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.
Charlie Stuart [D]
Democrat Charlie Stuart, a 56-year-old marketing consultant from Orlando who is challenging Keller for a second time, says Keller should have been spending more time working on issues that are relevant to his constituents. [Photo: Gregg Matthews]
In 2000, Ric Keller told voters he’d only serve eight years. Rep. Keller now says that ‘as a rookie candidate’ he ‘underestimated the value of experience and seniority.’ His GOP opponent, Todd Long, says ‘the opportunity is there for Ric Keller to be beaten very badly.’
Incumbent: Ric Keller (R)
Ric Keller [R]
Todd Long [R]
Background: Rep. Ric Keller likes to tout his work on the House Judiciary Committee and his role in drafting legislation that links airline passenger manifests to the FBI’s Terrorist Watch list. Keller’s opponents, however, would rather talk about the congressman’s 2003 attempt to push through a “Cheeseburger Bill,” which would have shielded fast-food restaurants and other food industry businesses from obesity-related lawsuits. Democrat Charlie Stuart, a 56-year-old marketing consultant from Orlando who is challenging Keller for a second time, says Keller should have been spending more time working on issues that are relevant to his constituents. “Right now, there’s a massive problem with foreclosures. Where is the Orlando, Florida, congressman on this issue? He’s busy working on other issues ... like making sure sexual predators don’t get Pell grants. We have thousands of people in central Florida getting ready to lose their homes, and he’s nowhere on the radar screen.” Stuart came within six points of beating Keller in 2006.
Mike Smith, a former assistant state attorney and a lawyer with Morgan and Morgan in Orlando, was the first Democrat to enter the race, and his solid fund-raising numbers underscore the strength of his campaign. Also vying for the Democratic nod are Alan Grayson, a 50-year-old lawyer who has been prosecuting war profiteers, including companies and corrupt politicians; law school student Quoc Van; and Alexander Fry, an optical engineer and a self-described “dark horse” of the race.
Keller has a tough primary fight ahead of him first. His sole GOP challenger is Todd Long, an Orlando personal injury attorney and conservative radio talk show host who decided to challenge Keller after the congressman broke the four-year term limit pledge he made when he first ran in 2000. Long has been walking the district for 16 months and has already raised about a quarter of a million dollars.