Good and Graham Swinging for Glass Ceiling

Under The Hood

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUL 28, 2018

As the woman who could become Florida’s first female governor stumped in Sarasota this week, she turned to the region’s biggest Democratic star for a boost. State Rep. Margaret, D-Sarasota, took the stage at the Francis Thursday to throw her personal support behind gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

“I believe in breaking glass ceilings,” Good said to cheers. 

Graham, of course, hasn’t shied from the history-making potential of her campaign. As she touted the significance of this election here, she reminded voters how the next governor, “whoever she is,” could set Florida on a different path on numerous issues. Her platform includes stances especially popular with women voters, from increasing public education funding—a key part of Good’s platform—to stopping state legislation aimed at putting Roe v. Wade back before the Supreme Court.

There’s other similarities between Good and Graham that make their political relationship feel natural. Good stunned the country in February by winning a state House election in a district with nearly 12,000 more Republicans registered than Democrats, a place President Trump by 5 percent in 2016. Graham’s greatest electoral achievement to date remains unseating Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, in 2014, a Republican year when only two GOP House members lost re-election nationwide.

Graham incidentally had been an early believer in Good, campaigning in Sarasota three weeks before any gubernatorial hopeful canvassed in the House race. “It shows the kind of engagement she has in the process,” Good told me. “Other candidates campaigned for our election too, but I believe she is the kind of leader who will actually show up and work.”

The “woman power” aspect of Good and Graham’s partnership clearly makes sense for both politicians. Both must overcome challenges this year. Graham first needs to win the nomination in a crowded Democratic field. While she’s leading in polls by Florida Atlantic University, Mason-Dixon and Gravis, all her challengers seems capable of closing in. Even presuming she wins the nod, no Democrat has won the governor’s mansion since Lawton Chiles in 1994.

As for Good, she won her primary unopposed but in November faces a Republican challenger, possibly newcomer Jason Miller but likely former state Rep. Ray Pilon, who won this district (or a slightly bluer version of it) three times. And this fall, she won’t be the sole focus of national Democrats anxious to win every isolated special election.

But both women have wind at their backs. The first mid-term of a new presidential administration, when even popular presidents usually get punished, should help Democrats up and down the ballot.

And while Florida boasts just 40 women among 160 state lawmakers, the majority of voters on the Gulf Coast are female, and women politicians here perform well. They make up majorities on the Sarasota and North Port city commissions, and until 2016 filled most of Sarasota County’s commission seats. A series of female lawmakers—Katherine Harris, Lisa Carlton and Nancy Detert—represented the area in the state Senate from 1994 through 2016.

In the District 72 race in February, about 2,600 more Republicans than Democrats voted but Good won anyway. Theories of what put her over the top abound, but most agree her gender helped vanquish a male opponent. SRQ’s Where The Votes Are analysis after the February election found women voters outnumbered men in the district by more than 10,000. And of those who voted in the rare special election, 23,913 checked female on their voter registration compared to 19,351 who checked male.

Good surely finds much kinship with Graham, but her nomination would help politically as well. Good will benefit if more women feel inspired to vote this fall. Having Graham on the ballot this November would surely provide her with a welcome lift.  

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group.

Picture from Good campaign: Margaret Good, left, with Gwen Graham at The Francis.

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