State Politics

Democrat Andrew Korge switches Senate districts, upending two Miami races

Democrat Andrew Korge will now run in state Senate District 40, instead of District 39, creating a major shake-up in Miami-Dade’s closely watched state Senate races.
Democrat Andrew Korge will now run in state Senate District 40, instead of District 39, creating a major shake-up in Miami-Dade’s closely watched state Senate races. Andrew Korge’s state Senate campaign

In a major shake-up for two of Miami-Dade’s closely watched state Senate races, Democrat Andrew Korge is once again switching which public office he wants voters to elect him to in November.

Instead of challenging Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in District 39, Korge will now run for the District 40 seat, he told the Herald/Times, confirming rumors that have swirled in South Florida political circles for the past couple weeks.

His decision sets up a three-way Democratic primary in District 40 against former state representative Ana Rivas Logan and current state Sen. Dwight Bullard, and all but hands Flores her reelection unless Democrats can produce a viable replacement to challenge her with two days left in the qualifying period.

District 40, where I grew up and spent half of my life, offers the best opportunity.

Democratic state Senate candidate Andrew Korge

Korge planned to announce his decision Wednesday afternoon, when he filed his qualifying papers in Tallahassee. Candidates have until noon Friday to qualify and thereby secure their places on the August primary or November general election ballots.

“As a third-generation Miamian, it has long been a dream of mine to serve my community as a member of the Florida Senate, to create a better future for our children, to improve public schools and protect college students, and create high-wage jobs for hard-working, middle-class families,” Korge said in a statement. “District 40, where I grew up and spent half of my life, offers the best opportunity to do that.”

Korge had been in a bitter battle since February against Flores and even persuaded a temporary Democratic challenger, Daniel Horton, to change races this spring so Korge could take her on alone.

But with Flores’ favorable internal polling showing her ahead of Korge and Republicans pouring in resources to defend her, Korge sees better odds in District 40. There, Bullard is growing more vulnerable after lackluster fundraising this spring — entering June, he had less than $31,000 in the bank compared to the $345,000 Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles had — which prompted Rivas Logan to challenge Bullard in the August primary.

District 40 in central Miami-Dade County is slightly more favorable to Democrats than is District 39, which spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys. Almost 55 percent of District 40 voters supported Barack Obama in 2012, compared to less than 53 percent of District 39 voters.

Korge has been indecisive this cycle with which elected office he’d seek in 2016.

A real estate businessman and entrepreneur and the son of prominent Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge, Andrew Korge initially intended early last year to run for Gwen Margolis’ coastal Senate district if she retired this year. (She decided to earlier this month, leaving her heavily Democratic District 38 seat now up for grabs.)

Then in December — after Florida’s congressional districts were re-drawn — Korge temporarily contemplated a U.S. House bid, instead. It was in early February that Korge settled on opposing Flores, after boundaries for the state’s 40 Senate districts were also redrawn.

But since then, Korge — who had complained to party leaders that they were not willing to make defeating Flores one of the top races in the state — made the calculation that he would have a better shot defeating an incumbent Democrat than an incumbent Republican.

I told him not to move.

Oscar Braynon, incoming Florida Senate Democratic leader and chairman of the Democrats’ Senate Victory committee

“He’s making this decision, not me. I told him not to move,” said state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, who is poised to be the Senate Democratic leader starting in November and who chairs the Senate Victory political committee that seeks to elect Democrats to the chamber.

Braynon is faced with limited resources against Republicans, who traditionally outspend Democrats in legislative races three to one in Florida. Although Braynon considered Korge’s chances against Flores “narrow,” he said he believes that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s drag on Republicans — especially in Hispanic-rich Miami-Dade — will boost Democrats in all races.

Korge, who has already raised $700,000 this cycle, is expected to direct much of his fire at Rivas Logan, who early polls showed had an advantage in the district even before she jumped in the race on June 1. Rivas Logan, a Republican lawmaker from 2010 to 2012, publicly disavowed the Republican Party in 2014 and switched to being a Democrat.

Florida Democratic Party loyalists staunchly defended Bullard and urged support for him last weekend during the party’s annual “Leadership Blue” gala. They were annoyed and angry by Rivas Logan’s challenge, and Korge’s foray into the race likely will exacerbate the tension.

“I am disappointed if Andrew Korge is moving into a primary when he had a narrow path in a general election — in a seat President Obama won — with Trump at the top of the ticket,” Braynon said.

Braynon said that Logan “did not consult me” when she, too, decided to challenge Bullard. As the leader of Senate Victory, Braynon said he cannot take sides in the primary.

Braynon said that primaries can help candidates get their messages out but they can also take a toll.

“It hurts if it’s a negative campaign,” he said. “If it becomes destructive, it’s not helpful to the cause.”

Meanwhile, for Flores’ race, the only other competitor she has now is an independent candidate, Sheila Lucas George.

Horton — who opted to move to the District 120 state House race against Republican Rep. Holly Raschein after a heart-to-heart with Korge in late April — said Wednesday morning that he wasn’t sure yet whether he’d stick to that race or jump back in the Flores race if Korge left it.

“I have no idea,” Horton said. “I keep hearing this stuff, too, and it’s incredible.”

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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