Six state legislative races set to define the 2024 election cycle

After a red wave, Democrats eye competitive seats in hopes of reversing GOP supermajorities.

Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

Florida’s 2022 election cycle was devastating for Democrats and a boon for Republicans from the top of the ticket to the bottom. 

The GOP secured supermajorities in the state House and the state Senate, allowing them to shape legislative rules about bill debates and amendment proposals. That supermajority was ushered in by titanic voter registration efforts from Republicans and abysmal Democratic turnout.

While Republicans have continued to expand their voter registration lead and few believe Democrats can turn the state in their favor anytime soon, several close state legislative races that went to Republicans in 2022 could be up for grabs in 2024 if voter turnout increases, potentially removing the GOP’s supermajority.

Here’s six races that could flip parties this election cycle:

Senate District 3

State Sen. and former NFL player Corey Simon doesn’t need someone checking his blind side to know the Florida Democratic Party is going to be blitzing him.

He knocked off long-time Democratic legislator Loranne Ausley for her panhandle Senate seat in 2022 by six points, thanks in part to low Democratic voter turnout. Florida Democrats are likely banking on having Biden vs. Trump (or the long-shot DeSantis) at the top of the ticket in hopes of reversing that trend. 

Two Democrats have already entered the race for 2024. Sheria Griffin, a Leon County teacher union leader, jumped in this month, challenging Simon on his sponsorship of legislation that made the state’s school voucher program universal. Kimblin Nesmith, a Gadsden County commissioner, has been registered to run for months.

Expect Republicans to put up a strong defense. With the race being potentially the closest Senate contest that cycle, strategists that spoke with City & State Florida expect the Republican Party of Florida to invest several million dollars into retaining the seat and protecting their supermajority.

House District 37 

This Orange and Seminole County district saw a prominent Democratic politician knocked out in 2022 by the Republican relative of an already established politician.

The seat’s current officeholder, state Rep. Susan Plasencia, ousted Carlos Guillermo Smith by almost four points. Plasencia is the sister of former State Rep. Rene Plasencia, who was in the Florida Legislature when she mounted her campaign.

Given the tight margins in the 2022 contest, expect Florida Democrats to put up a candidate against her, but it won’t be Smith. He is already running for state Senate District 17, a safe Democratic seat that no other candidates have registered for so far.

No candidate has registered to run against Plasencia yet, however. She has fundraised over $20,000 and already has her reelection website up.

House District 47

Republican Paula Stark was able to flip this former blue seat in 2022 by two points. For context, President Joe Biden bested Donald Trump in the same area by 13 points in 2020. 

A longtime member of the community that worked for 29 years at the Osceola News Gazette, Stark might ultimately be safe. But Democrats hope the voter turnout problems that plagued their party in 2022 won’t repeat in 2024.

That optimism has several Democratic candidates deciding to run it back. Anthony Nieves, the progressive Democrat who lost to Stark in the general election, has already filed to run. So has Andrew Jeng, one of Nieves’ primary opponents who lost by only four points.

House District 91

This Boca Raton-based seat was another Democratic casualty to Florida’s red wave that washed over Palm Beach County.

Republican Peggy Gossett-Seidman bested Democrat Andy Thomson by a little more than 2,500 votes, or about 3 points, in 2022. The district, however, has more Democratic registered voters than Republicans, making it a likely target for Democrats looking to end the GOP House supermajority.

One Democratic challenger has already begun to pick up steam. Jay Shooster, a lawyer and first-time political candidate, has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, state Sens. Tina Polsky and Lori Berman and state Reps. Joe Casello and Kelly Skidmore. He also attended the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue Conference, where he participated in workshops and met with Democratic leadership.

House District 93

After winning race after race in 2022, this district is one of the few seats left where Republicans could play offense instead of defense.

Democratic state Rep. Katherine Waldron won her Palm Beach seat by a little over a point. But the race wasn’t expected to be that close, as Biden won the same district by 10 points in 2020, according to MCI Maps.

The field of Republicans looking to unseat her is deep. Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig, real estate developer Brandon Cabrera and businessman Chris Mitchell are all set to run in the Republican primary.

House District 106 

2024 was already shaping up to be a tough race for Miami Beach Republican state Rep. Fabian Basabe. He won by a mere 0.4% in 2022 in a longstanding Democratic area. He went on to get a lot of flak from the LGTBQ+ community for backing this year's “Don’t Say Gay” expansion bill.

Then, the other shoe dropped. He was accused by two male staffers of sexual harassment, including allegedly groping one of them in an elementary school. Basabe responded to the allegations by taking to social media to call them false accusations made by “lazy, entitled, unscrupulous, self-involved, ungrateful, lying scum.” This brought to the surface further public misconduct allegations against him from before his time in office

A soup can could have a shot at beating Basabe at this point. But Democrats already have an experienced challenger to face off against him in former state Rep. and Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders. He has banked on his political connections and experience, fundraising over $80,000 to his campaign account in the first two months of his campaign compared to Basabe’s $16,000.

Contact Tristan Wood at twood@cityandstatefl.com and follow him on Twitter: @TristanDWood

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