When Margaret Good won the special election for House District 72 two years ago, it made national news.
It was seen as evidence that the “blue wave” might just hit Florida. And though the 2018 general election was more of a blue ripple in the Sunshine State, Good’s victory and subsequent election to a full term is still a worthy accomplishment.
Her 7-point win over now-HD 74 Rep. James Buchanan was a double-digit swing — Republicans had a roughly 13,000 registered voter advantage over Democrats in the district, which voted for Donald Trump by more than 4 points in 2016.
Though she’s still eligible to run for another three terms in the state House, Good has her eyes on Florida’s 16th Congressional District. To many, myself included, it’s a fool’s errand.
Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has held the seat for more than a decade, and nothing has changed since he cruised into another term with a 10-point win over 2018 Democratic nominee David Shapiro.
In fact, CD 16 may be more of a stretch for Democrats this cycle. At least that’s what new polling shows with the ultra-popular Buchanan up 20 points.
Good is by no means a bad candidate for the seat. In fact, she’s probably the best candidate Democrats could hope for. But there’s little chance any Democrat can flip the seat until Buchanan decides he’s ready to retire. Doing so would require playing a perfect game, raising boatloads of cash and a heap of luck.
Good’s campaign manager, Kevin Lata, is an up-and-comer but his campaign’s early stumbles prove he’s not ready to take on the big dogs in Buchanan’s camp.
On the fundraising front, the Good campaign is already starting to show cracks. In the fourth quarter, Buchanan hauled in $524,000 while Good managed to raise $362,000, a significant drop off from her $450,000 performance in Q3.
The numbers aren’t dismal, but Good’s state House runs were successful in no small part because she dominated the money race. Flipping a red congressional district would take the same kind of effort. Close isn’t good enough.
Simply put, Good’s aspirations aren’t realistic. And her quixotic quest wouldn’t just damage her still-young political career. It would likely cost Democrats a pivotal seat in the Florida House.
The Republican primary for HD 72 is shaping up to be a bloodbath — Naval reservist Fiona McFarland and Charter Review Board member Donna Barcomb are raising loads of cash ahead of their showdown.
Meanwhile, state Democrats have yet to field a viable candidate for the seat. The lone no-name Democrat in the race has a paltry $15,000 in the bank. If nothing changes, HD 72 goes back to the Republicans.
If Good were to face the facts and decide to run for reelection, she would be the instant favorite — her state account, still listed as active on the Division of Elections website, has twice as much cash on hand as the current Democratic candidate and that is not even including her committee, New Day Florida, which has a balance of $12,000.
That’s much less than what Barcomb or McFarland have managed, but Good also has the backing of wealthy donor Hugh Culverhouse — but only if she runs for state House, not Congress.
“I wish Margaret had stayed as a state Rep and then state Senator before jumping to [a] federal house race,” Culverhouse told Florida Politics. “She had the encouragement of a women’s group that anoints women to run, provide financing, and require a certain routine. I feel she needs to spend more time working at [the] state level and would support her again if she did.”
It seems Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo shares a similar outlook. When Florida Politics’ own Jacob Ogles tweeted that CD 16 “may be an unwinnable race” in 2020, she mashed the like button.
All indications are Good thinks she should spend more time in Tallahassee, too. Just last week she submitted an op-ed to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune where she clearly intimated she has unfinished business in Tallahassee.
The game could change after new districts are drawn in a couple of years. Good could find herself in a more favorable Congressional district with somewhere north of $600,000 already stashed away in her federal account. If that happens, Good may well find herself in Congress. But it’s not happening in 2020.