Call it a “blue wave” or a “red revolt,” but either way, Democrats are crowing after flipping a state House seat in a nationally watched Sarasota County special election many consider a bellwether heading into the November midterm campaigns.
Siesta Key lawyer Margaret Good on Tuesday defeated Republican opponent James Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, by more than 7 percentage points in a district President Donald Trump won in 2016.
The race drew national attention, with former Vice President Joe Biden doing robocalls for Good and progressive groups from across the country pumping money into her campaign. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, meanwhile, appeared at a rally for her Republican opponent two days before the election.
“I think it was a special election. It was a special because everyone in Sarasota came together, because people are fed up with what’s going on in Tallahassee. They want real representation, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat or a non-party voter. You want a representative that’s going to represent your interests. And that is what I promised to the people, to the voters of Sarasota County and that’s what I’m going to deliver,” Good said Wednesday, shortly before being sworn into the House.
Good’s victory was the second special election upset for Democrats since Trump took office a little more than a year ago. In September, Democrat Annette Taddeo defeated former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who was backed by Tallahassee GOP leaders, in a Miami-Dade County Senate contest. Democrats also are counting St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s win over challenger Rick Baker, a former mayor, as another notch on their post-Trump victory belt.
But Good’s success — in a district where Republicans hold a 10-point voter-registration edge, and Trump won by more than 4 percentage points — has injected more enthusiasm into a state party that has struggled to recruit candidates and has seen a GOP stranglehold on the governor’s mansion, Cabinet and Legislature.
“We were in the Republican heartland and we won not by 10 votes, not by 100 votes, not by 500 votes. We won by a significant margin,” House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said. “What I see is the beginning of a blue wave in Florida. And what I see are big wins in November, not a seat that we’ll lose but a seat that we’ll hold onto.”
Republicans downplayed the loss, saying Democrats have only captured two of five special elections in Florida since Trump moved into the White House and predicting Democrats won’t be able to make significant gains in the fall.
“It was a red revolt,” Anthony Pedicini, a GOP political consultant for Buchanan’s campaign, told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I don’t see a blue wave happening.”
Pedicini called House District 72’s GOP voters “squishy Republicans” who’ve flipped the seat after House members have come to the end of their eight-year terms.
Democrats will be overrun “when November comes and their resources are stretched unbelievably thin across the entire state and they’re not going to be able to laser-beam focus on a seat that flips naturally,” Pedicini forecast.
Pedicini couldn’t say whether voter dissatisfaction in the Republican-dominated district rests in the president or elsewhere.
“Our guys are either not happy that we own the Congress and the White House or they’re disaffected. I just don’t know the answer to that. But I’ll tell you what we’re going to do after last night. We’re going to find the answer,” he said.
State Rep. Joe Gruters, who serves as chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party, said Democrats nationally have been “whipped up” since Trump’s election in 2016, blaming Buchanan’s loss on out-of-state support for Good from Biden and others.
“None of that will be going on in November, when the local GOP will have a full slate of strong candidates running,” Gruters said in a statement.
House Democrats pulled out all the stops with a get-out-the-vote effort on behalf of Good, knocking on doors and manning phone banks. Crossover Republicans and independents helped boost Good to victory
“We did have a better ground game. We ran ‘em out of town,” said state Rep. Kionne McGhee, a Miami Democrat who will take over as minority leader after the November election and is in charge of recruiting House candidates.
Republican stances on controversial issues will continue to give Democrats an edge going into the midterm elections, McGhee said.
Buchanan, for example, made immigration a major focus of his campaign, hammering on the “anti-sanctuary cities” position espoused by Trump and state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who has also pushed legislation expanding charter schools.
“You keep creating the policies, and we’ll keep winning the seats,” McGhee said.
Highlighting the significance of the Sarasota race on the national stage, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez issued a statement boasting about Good’s victory.
“Just like we did last year with Annette Taddeo, Democrats are organizing, investing, and winning elections across Florida as voters reject Rick Scott and Donald Trump’s disastrous agenda,” Perez said.
Democrats turned out in record numbers in Tuesday’s special election, where 94 percent of the district’s early voters in the race were white and nearly as many were over 50, according to Democratic political consultant Steve Schale.
The district’s voters are “old guard” Republicans and “less Trumpian” than other GOP voters, Schale, who ran President Barack Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008, told the News Service.
“All politics right now is national,” Schale said. “The candidate became the vessel for people to use to send a message to the president.”
Democrats have to continue to recruit candidates like Good and keep registering voters to make gains in the fall, he said.
But whether Trump will remain an albatross for Republican candidates remains to be seen.
“Who knows what the world looks like in November?” Schale said.
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida
Congratulations to Mrs Good she will do a lot of good for all Floridians and then our nation! Until a new Ike like Eisenhower was, will come around I will be what GOP’s call a Rhino and proud of it! I am sick and tired and concerned about this POTUS hiding his tax returns to hide his money laundering with the Russian’s and also treason with them of our national security handled via Nepotism by his family members that refused with his POTUS approval to abide by the security clearance that every one else has to go thru. His lies and BS about the memo that further brainwash his short sighted base preventing the Democrat memo reply to his Nunes manipulated BS Memo. His continuous change of his choice WH advisers that just shows his Fuhrer, Duce and North’s Korea’s ruler style government because they do not bow to his madness and to solidify that he wants also to hold a financially costly and wasteful military parade to enhance just himself and intimidate all of us here including any of our ally’s that do not support his dictatorial demeanor.
I wonder how long will take for him start sending his opposition including media to (“el paredon” remember) be executed by shooting against a wall or worst North Korean style ruler thrown to hungry mastins..
Talking about the wall wasn’t supposed to be Mexico paying for it..? Brainwashing BS!
Well maybe he can convince and Mexico will willingly agree to pay and bill the wall if is located in the original Mexico borders before 1848? https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=Mexico+territories+map+before+1848&fr=yhs-pty-pty_packages&hspart=pty&hsimp=yhs-pty_packages&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org%2Fwikipedia%2Fcommons%2F7%2F76%2FMexican_Cession.png#id=7&iurl=https%3A%2F%2F3.bp.blogspot.com%2F-xAzN7j7mPjE%2FVty17T9Tj_I%2FAAAAAAAAX94%2FbRVyoVjhFEs%2Fs1600%2FMexico-FormeTerritoryInUS.jpg&action=click
I wish the News Service had devoted a sentence or two to the particular issues she emphasized. Certainly there was something more than “I am not Trump” or “send a message to Washington.”
“It was a special because everyone in Sarasota came together, because people are fed up with what’s going on in Tallahassee. They want real representation, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat or a non-party voter. You want a representative that’s going to represent your interests.”
This part of the article is crucial. Keep in mind Senator Steube represents Sarasota County and he is DEFINITELY not representing his constituents’ interests. The same thing is going to happen here in Flagler County when our representatives are up for election. Those who have pandered to the short-term vacation industry and voted to destroy home rule will not be re-elected. We are organizing and will vote them out. People are mad, and they aren’t going to take it any more! I’m a Democrat and my husband is a Republican, but we both want home rule. Nothing to do with party – it has to do with representation.
I hope Senator Hutson and Representative Renner read this. There is still time to take a stand for your constituents. Read the appearance cards from the hearings which many of us listen to – the people want home rule; Homeaway, Airbnb, and Vacation Rental Pros want unfettered short term rentals.
Keep in mind that Representative La Rosa’s bill will not count ANYONE UNDER 18 WHEN DETERMING OCCUPANCY IN A RENTAL HOUSE. That alone tell you who is calling the shots – the short-term rental industry.
Is the BLUE WAVE the same as Clinton can’t lose?
Excellent post Rhonda. We need NEW representatives from the ground up! VOTE Hutson and Renner OUT! They do NOT represent our community!
Winning two out of five elections is not a blue wave. Its not even a ripple.
For the sake of our republic there needs to be a change in control of Congress. We have Putin’s puppet president being propped up by the likes of Rubio and Ryan. Lap dogs like Rick Scott who doesn’t deserve another day in office let alone another term in any position. This fraud of a president this liar in chief is continuing the Russian effort of sowing dissent and division in our democracy. He is undermining all that binds America as a nation…the courts, the Justice Dept., the FBI, the State Department, the press. How the heck the electorate didn’t see what this puppet for what he is during the campaign when he criticized the US in an interview with Bill O’Reilly saying the US is just as bad as Russia by the way we operate on the world stage, when he criticized an American war hero, John McCain. Despite a lifestyle void of any moral compass the evangelicals especially Graham look the other way solely because Trump they think will push a conservative agenda to fight abortion and gay marriage. To the evangelicals those two subjects are worth going to bed with the devil, they have lost their way. What will it take for the Republicans of character to stand up to the current Republican leadership and take their party back? Why has the party which once stood for law enforcement, a moral lifestyle and anti-communism now embrace a Russian backed candidate who undermines the best law enforcement agency in the world, the FBI, has had more extra-marital affairs than the creator of Hustler magazine and speaks with more affection to the Russians than he does America? Please Republicansof conscience come to your senses.