Florida Congressman Dennis Ross’s “Safe Republican” seat has moved to “Likely Republican” pending further review by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, after the Lakeland politician said yesterday he won’t seek re-election.
Ross’s announcement came the same day that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R, Wis.) revealed that he, too, intends to retire from Congress.
Ryan’s decision drew the bulk of Wednesday’s attention from the center’s political prognosticating crew, headed by Larry Sabato.
“Ross’s seat, the now-open FL-15, is also potentially competitive, and Trump won it by 10 in 2016,” Kyle Kondik, managing editor of the school’s Sabato’s Crystal Ball, said in a press release Thursday. “We’re going to start it as Likely Republican with the possibility of a more competitive rating after we analyze it further.”
The reliably Republican district, that covers parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties, actually had more registered Democrats — 170,656 — than Republicans — 169,403 — in the 2016 general election, according to the state Division of Elections. The district also had 119,338 unaffiliated voters and another 10,948 listed with the Independent Party at the time.
However, President Donald Trump won the district with 53 percent of the vote, according to the Cook Political Report. Democrat Hillary Clinton received 43 percent.
Ross, who rode into Congress on a Tea Party wave in 2010, won his first congressional contest by 7 percent points, garnering about 15,000 more votes than Democrat Lori Edwards in 2010. He went unopposed in 2012 before winning by nearly 44,000 votes in 2014 and more then 47,500 votes in 2016.
There are now 59 open seats — 39 held by Republicans, 20 by Democrats — in the House, the second-highest post-World War II mark, according to Kondik’s latest post.
— By Jim Turner.