Previewing the Top 20 Florida House races to watch in 2014: HD 29, HD 30, HD 47 & HD 49

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North Orlando suburbs make up the majority of House District 29, which covers much of Seminole County and the cities of Lake Mary, Longwood and parts of Sanford. Freshman Democratic state Rep. Mike Clelland is seeking re-election to the Republican-leaning region, after a surprising defeat of (now infamous) Rep. Chris Dorworth in 2012 by less than 150 votes.

Former state Rep. Scott Plakon is challenging Clelland, mostly on a platform of grassroots support to “bring common sense conservative leadership to our state capitol.” The Longwood Republican has already racked up some notable supporters; including the influential Florida Medical Association, state Sen. Alan Hays; Reps. Jason Brodeur and Eric Eisnaugle and former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

With a long list of endorsements and a well-run campaign, Longwood Mayor and business executive Bob Cortes won the GOP primary to face incumbent Democrat Rep. Karen Castor-Dentel in November for House District 30.

Altamont Springs, the quintessential suburban city, is at the heart of HD 30, and its makeup (as of 2012) is slightly Democratic—by less than two percent. This race, another highly swing district north of Orlando in Seminole and Orange Counties, expects to be one of the more closely watched — and highly competitive — contests in the state.

Castor, sister of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and daughter of former education commissioner and state Sen. Betty Castor, has had a limited impact in Tallahassee despite her political pedigree. However, the same is true for nearly every other Democrat in the heavily Republican-controlled legislature.

Although much of the central business district of downtown Orlando is contained within House District 47, the high number of residential condominiums — more so than any other major city’s downtown — make it another political swing district and one to watch in November.

Democratic incumbent state Rep. Linda Stewart seeks re-election in HD 47 against Republican Mike Miller, who serves as Director of Marketing and Corporate Sponsorship for Athletics for Rollins College. Miller, described as a “fighter” with a sharp campaign manager, has already won a number leading endorsements, including that of the Florida Medical Association.

Education will be the top campaign issue in House District 49, as Colonial High School teacher and track coach Rene “Coach P” Plasencia took the GOP primary to challenge incumbent Democratic state Rep. Joe Saunders.

HD 49, a marginal Democratic district with a slight Republican registration edge, covers the area between Lake Pickett and Semoran Boulevard, and Colonial Drive up to the Seminole County line.

Plasencia is a 14-year educator, familiar in the neighborhoods through both teaching and coaching. His platform calls for education reform, pointing to Common Core as more of the same difficulties for schools as the FCAT has been since the 1990s.

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.