A Venice race in November raised the specter of a coming intraparty battle within the Republican Party of Sarasota. Things started when leaders for the party discussed issuing an endorsement in the contest between incumbent Deborah Anderson and opponent Charles Newsom. The race is nonpartisan, and the party normally doesn’t weigh in on such contests if both candidates are Republicans, as was the case here. But this time, Anderson had a history of personally supporting non-Republicans in council races before, and some members wanted to take a stance against that. Party leaders elected to endorse Newsom. Later, though, a study of bylaws showed the move came prematurely; the party can only issue such an endorsement if two-thirds of those voting on the matter agree to do so, and the vote in fact was a few shy of that super-majority. The endorsement was lifted, but Anderson went down to defeat in November anyway. The issue of intraparty endorsements, though, will surely come up again in 2018 if Jane Goodman seeks re-election to the School Board, with some party leaders already openly calling for a challenger. And Republican leaders in the county all say they felt burned in 2016 when School Board member Caroline Zucker, while a Republican, sought and received the endorsement of the Sarasota Democratic Party, then subsequently employed both parties’ resources to fend off a challenge from fellow Republican Teresa Mast.

A primary in the state House District 72 race proved less divisive than headlines before the December election suggested. Attorney Margaret Good won the Democratic nomination for the seat with more than 72 percent of the vote, setting the field for the Feb. 13 election to fill the seat. But in that contest, Republican James Buchanan boasts a war chest of $227,000 compared to Good’s $120,000, as of Nov. 30, and Libertarian Alison Foxall also has more than $11,000 ready as she attempts to use the rare special election to notch a third-party victory. Sarasota-centered District 72’s registered voters break down to be roughly 42.3 percent Republican, 32.3 percent Democrat and 25.5 percent independent or third-party.

November elections outside the region lifted the spirits of David Shapiro, the Democrat challenging long-time Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, in mid-term elections in 2018. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted Buchanan as a vulnerable incumbent, but the Sarasota business leader has endured that type of attention before and still won six consecutive times. But Shapiro saw a comfortable re-election for St. Petersburg’s Democratic mayor Rick Kriseman as a sign his own party has its act together this year, and saw a major turnover in legislative seats in Virginia as indication the voters are ready to replace their GOP lawmakers. “There seems to be a lot of energy,” Shapiro said a day after the election. He predicts a wave favoring Democratic candidates this year, but acknowledges the Sunshine State may favor the GOP more than the Old Dominion right now. “The real issue is whether the wave will be strong enough to overcome these gerrymandered districts,” he says. 

Could the Harvey Weinstein scandal impact Florida’s gubernatorial election? It may be indirect, but the sudden interest in sexual harassment accusations extended into politics here when Politico reported accusations from six women who claimed state Sen. Jack Latvala, the powerful appropriations chairman for the Florida Senate, had acted inappropriately toward them. Immediately, Latvala lost his committee chairmanship, and Gov. Rick Scott in Fort Myers a couple days later said if an investigation found truth to such claims, that any lawmaker should “no longer be in office.” But Democrats in the state also have felt the sting on recent scrutiny around sexual allegations. State Sen. Jeff Clemens, the incoming Democratic leader in his chamber, resigned this fall after revelations he engaged in an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. And within days, Florida Democratic Party chairman Stephen Bittel resigned after Politico reported more women asserting he’d acted inappropriately in the office, prompting every Democrat running for governor to ask the chair to step aside.