By now it’s entirely probable that you’ve digested more than a few opinion pieces that predict a bloodbath for Republicans across the country in both federal and state races. Without debating the merits of those predictions, it’s an equally realistic prognostication to assert that there will be surprises in races throughout the country as well.
Down here in CD-19, an interesting dynamic is playing out in what has historically been a safe Democratic district, and this district may yield one of those surprising upsets. In the race for this congressional seat, there are actually three candidates on the ballot- incumbent Robert Wexler (D), the self proclaimed “Fire-Breathing Liberal”; Ben Graber, a disaffected Democrat who is running as the “no party” candidate in the November 4th election for Congress; and Republican Edward Lynch from West Palm Beach.
A former Broward County commissioner and former state legislator, Ben Graber dropped his Democratic Primary challenge against Wexler and left the Democratic Party. Graber’s rationale for running in a district with a Democratic incumbent is very muddled indeed- claiming to be more of a “centrist” than Wexler on the one hand, yet running to the left (if you can believe it) of Wexler on issues like the Iraq War, health care, and that most famous euphemism of them all, “Choice”.
Congressman Wexler ran unopposed last election cycle, and the highlight (or lowlight) on his path towards uncontested victory was his unintentionally hilarious interview with Steven Colbert in which Wexler’s performance was stiff, uncomfortable, and bereft of both a sense of irony and humor on his part. In fact, it was the “Colbert incident” that probably gave Graber the impetus to challenge for Wexler’s seat.
What made Wexler’s initial performance on Colbert so laughable were not Wexler’s literal words (repeating Colbert’s coached lines that cocaine and prostitutes are “fun” in the context of a joke), but the fact that he lacked the judgment to demur on Colbert’s unserious dare; and as a result came off looking even more stupid due to a lack of improvisational skills that would have enabled him to either turn the table on Colbert’s ruse or change the subject entirely. If it was Colbert’s intent to undress the typically demagogic Wexler and put him in a very compromising position, he did so quite convincingly.
Lastly, we have Republican Edward Lynch, a self-described “non-politician” type without prior elected experience, but bringing a wealth of experience as a businessman and entrepreneur from the private sector. Running on a platform that is diametrically opposed to both of the other candidates in the race- winning in Iraq, opening up offshore drilling, tax cuts, and fiscal responsibility- his candidacy provides the voters of CD-19 with a real choice in this election.
This alignment of the stars bodes well for Lynch’s prospects in what has historically been one of the safest seats for Democrats in the state. Wexler now has to contend with a well-known local legislator running to his left- one who actually lives in and spends time in the district, unlike Wexler; as well as a credible Republican on his right. These intangibles form the backdrop within a district where the latest voter registration numbers show the district is compromised of 50.2 percent Democratic, 25.3 percent Republican, and 24.5 independent or no party affiliation. Toss in the fact that Congress is at an all-time low approval rating of 9 percent, and things could get very interesting.
Could we see Lynch sneak into the seat with 40 percent of the vote or less? It is a feasible scenario. Lynch’s campaign manager Michael Solomon has even higher expectations of his candidate- he believes that Lynch will win with a clear majority of the vote. “The voters of the 19th District will be sending a clear message to Congress that they believe in Edward Lynch”, said Solomon in a phone interview.
I will be following very closely and commenting frequently on this race throughout the duration of its campaign, in addition to the other congressional elections being held within South Florida districts.