Seats Up for Grabs
A move away from partisan politics is stroking heated congressional battles and spelling trouble for incumbents across Florida. Here's a roundup.
Tom Feeney [R]
Suzanne Kosmas [D]
Incumbent: Rep. Tom Feeney (R)
District: Parts of Brevard, Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties
Background: Tarnished by his connection to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, Feeney is facing a tough general election battle this fall. The Orlando-area Republican’s troubles stem from an expensive golf trip he took to Scotland in 2003 that was secretly financed by Abramoff, who as a lobbyist was prohibited from paying for congressional travel. Feeney has downplayed his association with Abramoff, who is serving time on corruption and fraud charges, saying he was unaware Abramoff had funded the trip. Nonetheless, the matter continues to dog him, and last year the congressman formed a legal defense fund to help pay costs related to a continuing Department of Justice investigation of the matter.
While Feeney won with 58% of the vote in 2006, he faces a formidable challenger this year — former state Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, a Democrat from New Smyrna Beach who served in the Florida House from 1996-2004. Kosmas must first win the Aug. 26 Democratic primary, where she will face 2006 Democratic nominee Clint Curtis. Kosmas is considerably better funded and is already getting help from the Democratic establishment in Washington. Marian Johnson, vice president of political strategy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, says Feeney has his work cut out for him: “Suzanne Kosmas is very popular. She was a good business vote in the Florida Legislature. It’s not like he’s running against a liberal.” Other candidates include political newcomer Gaurav Bhola, who is running as an independent, and Jason Paul Davis, a Gulf War veteran and full-time college student from Port Orange, who is running as a Republican.