Neal Dunn Favored Over Al Lawson in Rare Matchup of Two Congressional Incumbents

Two members of the Florida delegation–U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., and Al Lawson, R-Fla.–are running in the Big Bend in a rare matchup of two congressional incumbents battling it out.

While Lawson has been based out of Tallahassee for his decades long political career, in 2016, he defeated longtime U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., in the primary to represent a district stretching across I-10 to the western part of Jacksonville. Dunn, who was also elected to Congress in 2016, is based out of Panama City though his district ran across the Big Bend including parts of Tallahassee.

After the latest round of redistricting, the district includes all of Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington Counties and Lafayette Walton Counties.

Considering two incumbent members of Congress are running against each other, the race has gotten next to no national attention. On paper, the GOP has a very slight edge here with Republicans making up 41 percent of voters here while 40 percent are Democrats and the rest stand outside the major parties.

But the reality is far different as the 2020 presidential election shows. Donald Trump pulled 54.8 percent of the vote here, easily besting Joe Biden who took 43.9 percent in the district. Lawson might be more popular than Biden in the district but he will have to work a political miracle to win on Tuesday.

Dunn has generally kept a low profile in Washington though he has been active in the district, pushing for more federal aid after Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle and Big Bend in 2018 and trying to protect shipbuilding jobs in the area. More of a workhorse than a showhorse, Dunn has worked across the aisle when needed, including pairing with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., on efforts to roll back regulations on private companies launching rockets into space and FEMA loan reform. Dunn has also used his background as a doctor to work on medical related legislation.

There are signs Dunn is moving up the ranks, including being named to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee at the start of last year. With the GOP expected to flip the House on Tuesday, Dunn has the opportunity to make more of an impact on Capitol Hill if he wins a fourth term.

Kevin Derby wrote this analysis. He can be reached at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com

For more articles on Florida politics and government, visit our Florida politics section. Recent coverage includes 2022 Midterm Election news, Ron DeSantis vs. Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio vs. Val Demings and more.

Kevin Derby
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