In the most purple district in Northeast Florida, the November election between incumbent Rep. Wyman Duggan and Democratic challenger Tammyette Thomas promised to be a photo finish.
But despite a D+3 lean in the district that made Republicans nervous going into Election Day, it was not. Duggan won by more than 53% of the vote and continuing a strong night for Republicans in the state.
The sole public poll of the race caught the trend.
A late St. Pete Polls survey of the district showing Duggan up 10 suggested headwinds for Thomas, but she was able to keep it close.
Duggan and Thomas offered HD 15 voters on Jacksonville’s Westside a contrast of styles, resumes and bankrolls.
Thomas, an associate pastor and a regional trainer for Quest Diagnostics, won her primary election earlier this month with 60% of the vote but not without some anomalies. Among them: a failure to report campaign finance timely.
Duggan, a lawyer and lobbyist by trade, is a feted figure in Jacksonville’s City Hall, so much so that even two Democrats on the City Council endorsed him ahead of the General Election.
Outside groups, most notably the free-spending Forward Majority, pumped money in. The group included HD 15, a district won by Andrew Gillum, as a target.
“2018’s gains in the state House, along with diversifying suburban districts, offer real promise for Florida with the right push,” the group said in its 2020 roadmap. “Eleven Republican-held seats were won outright by either Nelson or Gillum at the top of the ticket. These districts demonstrate the competitive landscape and define the path to the majority.”
By one Republican consultant’s estimation, that landscape was paved with soft money gold benefitting Democrats — $300,000 and counting went in, with Democrats and NPA voters targeted with mail and TV.
Duggan had a lot of support from the Republican Party of Florida.
The RPOF targeted Democrats and NPAs, especially White women, with mail to Ortega and Avondale spotlighting personal and financial issues the Democratic candidate has faced, along with television hitting the same themes.
In a battle of negative messaging, Duggan, guided by the able hand of consultant Tim Baker, scored the win.