Drake Buckman says voters, not special interests, must carry HD 72
Drake Buckman

Drake Buckman
The Democrat has a goal of personally meeting 25,000 district voters.

Sarasota Democrat Drake Buckman scoffed when one of his Republican challengers compared campaign war chests.

“This idea in general that the seat is for sale, and that whoever can accumulate the most money from out of the district or from a set number of special interests deserves the seat, it’s inherently wrong. And it’s undemocratic,” Buckman said.

Republican Fiona McFarland this week announced her campaign had raised $25,000 in January, more than Buckman raised in all of 2019. Both are running to succeed Rep. Margaret Good in Florida House District 72.

There’s important differences between the candidates besides money raised, the Buckman campaign noted. For one, McFarland right now faces two Republican primary opponents, Sarasota Charter Review Board member Donna Barcomb and attorney Jason Miller.

Buckman, who filed immediately after Good announced she was running for Congress, faces no primary opposition. And he won’t, he said.

“All the local Sarasota Democrats over the last four months have been amazingly supportive,” Buckman said.

Buckman held his campaign kickoff at the end of January and will release financials next week, he said. In 2019, he raised a total of $24,890. That’s less than McFarland and Barcomb— and less than Good raised before she became a federal candidate.

But Buckman said there’s more measurements than dollars. Most of his donations have been for $100 or less and come from individuals who live in the region.

That support comes from a presence over three decades in the community, where he raised three Riveriew High School grads and has run a law firm for years.

“Have you had children in the district?” he said. “Do you know what it’s like to smell red tide? Were you even here a year or two ago to do that?”

Raising toxic algal blooms touches on a threat that severely impacted the Gulf Coast in 2018. But it also seemed a clear swipe at McFarland, who moved to the district last year around the same time she filed to run for the House seat.

Buckman said his campaign has financial goals, but voter outreach is a bigger priority. His goal as a candidate is to personally meet with 25,000 voters in the district before November. Money can only buy airtime to introduce a candidate to voters not met in person, he said.

The Democrat aims to follow in Good’s footsteps. Good in 2018 won a nationally watched special election and a general election in a district Donald Trump carried by 4% in 2016, but she did so after spending more than $1 million over the course of both campaigns.

Buckman said it’s a mistake to attribute that all to money.

“Margaret raised a lot of money but that’s not why she won,” he said. “People voted for her because of who she is and because her ideas were right for the district.”

Buckman said he brings the same focus on preserving the environment and public education.

But by running a voter-focused campaign, he said he’ll maintain an independence and vote with the district in mind, not special interest donors. Meanwhile, he feels McFarland’s campaign starts out compromised by having Republican Party of Florida Chair and State Sen. Joe Gruters as Treasurer.  He posed a question. How, then, can she ever vote against Gruters without risking her political future?

“If Vern Buchanan, Joe Gruters and Fiona McFarland are using the same marketing and consulting company, that creates this machine politics,” he said. “How do you get an independent voice on District 72?”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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