ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has won reelection for an eighth term representing parts of Florida’s Tampa Bay area.
The Republican defeated state legislator Margaret Good, a Democrat.
Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, campaigned on his business acumen and support for lower taxes.
Good campaigned on strengthening environmental safeguards and preserving the health care law put into effect by former President Barack Obama.
Also Tuesday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, once a Republican Florida governor, won reelection to Congress for a third term representing parts of Florida’s Tampa Bay area.
Crist defeated Republican Anna Paulina Luna, who was seeking office for the first time.
A longtime fixture in Florida politics, Crist served as a state legislator, education commissioner and attorney general before being elected governor of the country’s third-most populous state in 2006.
Crist was a Republican until his final year as governor, but left the party in 2010 as an independent before becoming a Democrat in 2012. He also unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate.
Luna, an Air Force veteran, emerged from a crowded Republican primary that included better-financed opponents.
In the Naples area, Republican state Rep. Byron Donalds won the House seat now held by Florida Republican Francis Rooney.
Donalds defeated Democrat Cindy Lyn Banyai in the heavily Republican southwest Florida district. He will become only the third Black Republican to represent the state in the U.S. House. The first was Josiah Walls, elected in 1870 when Florida had only one House seat. The other was Allen West, who served from 2011-2013.
Rooney is retiring from the House after two terms.
Donalds, a financial adviser, was first elected to the state House in 2016 and served as chairman of the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.
Banyai is a former professional boxer who runs a community development consulting firm.
GOP conservative star Rep. Matt Gaetz held off a challenge in his Panhandle District 1 from Democrat Phil Ehr. Although it is a GOP stronghold — Gaetz won last time with two-thirds of the vote — Ehr had a long military career in an area where that is highly valued.
Other high-profile races were yet to be decided early Tuesday evening. Most incumbents, including Democrats Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Kathy Castor, Val Demings and Alcee Hastings, and Republicans John Rutherford, Brian Mast, Daniel Webster and Bill Posey, won reelection handily.
The main contested races were in the Miami area: first-term Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell vs. Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and freshman Democrat Donna Shalala in a rematch against GOP Spanish-language TV personality Maria Elvira Salazar.
Shalala defeated Salazar by about 6 percentage points two years ago in District 27 and has broad name recognition from her time as President Bill Clinton’s secretary of Health and Human Services and president of the University of Miami. Salazar appealed to the Hispanic voters in the district, which includes Little Havana and the more liberal Miami Beach area.
Mucarsel-Powell, the first person from Ecuador to serve in the U.S. Congress, won the District 26 seat two years ago over then-incumbent GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo. The district, which stretches from the Miami suburbs to Key West, has flipped between parties over several elections.
Gimenez, a Cuban-American retired firefighter, has served as county mayor since 2011 and is term-limited this year. Although he is well-known across the district, polls have shown a close race with Mucarsel-Powell in a slight lead.
Republicans currently have a 14-13 edge in the state’s 27 House seats.
Beyond South Florida, most congressional incumbents were in safe seats or have newcomers running in their districts. But a few races were seen as potentially close.
One is an open seat in District 15, in the Tampa Bay area, created when GOP Rep. Ross Spano was defeated by Scott Franklin, a former Navy aviator and insurance company executive. His challenger is Democrat Alan Cohn, a former television reporter who unsuccessfully ran for the same seat in 2014.
In District 18, north of West Palm Beach, Republican Brian Mast cruised to re-election, and just south in District 21 Democrat Lois Frankel defeated conservative favorite Laura Loomer. The district is firmly Democratic and Frankel is well-known in the area as a former West Palm Beach mayor and state legislator.
Back in South Florida, GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart won another term because he had no Democratic or write-in opposition in District 25.