At least one national observer now believes the race between Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica and Democratic challenger Stephanie Murphy is now a toss-up in the Seminole County-based Florida’s Congressional District 7.
The closely watched Cook Political Report changed its rating of the district race for the second time in a week Thursday. It has gone from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican” to, as of Thursday, “toss up.”
Mica’s long been an entrenched incumbent whose conservative views always have flexed just enough for him to have a reputation as someone willing to cross the aisle, especially on issues affecting Florida, such as getting federal approval for things like SunRail, the new Veterans Medical Center and the National Simulation Center. He’s served 12 terms and hasn’t had a serious challenge in more than a decade.
But along comes Murphy, a former U.S. Defense Department analyst and current college professor with an engaging personal story and the full backing of national Democratic organizations who see the redistricted district as purple and Mica as out of touch with its new, younger, more diverse electorate. Those groups are backing her with millions of dollars of TV commercials and mailers.
“Now, this contest is shaping up to be the ultimate House race of 2016,” Cook is reporting on its assessment of the race today.
“It’s rare to find a last-minute candidate straight out of central casting, but Murphy is an immigrant and suburban mom with a business and counterterrorism background and no political record to attack,” Cook reports. “At 38, she cuts a stark contrast to Mica, who is 73 and was first elected in 1992. And although Murphy got a late fundraising start, Democratic groups have reserved $4 million in the Orlando market and Mica had just $788,000 in mid-August.”
CD 7 is now one of three congressional districts that Cook is