TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Control of Congress is far from the only legislative battle on the ballot this year. On the state level, Florida Democrats are trying to stave off a GOP two-thirds supermajority in both chambers of the Legislature.
Redistricting has put all of the state's 160 seats up for election this year. The new lines mean new groups of voters to which politicians need to appeal. Democrats worry Republicans will capitalize and pick up seats in traditionally blue areas.
"If you are a believer in Democracy, if you want to save this republic— as Franklin posed to everybody— you have to have the interplay," Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami said. "You have to have the vetting, you have to have the back and forth."
Wednesday, Pizzo was among a handful of lawmakers who kicked off a 10-day bus tour in Tallahassee to support five vulnerable candidates in the upper chamber.
The #FloridaFreedomTour will be traveling across N FL to get out the vote for @LoranneAusley — 35 events in 5 days across each of SD 3’s mostly rural counties 🚌🗳! Happy to be hitting the road w @senpizzo @traciedavisjax @Bakari_Sellers - check out these behind the scenes 📸s… pic.twitter.com/rTC85uqsLa— Lauren Book (@LeaderBookFL) October 26, 2022
They included Sen. Loranne Ausley for District 3, Sen. Janet Cruz from District 14, Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil from District 10, Raquel Pacheco in District 36 and Janelle Perez from District 38.
Democrats hoped their effort would at least maintain their margins, if not grow them slightly.
"If you have unilateral decisions being made, drafted and crafted that have absolutely nothing to do with reality, that piggyback on the ambitions of somebody else looking outside the state, then Democracy is in ruin," Pizzo said.
Supermajorities not only make it harder for Democrats to get their bills approved — they allow the GOP to change chamber rules more easily. Republicans can also override vetoes from the governor or enact policies increasing state revenue.
A supermajority threshold is close in both chambers of the Legislature. In the House, it's 76 to 42 with two vacancies. Republicans will need 80 seats for a two-thirds majority. In the Senate, 23 to 16 with one vacancy. Another four-seat GOP net is required.
Senate Republicans immediately went on offense. As the bus tour began, Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee launched attack ads targeting the Democrats on the bus tour and dubbed the trip the "B.S. Express."
As the election nears, GOP members told us increased control seemed more attainable.
"What we're seeing is more people break from the Democrat Party because they just don't believe in the things they believe in," Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said.
Ingoglia thought voters liked what the Republican-dominated Legislature had accomplished recently. That's despite critics, this year, condemning the GOP for approving controversial new laws like the 15-week abortion ban and rules regulating race and LGBTQ education in the state.
"We are creating an environment here that is being noticed by people all over the United States, that this is the place to be," he said.
Meanwhile, GOP early vote ballots continue to close in on Democrats, who hold a narrow lead.
As of Wednesday morning only about 22,000 ballots separated the two parties. It may not be enough to offset Republicans, which often turn out in big numbers on Election Day.