In central Florida, including the pivotal I-4 corridor, several Senate and House races remain extremely tight and hard to call going into the final weekend before voting ends, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida. They are:
SENATE DISTRICT 8
Democrat Frank Bruno and Republican Dorothy Hukill are well-known political figures in Volusia County, which makes up the majority of the district. Bruno is chairman of the Volusia County Council — similar to a county mayor — while Hukill has been a state House member for eight years and previously held local offices.
Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, represents much of the area but could not run again this year because of term limits, creating a closely watched race. The district includes a corner of Lake County and a chunk of Marion County, which could be an important battleground as Bruno and Hukill split Volusia votes.
SENATE DISTRICT 14
Republican Will McBride and Democrat Darren Soto are battling in a district that reflects the growth of the Hispanic population in the Orlando area. Soto has served in the state House since 2007, while McBride became known in political circles when he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2006.
Unlike in many legislative races this year, key players in the business community have supported the Democratic candidate — at least in part because McBride is a trial lawyer. Most of the district’s population lives in Orange and Osceola counties, with a smaller part in Polk County.
HOUSE DISTRICT 21
Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, is trying to win another term in Tallahassee in a substantially redrawn district. Perry’s current district starts in the Gainesville area and heads south into Marion and Levy counties; the new district also starts in the Gainesville area but goes west into Gilchrist and Dixie counties.
Perry faces Gainesville attorney Andrew Morey, who won the Democratic primary despite being outspent by his opponent, Aaron Bosshardt. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the redrawn district, and 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink and 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama carried the area.
HOUSE DISTRICT 30
The contest between Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Maitland Democrat Karen Castor Dentel could end up as the hardest-fought House race of the year. Business groups are backing Plakon, while Castor Dentel, a teacher, has support from groups such as the Florida Education Association.
District 30, which includes parts of Seminole and Orange counties, has substantially different boundaries from Plakon’s current district. Plakon has been an outspoken conservative on issues such as opposing the federal health overhaul, while Dentel comes from a prominent Democratic family, with her mother, Betty, serving as a state education commissioner and a sister, Kathy, serving in Congress.
HOUSE DISTRICT 42
Once thought safe for Republicans, the District 42 race was thrown into turmoil in late September when Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, withdrew after being linked to a prostitution investigation. Before Horner’s exit, Democratic candidate Eileen Game of Frostproof had drawn little attention.
Celebration Republican Mike LaRosa jumped into the race, but he faces the awkward problem of Horner’s name remaining on the ballot. If voters cast ballots for Horner, they actually will be voting for LaRosa. The district includes most of Osceola County and part of Polk County.
HOUSE DISTRICT 47
The District 47 race pits two experienced politicians in Republican Bob Brooks and Democrat Linda Stewart. Brooks served in the House during the 1990s before becoming secretary of the state Department of Health, while Stewart is a former Orange County commissioner.
Democrats have performed well recently in the Orange County district, with 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink and 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama carrying the area. But Brooks has trounced Stewart in raising money.
HOUSE DISTRICT 49
Newcomers Marco Pena, a Republican, and Joe Saunders, a Democrat, are locked in a competitive race in the Orange County district. Saunders has been among the top Democratic fund-raisers in House races, but Republicans have funneled money to Pena late in the campaign.
Like nearby District 47, Democrats have fared well in recent years in this area, which includes the University of Central Florida. Both candidates are former UCF students and are touting their backgrounds in leadership positions at the school.