Editor’s Note: This post was written by James Bascom, Natalie Kratochvil and Keshawn Langhorn.
Our predictions for Florida’s 18th Congressional District race are as follows:
Predicted Vote Total
We believe that Republican Brian Mast will win the upcoming election for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. He has proven to be the most competent candidate throughout the election cycle and to have the interests of his constituents in mind. When Patrick Murphy won this seat in 2012 it was seen as a fluke, because the district had been in favor of Republicans since its redistricting. Murphy won his re-election handily in 2014, thanks to his large war chest and a Republican rival that was not prepared to run against the freshman congressman. This time around, the Republicans find themselves in capable hands with Mast, and with an abundance of gaffes by his opponent, the Republican Party seems primed to retake this seat.
The surprise Republican primary winner Brian Mast has been able to garner a large amount of support from Florida’s military and veteran demographic, given his career as a Staff Sergeant and his status as a veteran. Mast has gained sympathy, as well as criticism, due to his condition as a double amputee. This is something that he and his advisors have been quick to jump on. However, his public endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump could be the thing that hurts him the most this election season. Despite Trump’s offensive actions that have occurred since Mast’s endorsement, he has not publicly rescinded that endorsement, but he has denounced Trump’s behavior. He has also come under criticism due to his rhetoric during in the Republican primary. All of that being said, we firmly believe that it is Mast that will clinch the win in the end. This is due, in part, to Mast having been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, an organization with deep ties to Florida. Mast also has his status as an underdog going for him to help him against his self-funded millionaire competitor that is Randy Perkins. Additionally, Mast is a graduate of an extension program from Harvard. Mast has built a strong base in this district and with Republicans registering more than Democrats, he seems primed for a win.
We do not expect the independent candidate Carla Spalding to have much of an impact in this upcoming election; she has only recently qualified to make the ballot and did not run in either primary. She lacks the name recognition of other candidates, but we expect her to gain some percentage of the vote due to her perceived connections. Her appearance on the debate stage has also helped increase her recognizability during the election season. Although her policies still remain unclear, Spalding has proven that she is capable of garnering a small percentage of the vote.
Randy Perkins has not had the typical response to Trump that would be expected of a Democratic candidate. After an electoral board meeting at which Perkins had one of the worst displays in contemporary United States politics, he was compared to the highly controversial presidential candidate Donald Trump. When Perkins heard about this comparison, he was not sure if it was meant as a compliment or as an insult. He also did not deny the comparison or denounce Trump’s temperament, but rather complimented him saying that Trump has clearly tapped into something here in the United States. This is an uncommon response from a Democratic candidate who would typically be expected to react poorly to the comparison and criticize Trump and his behavior. This, along with the fact that Perkins was not a registered Democrat until he decided to run for office, are two factors that could hurt him and ultimately cost him votes in the election.
This will be a tight race, as neither candidate has proven to be able to effectively outdo the other. With a popular Democrat leaving office, Republicans see an opportunity to pick up a congressional seat and they have gone full steam ahead in this race, spending upwards of $5 million. Voters seem to feel more comfortable with Mast, while Perkins is viewed as an opportunistic rich man who is running for office. In a district full of working class families, not being able to relate to his base will mean the end for Perkins.