Margaret Good's Brand of Friendly Dissent

Under The Hood

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY SEP 14, 2019

No one asks your political party when you give blood. It seemed somewhat poignant, then, when state Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, encouraged colleagues to give blood themselves. And of course, they agreed to do so. State Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, praised the great bipartisan idea.

Not long afterward, as Good gave the last report from a House member to close up the meeting, she also reminded her colleagues they all have wives, daughters, mothers. So in addition to giving blood, she suggested another nice gesture. “Join me in helping to pass the ratification the Equal Rights Amendment in Florida,” she said.

“Oh,” laughed state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, “We’re going to miss you up here.”

He’s serious. Despite a predilection to publicly undermine her fellow lawmakers’ political values, she boasts a good relationship with her peers. Maybe it’s that she’s still usually on the losing side of major votes, even if she comes out looking sharp in these sort of tête-à-têtes.

It’s not just the ERA, a constitutional argument that’s wallowed in political morass now for longer than most members of the Sarasota Delegation have been alive.

Good has developed a bit of a reputation for shaking hands, putting a smile on, and then delivering counterpunch arguments to conservative dogma with enough force to make up Democrats’ weakness in numbers. At a post-Legislative Session Tiger Bay, she nodded as Republican representatives boasted about their tremendous achievements during session before explaining that Session had, in fact, been a disaster. Bad for schools. Less good for the environment than advertised. Devastating to voter rights.

Good this week took her spot as the only woman representing the region. With state Rep. Newt Newton, D-St. Petersburg, attending a different county’s Delegation meeting, she also stood as the only elected Democrat on the dais.

Make no mistake, though, Good remains popular with her peers. She’s a freshman lawmaker named as a Deputy Democratic Leader, a Democrat from a pro-Trump district ready to make liberal appeals on the House floor, But she also has worked closely on regional issues like red tide research, and held a town hall with Gruters at the height of red tide blooms to seek out solutions, despite knowing full well the political opportunity presented by an ecological disaster on Republicans’ watch.

Now, she’s looking for a job in Washington, where Democrats and Republicans infamously don’t work as well together as in Tallahassee. Moreover, she’s trying to take out incumbent in U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, to do it.

Still, there she was, sitting beside state Rep. James Buchanan, R-Venice, hearing about local bills and funding needs for circus academies and workforce scholarships. James happens to be the son of the man Good now says should be fired, and he also served as the first casualty of Good’s brand of fierce and friendly femininity. While James quickly recovered from a special election loss last year, and now serves in a neighboring district where he won in November, he’ll get to read about that initial loss nonstop this year thanks to Good’s ambitions.

It remains to be seen if Good can truly get her message across in the 16th Congressional District. It’s a constituency that’s more expansive, more conservative and spread across two media markets. And she’s running against a guy who’s won seven Congressional elections, not a first-time candidate.

Win or lose, and rest assured her friendly colleagues at the Delegation meeting will chip in heartily to ensure her defeat, she’s not going to be at next year’s delegation meeting. So I’m sure Gruters means it when he says she will be missed when she’s gone, even if it’s unlikely come September 2020 that Republican officials will so anxiously stand with her in line for the bloodbank.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor of SRQ Media Group.

Photo by Jacob Ogles: State Reps. James Buchanan and Margaret Good at this week's Sarasota County Legislative Delegation meeting.

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