Photo Credit: Tori Whitley / WFSU
The contested half of Florida’s panhandle
Florida’s 2nd congressional district is located in the eastern half of Florida’s northwestern panhandle. With its concentration of liberal voters in Leon County’s Tallahassee – the Florida state capital – the 2nd district has been more competitive than the 1st district. While the 1st district has been a Republican Party stronghold since the Republican partisan tide in 1994, the 2nd district has leaned Democratic overall. Voter registration as of 2012 in the 2nd district mirrored that from the 1st district, with just over half registered as Democrats, about a third as Republican, and about an eighth with no party affiliation.
However, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, after the most recent redistricting, the Republicans now outnumber Democrats 197,000 to 181,000. The 2nd district’s current Representative, Gwen Graham, was one of only a few Democratic Party candidates to take a Republican seat in 2014. During her time in the 2nd District seat, incumbent Democrat Gwen Graham was able to acquire Congressional subcommittee assignments including to the Armed Services and Agricultural subcommittees, which, according to Graham, allowed her to help her constituents in the military, farmers and families in North Florida.
However, Graham will not be seeking re-election in 2016, leaving the 2nd district seat open for 2016, like the 1st district. A strong GOP gain is expected in Florida’s 2nd district on November 8th. The district is expected to be retaken by the Republican Party due to redistricting, which favors conservatives, for instance, by excluding a large portion of Leon County.
Florida’s 2nd congressional district candidates
The candidates on the ballot for November include Republican Neal Dunn, Democrat Walter Dartland, and Libertarian Rob Lapham. With 41% of the vote, Dunn defeated two other Republican primary contestants – Mary Thomas with 39% and Ken Sukhia with 19% – for the nomination. During the Republican Party primary, Dunn emphasized issue stances such as repealing Obamacare, cutting government spending, helping to rebuild the military, and protecting Second Amendment rights. Meanwhile Dartland narrowly defeated Steve Crapps in the Democratic Party primary with 50.1% to 49.9%.
Like Democratic candidate Steve Specht in Florida’s 1st Congressional District, the Democratic Party candidate Walter Dartland can highlight his status as a military veteran to blunt accusations that Democrats are less favorable towards the military. Like Specht in the 1st district race, Dartland’s more moderate stance may appeal to independents and moderate Republicans. However, on his campaign website, Dartland also indicates his support for social democratic reforms such as a single-payer health care system, free community college, overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, and raising the minimum wage.
Meanwhile, on his campaign website, Dunn pledges to repeal Obamacare, fight radical Islamic terrorism, create jobs and expand the economy, protect the 2nd Amendment, stop illegal immigration, stop abortion, standing up for veterans and supporting the military, cutting spending and balancing the budget, protect traditional family values, and to stop common core (a federal education program). Like Matt Gaetz in Florida’s 1st Congressional district race, Dunn indicates his desire to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education.