Democrats Strategy For Winning In 2020? Start Playing.

Under The Hood

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Florida Democrats this year are taking a bold new strategy for winning lei8gslative seats. They are running in them.

That’s a riskier proposition than it sounds at first, and among the political class who arguably know what they are talking about, there’s a certain amount of consternation or mockery (depending of partisan perspective) about the strategy to recruit candidates in every state House and Senate race on the ballot in 2020.

As it happens, the Sarasota-Manatee area gets a front row seat for this experiment. The region will see literally every legislative post up for grabs. And thanks to term limits, political ambition and simple timing, every race will be for an open seat or one held by a freshman.

With qualification passed, it appears the only election to be decided in the primary will be heavily Democratic District 70, a St. Petersburg-centered district that winds through every minority neighborhood in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

But in the open Senate District 21 race, teacher Amanda Linton will likely face former Rep. Jim Boyd. In the open House District 72 contest, held by Democrats now, first-time candidate Drake Buckman awaits the outcome of a three-person GOP primary.

Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Reps. Will Robinson, Tommy Gregory and James Buchanan face Democratic challenges respectively from Andres Mele, David Fairey and Lisa Stortstrom. Even state Sen. Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a political ally of President Donald Trump, must fend off environmentalist Katherine Norman before he can win reelection.

Fergie Reid, co-founder of the national 90 For 90 group responsible for recruiting candidates in ruby red districts, feels this could be a watershed year for Florida Democrats. “This shows Democrats are on offense,” he said.

Gruters, though, scoffs. Democrats want to spread their limited financial resources over 140 legislative races? Go ahead.

When Reid a few weeks ago suggested running a candidate against Gruters was important for the same reason basketball teams playing the ‘90s-era Chicago Bulls had to put a man on Michael Jordan, I received complaints from co-workers who said Gruters was unbearable in the office. He walked on air with a bravado to make the basketball legend blush. That’s fine, Reid said. Let the GOP become overconfident.

So how will this play out? Honestly, a betting man looking at races in this region won’t color the map with any more blue than appears today. Republicans feel rightfully confident asfavorites in almost every race. And Gruters isn’t wrong to suggest the District 72 race could offer the Grand Old Party a chance for a pickup. Buckman lags in financing compared to either Republican Fiona McFarland or Donna Barcomb, and lacks the name recognition of outgoing Democrat Margaret Good.

But then, the local map offers the best chance Democrats will have at winning seats here for the next six to eight years. District 72 likely gets decided by whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden performs better In the region. Polls right now give Democrats hope Trump can sink the whole ticket, though months remain between now and November.

I’ve long felt the winning team is the one with the best roster top to bottom. Area Republicans know this, and benefit from having strong candidates running for every office when Democrats often forgo running at all. 

The Republican running for Hospital Board attracts voters likely to vote Republican all the way. Democrats would be wise to emulate GOP actions rather than tacking ill-motivated advice to fade into obscurity.

And consider, on a statewide level as of 5pm Friday, Republicans appeared to have ceded two Senate seats and 23 House seats to Democrats. Democrats failed to field a candidate in one House race. You can’t blame the blue team for hoping this is the first step to a majority.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA.

Image via Pixabay

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