The tale of two congressional races in Tampa Bay

vern buchanan vs. margaret good
National Democrats are setting their sights on Alan Cohn, not Margaret Good.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The national Democrats thought they had located a prized recruit to finally challenge U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in Florida’s 16th congressional district. They’re savior? State Rep. Margaret Good, who had previously beaten Buchanan’s son, James, in a Special Election in 2018.

The storyline almost wrote itself.

Until Good screwed it all up.

The turn of the year started with Good committing a few election law violations. OK, candidates can’t be perfect.

Then it moved to the ugly divorce with her longtime campaign manager Kevin Lata. Good didn’t give Lata, largely credited for her Special Election win, the courtesy of wishing him well on his way out. (more to come on this later)

And then the wheels came off Good’s campaign — staff circulating an offensive video with racist lyrics, uncovered votes against a ban on sex dolls resembling children, and taking political donations from people who defend sex predators.

I’m guessing the latter is when the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee finally threw up their hands and said “make it stop!” That’s why they snubbed Good’s campaign over the weekend by not including her in their new “Swing the House” project intended to raise money for serious congressional hopefuls in key swing states.

But a candidate just 60 miles north of the Sarasota seat Good is running for did make that list. The former Sarasota newscaster himself, Alan Cohn.  And who is Alan Cohn’s campaign manager? Kevin Lata.

Ah, now that’s a fresh storyline.

Cohn has picked up steam and attention since his primary election victory over state Rep. Adam Hattersley, even appearing on the liberal darling’s “Morning Joe” program on MSNBC. His $1 million fundraising haul last quarter was shocking because Cohn is not known as a prolific fundraiser. Far from it.

But if Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight prediction model is any indicator, the Democrats will be setting their sights on the race for Florida’s 15th Congressional District between Cohn and newcomer Scott Franklin. While they give Buchanan a 91% chance of victory over Good, they put Franklin’s odds in the 70s.

In a year where Trump seems to be tanking by the day, you better believe the national Democrats and outside groups will take those odds. Especially since the DCCC has played in both districts before.

David Shapiro, the 2018 Democratic nominee in CD 16, lost to Buchanan by double digits despite support from national Democrats, solid fundraising and better name ID than Good. In CD 15, Democrat Kristen Carlson came much closer to making the flip.

And as anybody who knows anything about Florida knows, the Tampa media market ain’t cheap.  They can only pick one.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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