Joe Henderson: Democrats win, but can they keep good times rolling? - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Democrats win, but can they keep good times rolling?

Democrats win! Stop the presses!

Well, they should be feeling frisky this morning. They had a fist-pumping night during Tuesday’s elections, just a year after Donald Trump stunned them, and their dreams of controlling the United States Senate were crushed.

Democrats won a series of state and local elections, including nationally watched races for Governor in Virginia and New Jersey.

And in St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman held on to his seat by defeating former mayor Rick Baker, a result that not many were predicting a few months ago.

The tide seemed to turn when Kriseman’s team unloaded a series of attacks that linked Baker to Trump, along with some images that made the former mayor look more than a little angry.

That, plus some well-planned ground work, was enough to give Kriseman four more years.

Add that to the win in a September special election by Democrat Annette Taddeo over former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in GOP-held Senate District 40, and the Dems are showing a pulse as the countdown to the 2018 midterm elections officially begins.

Pundits are interpreting Tuesday’s results as a repudiation of President Trump, and obviously that is true to some degree. Let’s not get carried away, though. This is still a divided country and state.

Kriseman won, but with 51.5 percent of the vote you can’t label that a sweeping mandate. What you can say is that for now, the Democratic strategy of tying GOP candidates in even local elections to Trump is working.

We can expect more of the same in the election for Florida’s Governor in 2018. Anyone who tells you they know how that race will end is dreaming.

It seems likely that the Republican nomination is Adam Putnam’s to lose, although House Speaker Richard Corcoran could complicate that if he gets into the race. But I wouldn’t bet so much as a nickel on how the Democratic scrap will play out. That’s not a bad thing, by the way.

Unlike in 2014, where Charlie Crist proved to be an uninteresting and uninspired Democratic nominee, the party should have several good options.

Gwen Graham is going from one end of the state to the other and has the early lead in polling, but I wouldn’t put a whole lot into that just yet – not when the latest poll says 46 percent of Democrats are undecided.

We haven’t had a chance to measure the impact of the entry into the race by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and no one has a real clue yet what Orlando attorney John Morgan might do.

We also don’t know if Trump’s popularity in Florida will continue to decline, and what impact that could have. If those numbers keep sliding, they could stick to every Republican candidate and tip the balance of power in the state and nation.

Tell you what: I’m going to watch the Dec. 12 special election in Alabama for the U.S. Senate, a heavily Republican state.

Normally that wouldn’t merit more than a line or two in a national roundup, but in Roy Moore the GOP has put up a candidate that many see as an outright loon. He wants to have homosexuality outlawed. He says Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress. He still doesn’t believe Barack Obama was born in America.

He was kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court.

Twice.

Even his candidacy was a rebuke to Trump, who pushed for Moore’s opponent in the Republican primary.

Democrat Doug Jones is a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members for bombing a black church. He has campaigned as a bridge builder.

Polls show a deadlocked race.

Win that one, Democrats, and everyone will pay attention.

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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