Margaret Good‘s seven-point victory in the House District 72 special election in northern Sarasota County will be celebrated by Democrats nationwide.
And why not?
Republicans had a roughly 13,000 registered voter advantage over Democrats in the district, which voted for Donald Trump by 4.4 points in 2016.
But the trends had been pointing Good’s way in recent weeks, going back to when a reluctant James Buchanan finally agreed to a televised debate with Good and Libertarian Alison Foxall.
There was also fundraising; Good raised more than $660,000 in direct campaign contributions and to her political committee, while Buchanan took in just $353,320.
Kevin Griffith, the Sarasota County Democratic Executive Committee Vice Chair, calls it “an earth-rattling event’ in Southwest Florida politics.
Griffin said Good was essentially running against Buchanan’s father, Vern Buchanan, who has presided in the local congressional seat since 2006.
“I know several large donors who said Vern called them and asked for donations for James,” Griffin added, saying that Vern Buchanan’s Democratic opponent this fall, attorney David Shapiro “may be the biggest winner of all from a Margaret Good victory.”
Not a chance, says Sarasota’s GOP State Committeeman Christian Ziegler, a former congressional aide to Vern Buchanan.
“If you talk to anyone across the entire county, except for the fringe left, even a lot of Democrats and moderates would say Vern has done a great job,” said Ziegler, “I don’t think that changes based on a special election result. Vern wasn’t outwardly involved in this race.”
New College political science professor and former House Democrat Keith Fitzgerald said the final results showed women voting at higher rates than usual among Republicans, Democrats and independents.
“Infrequent” Democratic voters came out in big numbers, Fitzgerald added, noting a “substantial” amount of Republicans voted for Democrats.
“Not unusual in the district, but at these numbers, it’s incredible,” Fitzgerald said while appearing on WWSB in Sarasota.
Then there was the fundraising, where Good raised more than $660,000 in direct campaign contributions and to her political committee, while Buchanan took in only $353,320.
As Florida Politics reported earlier in the week, Good was also buoyed by fundraising and phone banking from enthusiastic Democrats from across the country, such as from CREDO Mobile co-founder Michael Kieschnick, the Palo Alto resident who contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to Democratic candidates nationwide.
Good also benefitted from volunteers who worked from liberal redoubts like Brookline, Massachusetts, where activist Lisa Kolarik said she participated in two different phone-bank sessions.
Kolarik became involved through Sister District, an organization that enables activists in safe blue areas to support candidates in red states and swing districts who could use the help.
Before the 2016 election, Kolarik considered herself a moderate centrist who voted for candidates of both parties but she said she had been thoroughly alienated from the GOP since they refused to stand up to Donald Trump.
“They’ve been exposed as a party that puts party over country,” Kolarik said, believing that a lot of Republicans have been bought by corporations and PACs.
“I’d be hard-pressed to vote for a Republican again over what they’ve done in the last year and a half.”
“Tonight’s victory is a testament to the power of the grassroots campaign Democrats built in Sarasota, as well as the appetite for change in Tallahassee that’s growing all over this state,” said House Leader-Designate Kionne McGhee. “I’m looking forward to Margaret joining us in the Legislature beginning tomorrow in the fight for expanded access to health care and stopping attacks on our public schools.”
“Margaret’s win shows that grassroots Democratic campaigns can and will defeat the cynical House Republican machine funded by special interests and run by Tallahassee insiders,” said Reggie Cardozo of House Victory, who was on the ground working for Good’s campaign. “This great victory is just the beginning of the Blue Wave to come in 2018.”
The victory for Good now means Democrats have flipped 36 legislative seats from red to blue since Trump’s election in November of 2016:
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement:
“Congratulations to Representative-elect Margaret Good on her victory tonight’s special election, which flipped yet another Republican-held seat from red to blue in a district that Trump carried in 2016.
“Just like we did last year with Annette Taddeo, Democrats are organizing, investing, and winning elections across Florida as voters reject Rick Scott and Donald Trump’s disastrous agenda.
“I’m confident Margaret will fight every day for working families across Florida. The DNC is proud to stand with Margaret and the Florida Democratic Party, and we will continue working to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”
While Ziegler says he was surprised by Good’s margin of victory, it will be a completely different story when she runs again for the seat this November:
“The last time I looked there were about 2,200 contributions from outside the state. You have Joe Biden doing robocalls. You have (Martin) O’Malley.
“The Democrats hustled, but the problem that Margaret Good is going to have is starting tomorrow all of that outside help, all of those outside individuals, will not be there for her starting tomorrow.
“I think she’ll be in office six months, but come the fall, I think it will be a different story.”
We’ll find out in nine months time.