Democrat Margaret Good Wins in District 72

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY FEB 14, 2018

A Democrat has won the special election for state House in Florida District 72. Margaret Good won with 23,039 votes, while Republican James Buchanan took 19,782 and Libertarian Alison Foxall received 1,338, according to unofficial election results with all precincts reporting.

“The voters have spoken. People in District 72 want leaders who listen and act boldly to better our community,” Good says. “I will be accessible, transparent and fully committed to this community that has provided me and my family so much.”

Good, a Sarasota attorney, entered the race an underdog in a district that President Donald Trump won by 4.5 percent in November of 2016. But stellar fundraising performance and a national environment unfavorable to Republicans contributed to a decisive victory. Good raised $541,701. Buchanan, the son of Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, collected $475,099. Foxall did set a state record for Libertarian candidates by raising $30,847.

Democrats had also brought in big-name endorsements such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who recorded advertisements, and former presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, who canvassed for Good. Democratic gubernatorial candidates including Gwendolyn Graham and Christopher King also came to the area to knock on doors. And as the campaign gained traction, national Democrats made clear the contest was part of a national effort in 2018 to flip statehouse seats around the country. "If we can flip this seat, I really do believe no seat is safe," says Ryan Ray of the Florida Victory Fund, which hopes the Tuesday result portends Democratic success in November. This is the 36th legislative seat won by Democrats in a special election since Trump won the presidency, and the 13th seat to flip from Republican to Democrat. In contrast, Republicans have won 37 such special elections, including two last night, but have only flipped one seat from Democrat to Republican.

“This win shows us that Floridians are rejecting the same tired rhetoric we saw with Donald Trump’s campaign, which was the same rhetoric Buchanan used to try and win,” reads a statement from the Florida Democratic Party. “This is a referendum on Trump and the GOP.”

Republicans fought hard as Election Day neared, with more than 2,100 more registered Republicans going to polls Tuesday than Democrats. And state figures like U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz rolled into town in hopes of turning the tide. However, Democrats led by 3,367 based on absentee and early voting alone, and the GOP could not erase so large a lead.

“I rest comfortably knowing we left everything on the field,” Buchanan tells SRQ. “Everything I could possibly do as a candidate, I did.” He always knew, he says, that the dynamics of a special election made any outcome possible. Buchanan, who originally planned to run in District 71 this November before the special election opportunity arose, says he has not decided if he will run for office in the mid-terms later this year. “I wouldn’t rule it out,” he says. He congratulates Good, he says.

Republican Party of Sarasota chairman Joe Gruters on Tuesday night also congratulated Good and said Buchanan ran a “tough race.” A state representative himself, Gruters says he will work with Good on the region’s behalf in Tallahassee. “But let’s be clear,” Gruters says. “Democrats nationally have been whipped up in every special race since the historic election of Donald Trump in November 2016. But we’ve seen this even more as the Republican agenda in Washington has been increasingly successful with tax cuts, a roaring economy, excellent judge appointments and so on. This showed dramatically in this race where hundreds of thousands of dollars poured in for the Democrat from out of state and former Vice President Joe Biden made robocalls. None of that will be going on in November.”

Ultimately, the special election saw nearly 36.1 percent of voters turn out for the election. In comparison, the regularly scheduled Sarasota city election in March brought out just 19.2 percent of voters. In contrast, Sarasota County as a whole had a 58.9 percent turnout for the 2014 mid-terms.

The rare special election took place after state Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, resigned last year to spend more time on her business and with her family. Miller won the seat in November 2016 with 58 percent of the vote.

This area has been represented by a Republican since 2010, with Miller preceded by former state Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota. Before that, and when the district was part of District 69, it was represented by former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, from 2006 through his defeat in 2010.

Precinct map of District 72, courtesy Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections.

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