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Juan Penalosa: HD 72 showed Republicans talking national and losing; Democrats, local and winning

One of the key reasons Democrat Margaret Good won the House District 72 special election Tuesday was because she and the Democratic Party pushed local issues while Republicans pushed national issues, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Penalosa said Wednesday.

Good beat Republican James Buchanan 53-45 in a district that has long been considered red, and which Donald Trump won by 10 points in 2016.

Penalosa said Good and other Democrats focused on such issues as public education and distribution of well-paying jobs, while Republicans are running on issues of national interest, such as the party’s position against sanctuary cities and concerns over immigration.

“They’re speaking to the broader national issues. They’re trying to make it about Trump. Like for example with the Margaret Good election, when [former Trump campaign manager] Corey Lewandowski came down, they were doing ‘Lock her up!’ chants,” he said.

“I think the GOP, particularly in this state, is looking backward and trying to re-litigate the 2016 election, which, you know, voters have moved on,” he added.

Penalosa said that the Democrats will pursue the strategy of identifying and focusing on local issues for this fall’s elections.

“You’re going to see Democratic candidates across the state hone in on messages that matter to their communities,” Penalosa said.

Penalosa took issue with he said was the GOP-provided spin that Republicans had fumbled the HD 72 race; there wasn’t much to read into it for future elections.

“I would argue the opposite,” he said. “We have a recent string of victories. I think we have a united front.”

Penalosa’s comments came at a news conference intended to introduce Good to the capital press corps in Tallahassee and to give House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa and House Democratic Leader-Designate Kionne McGhee of Miami a chance to weigh in. But the Florida Legislature Democratic Caucus meeting ran late, and Penalosa had to attend alone.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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