Another million-dollar battle for a seat in the Florida Legislature has erupted in Orange County.
Both of Florida’s political parties — along with outside groups representing interests such as big businesses and charter-school management companies — are investing in television, radio and direct-mail advertisements to sway voters in House District 49, a new seat that stretches from the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of east Orlando to the University of Central Florida.
A race once seen as the Democrats’ to lose, it has become competitive amid an estimated $490,000 advertising blitz on both English and Spanish-language media paid for by the Republican Party of Florida and its candidate, hospital fundraiser Marco Pena.
The Florida Democratic Party this week responded with a $90,000 broadcast buy of its own to promote its candidate, civil-rights advocate Joe Saunders. It is one of only two state House races in Florida in which the cash-strapped minority party is paying for air time on broadcast networks, which are more expensive — but reach more viewers — than cable.
The stakes are high: If Republicans can win the seat, they could keep Democrats under 40 seats statewide in the 120-member House of Representatives — giving the majority party the ability to power legislation through the chamber almost at will.