Democrat Margaret Good won a Florida state house race … in a very red district. (More)
“I just think people deserve better and want to have better”
For the third Florida bellwether election in a row, the Republican candidate lost to the Democrat, giving activists and elites in both parties a sense that the GOP’s political grip is slipping in the nation’s largest swing state heading into President Donald Trump’s first midterm election.
Aside from her big 7.4 percentage-point win, what made Margaret Good’s victory Tuesday night over Republican James Buchanan so significant was that it took place in Florida’s 72nd House District. It had been held by a Republican in Sarasota County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 12,000, or about 10 percentage points. Buchanan, the son of local Congressman Vern Buchanan, also had an advantage in name ID.
And Trump had carried the district by 4.6 percentage points in a state that he won by just 1.2 points in November.
Her victory follows Democratic wins in a Miami-Dade state senate race and the St. Petersburg mayoral election. But unlike those, this had been a solidly-Republican district for years. Nationwide, it was the 36th legislative seat to flip Democratic since the God-King took office.
Good won despite her opponent’s race-based immigration smear campaign. She also won despite the Democratic Progressive Caucus pulling their endorsement because she supports increasing the minimum wage, but not necessarily to $15/hour.
She won, in part, by tying her opponent to the God-King’s politically toxic record and rhetoric:
But now Trump is too toxic even for Sarasota, say Democrats, who made sure to figuratively hang the unpopular president around the neck of Buchanan[.]
She also drew some GOP crossover votes:
Republicans came out to vote. But there was a catch. Many voted for Good in the district, which has a reputation as a bastion for environmentally conscious establishment Republicans with Midwest sensibilities.
“This was less a blue wave than a red revolt,” said Anthony Pedicini, a top Republican consultant for Buchanan. “Republicans turned out on Election Day, and looks like there was little benefit to our campaign.”
Good’s strong fundraising – she raised more money for her main campaign account than Buchanan even though the GOP candidate is the son of a wealthy congressman – allowed her to mount a big advertising blitz and aggressive get-out-the-vote operation.
That effort brought out voters who typically might have been inclined to skip such an election.
Sarasota resident Angela Alderton, 39, cast her ballot for Good Tuesday morning at Southside Baptist Church with her 2-year-old daughter in tow. A registered Democrat who works part time in retail and has three children, Alderton is not somebody who votes in every election.
“I almost blew it off,” she said of the District 72 race.
But Good’s campaign was persistent. An army of volunteers repeatedly knocked on Alderton’s door and she received a steady stream of mailers about the race.
“If she’s spending the money and all that on getting the flyers to my house,” Alderton said when asked why she decided to vote, adding: “It kind of stuck to me this time.”
That hard work drove record turnout for a special state house election:
Even before Election Day voting commenced, the race already appeared to have set a record for voter turnout in a state House special election in Florida, a sign of how much interest the contest generated and its evolution into a political spectacle that has ramifications far beyond Sarasota County.
Voter turnout figures for special elections in the state’s online archives only go back to 2003, but since then the largest voter turnout for a state House special election was 22 percent in 2008. Turnout in the District 72 race already was at 22.8 percent Monday evening from absentee and in-person early voting.
The final turnout figure was 36 percent, which many political observers found astonishing for a state House special election. More than 44,000 voters cast ballots, significantly more than both parties anticipated. By comparison, 86,917 voters cast ballots in the District 72 race in 2016.
Good crushed her opponent with early voting, building a 3300-vote lead that Buchanan could not make up with a narrow 110-vote margin in election day voting.
Ultimately, her message was simple – the God-King and Republicans in Congress, as well as Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans in Tallahassee, have our nation and the state on the wrong path:
“I just think people deserve better and want to have better and still have hope that there’s going to be something better than our current administration on both the federal and state level,” Good said as she celebrated her win with a large crowd of supporters at Mattison’s Forty-One Restaurant in Sarasota. “Wins like this represent that.”
Yes, they do. Yes, we can.
Photo Credit: Mike Lang (Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Good day and good nuts