The projected future Speaker of the Florida House, Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, is in the fight of his life to hold on to his seat—a stunning development for one of the most powerful legislators in the state.
In House District 29, Dorworth was losing by 37 votes out of 73,461 cast as of 12:30 a.m., a less than 0.1% lead for Democratic challenger Mike Clelland. The 50.03 to 49.97 percent race is within the recount margin and 100 percent of precincts in Seminole County have reported results.
The outcome is surprising because Dorworth was one of the Legislature’s most prolific fundraisers, raking in more than $1 million dollars for his campaign and through his committees. Clelland has only raised about $70,000 in donations to his campaign.
Given Dorworth’s powerful position—he was recently picked to become the House Majority Leader this year--the race was a sleeper, and was not listed among many lists of competitive races.
The Democratic party used mailers to try and paint Dorworth as an irresponsible politician whose finances were in shambles. Media pieces and columns highlighted Dorworth’s financial problems and questioned whether he was fit to be a leader in the Republican Party.
Dorworth poured $300,000 into a late advertising blitz aimed at helping carry him over the finish line.
But Democrats also stepped up their spending in the final weeks of the race, perhaps smelling blood.
The race is so close that it could be several weeks before voters—and a wide swath of donors who pumped cash into Dorworth’s robust political committee--know the final outcome.
It could come down to a manual recount, and there could certainly be legal challenges.
Dorworth was scheduled to become House Speaker in 2014.