Mica unseated, Crist goes to Congress

Florida voters on Tuesday sent a former governor to Congress and called home a 24-year veteran lawmaker from Washington.

In the Orlando area, political novice Stephanie Murphy, with a powerful financial push from national Democrats, including U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, ousted veteran U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Winter Park Republican who was seeking his 13th term in Congress.

Democrats targeted Mica because court-ordered redistricting had reshaped his district to include a sizable portion of Orlando, where a Democratic candidate would be favored.

Mica carried Seminole County by about 10,000 votes but lost Orange County by 20,000, resulting in a 51-49 percent election defeat.

Another factor may have been Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, with Murphy's campaign repeatedly tying Mica to the controversial GOP candidate, who was badly beaten in Orange County and barely won Seminole County.

Charlie Crist, a former one-term Republican governor who lost the 2014 governor's race as a Democrat, defeated U.S. Rep. David Jolly, an Indian Shores Republican, in the redrawn Congressional District 13, which is centered on Crist's hometown of St. Petersburg.

Crist edged Jolly, who was first elected to Congress in a special election in 2014 and flirted with a U.S. Senate bid earlier this year, by nearly 13,000 votes, or a 52-48 percent difference in a district that favored a Democratic candidate.

Crist's victory revived a political career that had stalled after a loss as an independent candidate in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, followed by his narrow loss to Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.

The defeat of the two Republican incumbents, Mica and Jolly, represented two of the three Florida congressional seats picked up by Democrats on Tuesday. They added another seat with the election of Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, in Congressional District 10, another Orange County seat, which had been previously held by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Republican who moved to Congressional District 11, where he was easily elected Tuesday night.

However, the pickup of three seats by the Democrats was offset by the loss of two seats.

Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican and physician, easily won election Tuesday in Congressional District 2, which was previously represented by Gwen Graham, a Tallahassee Democrat who did not seek another term.

U.S. Army veteran Brian Mast, a Palm City Republican, beat Randy Perkins, a Delray Beach Democrat, for Congressional District 18, which was held by U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat who lost Tuesday in a U.S. Senate race.

In another highly watched race, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, beat Joe Garcia, a Democrat, by a 52-41 percent margin in Congressional District 26 in the Miami area.

The net effect of the night was a one-seat pickup for the Democrats in Florida, which gives Republicans a 16-11 edge in the delegation.

The delegation is more diverse, with four African-American members and four Hispanic members, including Darren Soto, who won election to Congressional District 9 in the Orlando area, becoming Florida's first congressional representative of Puerto Rican heritage.

Among the other new members heading to Congress are Matt Gaetz, a Republican representing the Panhandle's Congressional District 1; former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, a Republican representing Congressional District 4; and former state Sen. Al Lawson, a Democrat representing North Florida's Congressional District 5, which was previously represented by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.