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Florida Elections Roundup: Celebrations and Surprises for Democrats, Glumness for GOP

| November 10, 2012

Like the Moon-landing. (whiteafrican)

Note: just after noon Saturday, the Florida Division of Elections announced that with the counting finished in South Florida, Barack Obama had won Florida with 50 percent of the vote to Romney’s 49.1%, a margin of 74,000 votes.

That means Florid’s 29 electoral votes go to Obama, swelling his total to 332, to Romney’s 206. His vote total has also grown nationally, as has his margin, now at 51 to 48 percent. Obama’s vote total of 61.7 million to Romney’s 58.5 million gives him a margin of victory of 3.2 million, exceeding the margin of victory that George W. Bush registered in 2004 by 200,000 votes. The margin may yet grow by the time the vote counts in all 50 states are certified.

Florida Democrats hadn’t celebrated much since, well, President Obama won the state in 2008.

But that changed Tuesday. Obama carried Florida again on the way to a second term in the White House, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson easily won re-election, and Democratic candidates picked up legislative and congressional seats.

For Republicans, the response to the election results ranged from anger to disbelief. After vowing for four years to topple Obama, they watched Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign get outmaneuvered in Florida and other key states. What’s more, GOP candidates lost some high-profile legislative races — including a likely defeat by state Rep. Chris Dorworth, who was in line to become House speaker in 2014.

Here’s a bit of reality, however, before Democrats celebrate too much and Republicans get lost in despondency: The GOP still has huge majorities in the state House and Senate and controls the governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats. In other words, Republicans will continue to dominate state government, at least for another two years.

Nevertheless, Democrats had reasons — both immediate and long-term — to celebrate Tuesday. In part, the elections showed Democratic strength among Hispanic voters and along the I-4 corridor, two intertwined issues that will be critical in the coming years.

HEADING BACK TO WASHINGTON: Truth be told, Florida will go down as sort of a messy footnote in Obama’s victory Tuesday.

The president did well enough in other key states, such as Ohio, Virginia and Iowa, to lock up another term without needing Florida’s 29 electoral votes. Also, as part of Florida’s never-ending voting controversies, some Miami-Dade voters were still in line early Wednesday morning, after Obama was already assured of victory.

But bigger picture, Obama’s Florida campaign played a part in turning out voters who helped Democrats in other races. That included Hispanic voters in central Florida, where the Puerto Rican population is growing and providing a base of Democratic support.

State Democratic Chairman Rod Smith described Hispanics as an “absolute game changer” for Democrats. He said the party hired a full-time Hispanic outreach coordinator in central Florida after the 2010 elections and also said the Obama team helped increase Hispanic turnout.

“They saw very early that was going to be a critical vote in Florida,” Smith said.

An important issue is the perceived hard line that many Republicans have taken on the issue of illegal immigration. But U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., indicated after the election that the GOP needs to do a better job of connecting with Hispanic voters.

“The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them.,” Rubio told Roll Call.

Obama beat Romney in the most-populous counties along the I-4 corridor — Orange, Hillsborough and Pinellas — and in Osceola County, which has a large Puerto Rican population. Romney won in other areas of central Florida, including Polk, Lake, Seminole and Brevard counties. Volusia was almost a dead-heat, with Romney winning by less than 3,000 votes.

Nelson did even better as he trounced U.S. Rep. Connie Mack to earn a third term in the Senate. The Democrat handily won Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Brevard and Volusia counties, while losing by fewer than 2,000 votes in Lake.

LEGISLATIVE SHOWDOWNS AND SURPRISES: Going into Tuesday’s elections, the parties and outside groups made pretty clear the races they considered battlegrounds.

But as returns rolled in, surprises started to emerge. First, Democrat Carl Zimmermann unseated Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Palm Harbor, in House District 65 in Pinellas County. A little later, Democrat Mark Danish knocked off Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, in House District 63 in Hillsborough County.

But late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning came the biggest stunner: Lawyer and retired firefighter Mike Clelland led Dorworth by 37 votes in House District 29 in Seminole County. Clelland’s lead expanded to 123 votes after provisional ballots were counted Thursday, and he appeared on the verge of victory.

The race would be a huge upset because Dorworth is slated to become House speaker in 2014. Under state law, the narrow margin likely would trigger an automatic recount. But Republican House members were preparing Friday for a Dorworth loss, with Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, being touted as a possible speaker in 2014.

Overall, Democrats had net gains of two Senate seats and a probably five House seats in Tuesday’s elections — though Republicans still dominate both chambers. Republicans will have a 26-14 advantage in the Senate and a 76-44 margin in the House, assuming Clelland holds on against Dorworth.

Also, Democrats gained seats in the congressional delegation, though they are expected to continue to be at a 17-10 disadvantage.

Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the GOP’s continued Senate majority is disproportionately large compared to party registration numbers. He said that means “tens of thousands of independents and Democrats crossed the line and voted for Republican senators because, I think, we had better candidates with compelling ideas.”

The parties split what were probably the two marquee Senate races of the year. Republican Rep. Dorothy Hukill beat Democrat Frank Bruno in Senate District 8 in parts of Volusia, Marion and Lake counties. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs beat Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff in District 34 in Palm Beach and Broward counties. This year’s reapportionment process led to Sachs and Bogdanoff running in the same district.

Democrats won perhaps the highest-profile House race, when Maitland teacher Karen Castor Dentel defeated Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, in District 30 in parts of Seminole and Orange counties.

Democratic candidates Joe Saunders and Linda Stewart also won heavily contested seats in the Orlando area. But Republicans picked up two formerly Democratic seats when Monticello Republican Halsey Beshears won in a north Florida district, and Key Largo Republican Holly Merrill Raschein won in the state’s southernmost district.

YES AND NO: Merit-retention elections for Supreme Court justices usually draw little attention. But that changed this year when some conservative groups and leaders of the state Republican Party called for defeating justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

But while conservatives complained that the justices were too liberal, they never really mounted a full-fledged campaign. Meanwhile, the justices and supporters in the legal industry raised millions of dollars to convince voters that Lewis, Pariente and Quince should be retained.

In the end, the races weren’t even close, with each of the justices backed by more than 67 percent of the voters.

Ballots also included a barrage of proposed constitutional amendments that lawmakers put before voters. Some dealt with hot-button issues such as the federal health overhaul, property taxes, abortion and public money going to religious groups.

But voters rejected eight of the 11 amendments, approving only three, relatively non-controversial proposals that would offer property tax breaks for military veterans, first responders and low-income seniors.

As an example of the amendments that were defeated, one would have largely prohibited state funds from being spent on abortions. That proposal, known as Amendment 6, also would have whittled away privacy protections in Florida’s constitution that have been used in the past to overturn abortion restrictions.

“We hope that Tallahassee politicians will now turn their attention to expanding health care instead of trying to take away existing health coverage that women need,” said Lillian Tamayo, campaign chairwoman for Vote No On 6.

STORY OF THE WEEK: President Obama and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson win Florida, while Democrats also make gains in the Legislature and in the state’s congressional delegation.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “So the message is: ‘If you are outside the state and you are trying to politicize our judicial branch, stay out. This is an assault on our democracy, our separation of powers, and we’re not going to tolerate attempts to implement partisan politics for special interests.’ “— Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente, after she and two other justices overcame conservative groups’ opposition to win merit-retention campaigns.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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29 Responses for “Florida Elections Roundup: Celebrations and Surprises for Democrats, Glumness for GOP”

  1. The Truth says:

    I am glad the elections are over. It’s a messy time of year where people are on edge and take these things way to personally. It’s sad that we cannot debate things as a nation without people getting nasty. Many on the right think that the world is coming to an end so they’re buying up the ammo and waiting for the apocalypse. Let’s just hope our leaders in Washington can stop playing the political warfare game and start getting something done. In the end, we are all American’s. Let’s start acting like it.

  2. agnese says:

    Will all the candidates please remove their signs so we may enjoy our town’s beauty again.

  3. Magnolia says:

    What change? We’re still bankrupt, still no jobs, many still homeless and record numbers on food stamps. We’re only a couple of downgrades from being Greece. This is one VERY sad state of affairs and people voted for more of it.

    That’s change? I’d call it stupidity and not cause for celebration.

  4. From Florida says:

    Well lets hope he finally takes some leadership instead of just sitting on his butt oh sorry going golfing because he doesn’t get his way and doesn’t want to work with anyone and that goes the same with the republican side too.. I am not jumping for joy because he won again I will jump and clap for him once he does something useful to get this country back in shape. He help create the debt we were in back when Bush was President he was int he Senate then Remember Jan. 3 2007 the day Democratics took back over the Senate so when people say he inherited Bush’s mess well Obama man you were there and voted Yes to all the crap so you are just as much to blame… Remember 17 times Bush is on record telling you all to put a stop to Freddie Mack and Fanny Mae but No none of you wanted to listen and who got the big bucks out of that mess. Yeap Obama… So you inherited your own mess.. Now ding us out and stop spending more money wastefully started with your stupid golf club fun and your wifes vacations around the world sit in that dang office and do some work. You and the House and Senate Both…

  5. Alex says:

    It is naive to think that an election can solve economic problems.

    • Magnolia says:

      It’s also naive to think this President is capable of it.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Really? How about not making the problem worse?

      The Romney/Ryan austerity budget they championed is a formula that has proven to be fiscal suicide across the globe. Cutting government spending in what used to be called a “Panic” where the rich, corporations and banks start to lose money and hold on to their assets until it passes caused the Great Depression. It also is what is happening in Greece, Spain and Great Britain and most of Europe today.

      In this situation, if the government doesn’t put money into the market to sort of prime the pump, the private sector sits on the capital they have until they see the opportunity to make profit is more attractive than the safety of sitting on it. There is more than $16 Trillion in American corporate profits alone sitting in tax haven banks earning a safe 3% until the market here looks better.

      But there is a reason our economy is growing at all while the European countries above that cut their budgets to worship at the altar of Austerity are collapsing. Because even with the underfunded stimulus package we passed, we put a little something in the hands of the people by creating a few jobs and not cutting aid to the jobless, infirm, retired and poor in order to make sure we could pay off the loans to the International Bankers in a downturn. So instead of a double-dip recession like Britain or a total collapse like Greece, we are actually growing! Slowly, but not a disaster like them.

      And if you are worried about the debt we are incurring for this stimulus, where were you when we were racing up the $ Trillions for wars and tax cuts under Bush that did nothing to grow our GDP? Right now, our Treasury Bonds are being bought up by investors across the globe as fast as we issue them even at about 1/2% annual interest! Way less than inflation, but the smart money says it is at least the safest place to put your money today.

      So if we can borrow this cheaply to stimulate out economy while the rest of the world is paying outrageous interest because of the risk due to their austerity caused problems, and it is proven that this works, and we can get the whole planet to loan it to us at less than the rate of inflation, why not?

      Any real economist will confirm this has been a proven and unchallengeable path to recovery throughout history. The fact WW2 forced deficits finally pulled us out of a decade of depression was our best example. Any layman understands it. Only an Ayn Rand worshiping Republican Ideologue would deny it. Or a corporate toady and stooge for the rich like Romney or Ryan or all of the rest of those losers.

      So elections do matter. And even the under rated American people have proven they understand the concept Tuesday.

      • NortonSmitty says:

        One other thing to think about. If even our illustrious genius of a businessman/candidate Mitt Romney copped to having hundreds of millions of dollars in tax haven banks around the globe, please explain to me just how the hell giving people like him more cash by lowering his taxes will possibly create more jobs?

        Why isn’t he using that money to produce something? And the fact he isn’t tells you any more lucre tossed his way would end up there too.

        And I am so proud the American electorate saw through his bullshit.

        • Dorothea says:


          Thank you for your comprehensive comments. Very, very well written. Now if only the right wingers on FlaglerLive would read them.

        • Jim R. says:

          ” Now that Obama doesn’t have to appease the far left wing of his party maybe he can get something done”

          Donna Brazile CNN.

          “You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”

  6. Geezer says:

    If we could harness the hatred spewed in this election into energy, we would see gas go to .25 a gallon.
    Like in 1968!

    On another note, speaking of guns and ammo……. The gun manufacturers never had it as good as in the last four years. The next four will be great too. They will tap into a right-wing wellspring of paranoia and doom and gloom. That means $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Quite the commodity, fear and hate!

    The democratic party knows that being anti-gun is political suicide. (most)
    I really don’t see a gun grab on the horizon.
    What for? We’re saturated in firearms. How do you disarm all of us?
    Again, Glock, S&W, will see more record sales. These folks probably worship O in private.
    I mean shrines! Wish I had taken out my FFL when it was easier.

  7. Sherry Epley says:

    Hooray for President Obama and for the “real”, hard working people that supported him! Rick Scott and his croneys were not able to stop the will of the people. . . although they really, really tried! Good for those who stood in line for hours to make sure their vote was counted!

    Romney (AKA “RuinMe”) walked away from the extraordinary opportunity to ask the leaders (AKA Congress) of our country to come together, in the spirit of compromise, to get our problems solved, and continue the path to greatness, as set forth by President Obama in the past 4 years. If the Republican majoity in the House of Representatives would just stop trying to obstruct any and all legislation put forth by any Democrat, then maybe they could set the example of how we should all be working “together” to get our nation moving again.

  8. Yellowstone says:

    So much for ensuring BO was to be a one term President. The US Congress couldn’t even get that done! But they did manage to find just even time to waste attempting to repeal the AHCareA – failing to do so 33 times.

    And we pay them to waste time?

    Folks, let’s keep after these gold bricks this time.

  9. Karma says:

    Just remember folks, elections have consequences. Here is a story in the Washington Times: Companies plan massive layoffs as Obamacare becomes reality.
    Here is more:Utah company blames Pres. Obama for 102 workers laid off
    And one more:Boeing Announces Big Layoffs in Defense Division:
    Could someone show who has hired more people in the last few days? Even the stock market is scared. Lost 3% in 3 days.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Yes. Yes they do have consequences. Unfortunately we will never know the long term consequences if this election would have went the other way. But I’m willing to bet it would have been worse than they will be for the next four years. And I bet Fox News is the only one that will tell you otherwise. And they will for the next four at least.

  10. Dorothea says:


    Messages of doom from the Moonie far right Washington Times taken from a study done by Freedom Works. If you don’t know Freedom Works, read more from their website:

    The stock market has more than doubled during the Obama administration. We will survive a 3% hit caused more by global events than the election. A few nervous nellies dumped some shares, but I’m not worried, they will be back and so will the jobs. Don’t celebrate the bad news just yet, Karma. Although I have to wonder why the Obama haters are so joyous over people losing their jobs.

    • Magnolia says:

      Absolutely right, Dorotha, Norton. This president represents you just fine. Everybody else can shut up, eh?

      Nobody needs to say anything. The next few months will be quite telling. Personally, I don’t think you can lead from the golf course or on luxury world trips.

      But we’ll see…

  11. confidential says:

    In spite of the overwhelming Democrat victory, the GOP manipulated the Congressmen elections by shamefully redistricting some states breaking up the majority Democrat population in some of them by fraccioning the numbers and giving Republicans the uncontested winning hand for Congressional seats.
    Talk to me about elections fraud…NOT by the voters but instead by the majority Tea Party GOP dudes elected in 2010. Now we have to wait 2 years to for their term to expire and remove them from Congress the likes of Mitch McConnell and John Bohener.
    Please Mrs. Beaven run again!!

  12. Jim R. says:

    From some of the comments above, Obama will be able to do anything from making cuts in S.S and medicare, expanding drone warfare and other military adventures, ignoring climate change by allowing increased drilling for oil and the pipeline from Canada, attacking the civil liberties of the people as in the NDDA, and all we will hear is “the other guy would have been worse”

  13. Jim R. says:

    Actually I agree the other side is worse, but that doesn’t give Obama a pass to move to the right as he has done. This election and winning by such a margin should prove that the country wants to move away from the views of the right not snuggle up with them.
    Does Obama have the courage to do it? time will tell.

    • Jim R. says:

      I should clarify what I meant by the Rep being worse. They are worse on the issues that were debated and discussed on the MSM. On the wars and drones and dismantling the new deal they are carbon copies and both due the bidding of their corporate MIC masters.
      Don’t want anybody to get the idea I’m getting soft in the head.

  14. Karma says:

    I found a website that tracks daily layoffs,planned layoffs,closings and bankruptcies throughout the country. It does not track the latest trend in reducing employee hours that many restaurant plan to do because of the cost of Obama care. These include Dardin, Poppa John and now Applebees. It’s only a matter of time before many other follow suit. 1200 waivers were handed out last year alone. Do you think they will keep getting these waivers? And if they do get these waivers, then why have Obama care?

  15. Dorothea says:


    I guess you didn’t watch 60 Minutes last night. There are many jobs available, but not enough trained applicants. These jobs also offer benefits in addition to decent wages. That would be unlike Dardin, Poppa John and Applebees, all restaurant chains with numerous low paying jobs for dishwashers, servers, and bus boys. I’m already boycotting Poppa Johns for their refusal to charge 15 cents more per pizza if they have to provide medical benefits for their employees.

  16. Dorothea says:


    Some helpful quotes to help you through your time of stress:

    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
    Reinhold Niebuhr


    It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
    Charles Darwin


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