Previewing the Top 20 Florida House races to watch in 2014: HD 112, HD 114 & HD 115

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Miami-Dade offers a trio of competitive House races in 2014, where incumbents in swing districts could face upset, as long as the opponents raise enough cash to launch effective campaigns.

With the support of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, as well as three of his predecessors, incumbent Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez faces Republican Daniel Diaz Leyva for House District 112. HD 112 covers Coconut Grove, Brickell, the Roads, sections of Coral Gables and Little Havana, the focal point for the city’s Cuban exile community.

Known as a swing district that leans heavily on exile politics, HD 112 is once again in play in 2014, as Rodriguez struggles with Diaz Leyva, an attorney and well-funded GOP candidate, in the area where he won by just 7 percent in 2012.

Rodriguez has the backing of the Miami’s Democratic elite, but Diaz Leyva also earned endorsements from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Medical Association.

Diaz Leyva also counts former Gov. Jeb Bush, current state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and the entire Republican Miami-Dade House Delegation, including state Rep. Jose Oliva as supporters.

In House District 114 — the most “Miami” part of the Miami-Dade region — incumbent Republican Rep. Erik Fresen faces Democrat Daisy Josefina Baez and independent Ross Hancock in November.

Anchoring HD 114 is the iconic Biltmore Hotel, where South Florida Republicans congregate, such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (who lives nearby). Rubio is often at the Biltmore when not in Washington D.C.

It is also the district where Fresen won by only 51 to 49 percent against Hancock in 2012.

Fresen serves as chair of the influential House Education Appropriations Committee and has earned several endorsements, such as the by the Florida Medical Association. Baez is a healthcare executive who has been endorsed by Florida SEIU union, Planned Parenthood and both Emily’s and Ruth’s List Florida.

In his campaign website Hancock, notes the two-point margin from 2012, asking supporters to “finish what we started.”

House District 115, another South Florida swing district, has incumbent Republican Rep. Michael Bileca facing Democrat Kristopher D. Decossard in November.

Encompassing suburban Miami, HD 115 is home to Dadeland Mall, one of South Florida’s oldest shopping centers. The Mall figured prominently in an early episode of “Miami Vice,” helping establish the city’s stylized look in the minds of TV viewers worldwide.

Like the surrounding region, the district is heavily Hispanic but also contains some of Miami-Dade’s largest numbers of those identified as a “creative class.”

In 2014, Democrats hope to retake the district, bolstered by the fact that Bileca won by only 5 percent two years ago. Further demonstrating the area’s political split personality, even though HD 115 has a three-point advantage in Republican voter registration, it went to Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Mitt Romney for president in 2012.

So far, Bileca is favored in the race against Decossard, a Miami-Dade native, an Army vet and the son of a Cuban exile mother.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.