Two Sarasota School Board members ditch the GOP
Jane Goodwin, Caroline Zucker.

Goodwin Zucker
That gives Democrats a majority on the nonpartisan board.

Two members of the Sarasota County School Board changed their voter registration. That marks the first time in years Democrats have controlled a majority of seats on the board.

School Board Chair Jane Goodwin and long-time member Caroline Zucker are both now registered Democrats. Goodwin filed paperwork to change her registration on Monday, while Zucker filed for a change of party with the state Division of Elections.

While the School Board is technically a nonpartisan office, both political parties have often played a big role in elections.

Goodwin said the move wasn’t coordinated with Zucker, and that it’s as much to do with national politics as local issues.

“It’s been on my heart for a while,” she said. ” The party has pretty much left me.”

Goodwin said the most conservative in her party have given her grief as she supported school tax referenda through the years. But she disagrees with state direction on public schools.

“I have a strong issues with what’s happening on state levels with publics schools,” she said, “but the real impetus was the fact I feels the Republicans have swing much farther to the right than I’m willing to go.”

While she voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, she wanted this year to participate in the Democratic primary for President. She’s looking at the centrist candidates like Mike BloombergJoe Biden, Amy Klubuchar and Pete Buttigieg.

But some Republican leaders are saying good riddance to the moderates.

“For years, many members of the Republican Party – myself included – have been frustrated that Jane Goodwin and Caroline Zucker would campaign as registered Republicans, get elected as registered Republicans, and then vote with Democrats,” said Christian Ziegler, Republican Party of Florida Vice Chair. “Such as when they joined with the lone Democrat to provide our disgraced former Superintendent with a pay increase and protected him for months at the expense of the taxpayers, school district, teachers and students.”

“Some say that your team is only as strong as your weakest link. Well, if that’s the case, the Republican Party got a whole lot stronger without Goodwin and Zucker as registered Republicans.”

Ziegler’s wife, Bridget Ziegler, serves on the Sarasota County School Board as well.

Goodwin and Zucker have often sided with Shirley Brown, a former Democratic state Representative, on a variety of issues. All three are vocal opponents of school vouchers, as one example with state policy ramifications.

Zucker served as president of the Florida School Board Association at a time when the group was in legal battle with the state over school choice issues.

JoAnne DeVries, chair of the Democratic Party of Sarasota, said the School Board members had not coordinated with the party about any switch. But she indicated a welcoming posture from the party.

“I just heard abut it myself! I did reach out but have not heard from either one of them yet,” DeVries said.

“I don’t believe the change of registration is going to change the dynamics of the School Board. I’m sure they will continue to vote in the best interests of the teachers and students.”

Goodwin won reelection in 2018, topping a four-candidate field in the August primary that year.

Bridget Ziegler and Brown notably won tight reelection contests the same year.

Zucker last faced election in 2016, but she already announced she won’t seek another term. Goodwin also said she does not intend to seek another term.

Christian Ziegler said the Republican Party of Sarasota has endorsed incumbent Eric Robinson, a Republican, for reelection. The party will support Karen Rose, Brown’s 2018 opponent, in her run for Zucker’s open seat, where she faces David Graham.

Ziegler lashed out at party switchers.

“For the same reason we do not tolerate dishonesty from our kids, we shouldn’t tolerate it from our School Board Members,” he said.

Jack Brill, acting chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota, said he’s happy to see officials leave who don’t really represent the party’s values.

“Now we can make sure Republican voters know who they really are,” Brill said.

Notably, the party change was done just in time for both Goodwin and Zucker to vote in the Democratic presidential preference primary on March 17.

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].


  • Jennifer Neal

    February 19, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Yes, keep purging all the idiot non-believers —- all the way to minority party status. Keep up the good work.

  • agatha mantanes

    February 19, 2020 at 2:49 pm

    More communists to indoctrinate our children. CK to see if they got money from Bloomberg.


      February 19, 2020 at 3:11 pm

      Trump continually expresses his L-O-V-E for the two “Communist” dictators, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un … and … “Communist” China is the single largest purveyor of retail goods in this country. Most “children” in America go to school every day dressed in clothes made in “Communist” China. And, “Bloomberg” has been pretty much a rightwing uber-capitalist. You and you Kool-Aid obviously don’t have a clue what the definition of “communist” or “communism” really is.

      • agatha mantanes

        February 19, 2020 at 4:15 pm

        You must be thinking of Bloomberg. The antisemite racist communist who thinks all the rest of us don’t deserve to choose how to live our lives free. We are too stupid to figure out what to eat and how to spend our hard-earned cash not fro gotten from red china like him.

  • No More Republicans !!!

    February 19, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    So, the jerky Zieglers prefer ideological partisanship instead of good, representative governance. Typical. Nothing new there. Demographic changes will ultimately wipe out Republicans. Until then, the regular people of Sarasota County will have to put up with the Republican wingnuts.

    Three Cheers for Goodwin and Zucker!

    • agatha mantanes

      February 19, 2020 at 4:16 pm

      No more communist leftist nutjobs…

  • Nick Guy

    February 19, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    David Graham is also running to fill Caroline Zucker’s seat. He’d be a much better replacement than rose.

    • Nick Guy

      February 19, 2020 at 9:27 pm

      Thank you for mentioning this in the updated version Jacob

  • Gini Hyman

    February 19, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    Mazel Tov! You have supported the quality of our children’s public education over dark money and corrupt corporate politics for many years. Thank you for again showing you both have ethics and integrity

  • gary

    February 20, 2020 at 10:53 am

    NON partisan? How is that non-partisan? One thing everyone knows for sure, demoRATS do not know how think logically, they think with emotion, that is the demoRAT way. PATHETIC!

Comments are closed.


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