Political parties wage war for handful of seats

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Political parties wage war of inches in Florida

A handful of legislative seats could impact balance of power

By Josh Hafenbrack, Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — It’s a dogfight for little more than a dozen seats.

Republicans are aiming to increase their already sizable statehouse majorities, so they can promote conservative ideals and laws. Democrats aim for the opposite – to whittle the GOP majority to stop them from pushing through constitutional amendments, which require a three-fifths majority.

Florida is a swing state, but the state Legislature has long been dominated by one-party rule. The House has 76 Republicans to just 44 Democrats, while the Senate’s GOP edge is 26-13.

That’s not likely to change much. Despite a wave of open seats, forced by term limits, Democrats are hoping for incremental gains: a few seats in the House, perhaps one in the Senate.

“That’s clearly a goal,” said Screven Watson, a Democratic political consultant in Tallahassee. “We’re not taking back the House, but there’s an ability to be a little more even-keeled in the Legislature.”

Republicans see something different: an opportunity to claw even more seats away from the minority party. They are targeting seven incumbent Democrats in the state House and two vacant, Democratic-held seats in the Senate. Winning them all is a longshot, but Republicans insist they can stretch their majorities in both chambers.

“We’re are going to be on the offense,” said state Rep. Will Weatherford, a ranking Republican in line to become House speaker in 2012. He told GOP activists recently his goal is a two-thirds majority of 80 Republicans in the House, enough to steamroll Democrats on parliamentary votes. “That would give us a tremendous ability to pass a conservative agenda in the state of Florida.”

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