On Thursday afternoon, State Representative Bob Cortes announced that he would not be challenging Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th District in 2018 (story HERE). While the House District 30 lawmaker left the door open to a run for higher office in sometime in the future, his decision sets off a series of questions which Republican could challenge Murphy in the battleground seat.
On paper, Cortes was an ideal match-up against Murphy. He’s a proven winner in Orange and Seminole counties with his House seat crossing over between the conservative and liberal regions, much like CD 7, he defeated a well liked Democratic incumbent in 2014 and won in 2018 when Trump was trounced in Orange and had a scare in Seminole. His conservative credentials are strong enough to be targeted regularly with protest by progressive groups at his district office but can work across the aisle on issues like the recovery of Puerto Rico.
His decision is good news for Democrats and a warning for Republicans who could see a bloody primary among a group of qualified but disorganized Republican contenders of possibly four to seven candidates deep, all with current or previously elected experience.
The Observer reached out to a couple of potential candidates, including Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, who will have established name ID in the district by 2018 and could self finance a run if he had to.
“Tax Collector Greenberg is 100 percent focused on improving the office of tax collector. That is the top and only priority at this times.” said a Spokesman for Greenberg.
State Representative Jason Brodeur is currently running for State Senate in 2018, but could emerge as a popular choice after Cortes’ decision, he told the Observer “While I’m a little disappointed our district may not have Bob as our next Congressman, I’m happy for him and his family and look forward to his continued success in the legislature. I’m certain another leader from the district will emerge soon.”
Other potential candidates include Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who has one twice in the left leaning county and is a proven fundraiser, who could easily find support in Seminole County. State Representative Mike Miller, who shares Rollins College ties with Murphy and has also won in Orange County with Trump on the ballot, and State Representative Scott Plakon, one of the most admired conservatives in both counties. Another possibility could be State Senator David Simmons, who’s expressed interest in the seat.
Stephanie Murphy’s campaign didn’t acknowledge Cortes when asked about his decision saying “Congresswoman Murphy is focused on the work the people of Central Florida elected her to do, bringing together both Democrats and Republicans to put people over politics and get results.” said a Campaign Spokesperson.
Leaders from both parties also told the Observer their thoughts.
“Today’s announcement by Bob Cortes to not run against Stephanie Murphy speaks to the positive impact she is having in DC on Behalf of her district.” says Orange County Democratic Party Chair Wes Hodge “It sends a clear signal that the potential leading Republican challenger is fearful of a strong Democratic turnout as a result of President Trump and the Republican Party’s failure to agree on passing the legislation promised.”
Orange County Republican Executive Chair Lew Oliver had positive remarks about Cortes’ decision saying “Bob is one of the best and hardworking State Legislators in the entire country, the loss of CD 7 is the gain of the state legislature and further great leadership in the Florida House.”