senate’s most outspoken and respected Democrats.
Garcia, who served as deputy press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under President Donald Trump and is the founder of Latinas For Trump, benefitted from a record Republican turnout in Miami-Dade County orchestrated by the Cuban community, while Democrats failed to fully mobilize anticipated votes from south Florida’s blue precincts.
Those two factors essentially gave Donald Trump Florida’s 29 electoral votes in a 3% statewide victory and cost Democrats two Miami-Dade congressional seats, two Democratic-held Miami-area seats in the state House and, possibly, one blue seat in the still-red state Senate.
Overall, Republicans flipped five House seats and will head into the 2021 legislative session with at least a 78-42 advantage in the lower chamber and a 23-17 or 24-16 Senate advantage, depending how the Garcia-Rodriguez race in District 37 goes.
More than 11 million Floridians cast ballots in Tuesday’s elections, with turnout early Wednesday estimated by the Florida Division of Elections (FDOE) to be 77%.
If Rodriguez falls, he will be the only incumbent senator from either party to not be reelected. The most-contested Senate races Tuesday featured spirited, but failed, attempts to unseat incumbents or dominant party candidates in “purple districts.”
Democrats targeted Senate Districts 9, 20 and 39 as GOP-controlled seats they could flip in 2020. Republicans won all three.
In addition to Senate District 37, Republicans identified Senate Districts 3 and 29 as potentially vulnerable Democrat-held seats. Other than District 37, Democrats fended off the GOP challengers. Among prominent Senate results:
• Senate District 20: Republican Rep. Danny Burgess will assume the seat vacated by the retirement of Sen. Tom Lee, securing a near-10% victory over Democrat Kathy Lewis.
• Senate District 3: Term-limited Democratic state Rep. Loranne Ausley was expected to easily assume term-limited Democratic Sen. Bill Montford’s seat representing the Tallahassee-area district, but GOP newcomer Marva Preston gave her a run for her money, literally.
Ausley garnered 137,435 votes to defeat Preston 53.4% to 46.6% but not before the race evolved into one of the most-expensive and high-profile state Senate races in Florida.
Senate District 9: Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur will keep this Brevard County district in Republican hands after securing a narrow 2% victory over Democrat Patricia Sigman.
Brodeur won election to the Senate with a 50% to 48% tally over Sigman, who the state’s Democratic Party recruited late last year to make the run for the seat vacated by term-limited Republican Sen. David Simmons.
Senate District 39: Republican Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez defeated Democratic Rep. Javier Fernández in the race for this Miami-Dade/Florida Keys district being vacated by term-limited Republican Sen. Anitere Flores.
Rodriguez garnered 123,499 votes, securing a 55.6% to 42.8% victory over Fernández, despite being outspent three-to-one.
Senate District 29: Democratic Rep. Tina Polsky will take this Palm Beach County seat being vacated by term-limited Democrat Sen. Kevin Rader. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, she led Republican challenger Brian Norton, 56% to 44%.
The Center Square