District 72 Race Inspiring Record Turnout

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY FEB 8, 2018

A special election to fill a vacant state House seat in the Sarasota area has already turned out a higher percentage of voters than any Florida special election since 2014. And early voting isn’t done yet.

According to Ron Turner, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections, nearly 24,000 people had already participated in the Feb. 13 election as of 2:30pm on Wednesday. Some 3,964 voters as of that point had participated in early voting at one of three locations manned by elections officials, and that’s on top of 19,968 mail-in ballots already returned by post. Early voting runs until 4:30pm on Saturday, and mail-in ballots must be received by 7pm Tuesday in order to be counted. “There is a lot of attention on this House district race, locally and it appears nationally,” Turner says. “And as a special election, it’s not competing with anything else right now.”

The election came about after the unexpected resignation of state Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, who said the job was taking away from her business and family responsibilities. But the race won broad attention for being in a somewhat swingy district when Democrats nationally want to demonstrate their mettle in advance of mid-term elections in November.

Republican James Buchanan, son of area U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, came in to the race with solid fundraising from a planned run in a neighboring district, and through Jan. 4 raised a total of $282,630. Democrat Margaret Good, by comparison, has raised $227,314. Libertarian Alison Foxall raised $14,577, more than any Libertarian state House candidate in Florida history. And none of this counts the hundreds of thousands spent through political committees on the election. Buchanan has touted an endorsement by Gov. Rick Scott, while Good last weekend announced the support of former Vice President Joe Biden, a demonstration of the seriousness with which party leaders at the state and national level take this race.

Turner’s office reports that more Republicans than Democrats have voted at this point, but Democrats have a slight edge in early voting. As of Wednesday afternoon, Republicans held about a 338-vote edge in terms of voters who have cast ballots.

Turner says the election turnout in Sarasota at this point dwarfs turnout in other special elections held in the state of Florida recently. A state House special election in Hillsborough-based District 58 saw a 15.2 percent turnout in December, with the Republican easily winning. Another Tampa area seat, in state House District 44, saw a turnout of 13.1 percent in October, and also saw the Republican win. But a Miami-Dade special election in September saw a Democrat pick up a state Senate seat, and even with the potential to flip the seat, that election drew out just 14.7 percent of voters.

The last special election to have a higher turnout than District 72 already boasts was a 2014 race to fill a Congressional seat, District 19 in the Fort Myers area, where 22.2 percent of voters came out. A Republican won that seat.

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