In this election, some winners and losers are obvious. But — much like the overall outcome of the presidential race — others are more elusive.
Florida Politics contemplated the trail, the election, and the aftermath to develop a comprehensive look at who walked away victorious, who tanked, and landed somewhere in the middle.
While much of this list breaks on partisan lines — Republicans had a banner night in Florida, so they will obviously have an outsized presence in the winners’ column — the list includes an analysis of strategy and future implications that concerns itself not with political affiliation.
From the GOP leaders who delivered an impressive, and to many shocking, five seats in the Florida House to the power brokers behind this year’s slate of constitutional amendments, here are this year’s winners and losers of the 2020 election.
As with other lists, this isn’t necessarily set in stone. Email any sins of commission (or omission) to Peter@FloridaPolitics.com for consideration.
Turnout — Historic turnout statewide. More than 11 million Floridians took their civic duties seriously, which’s a good thing for the Republic’s future.
Political parties — Amendment 3 could have brought about a seismic shift. With jungle primaries — or open primaries, jungle primaries, top-two primaries, or whatever nomenclature you prefer — would have stripped the fringe of the Republican and Democratic parties of their influence and handed it to independents. That’s neither inherently good nor bad, but it would have been the political equivalent of tofu, ketchup, vodka, or the Borg — a sponge that absorbs everything and spits out a bland result. Add in its theorized effect on majority-minority districts, and you have a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, Party leaders won’t have to worry about that … at least for now.
Ron DeSantis — In law school, we learn the phrase “res ipsa loquitor” — the thing speaks for itself. And this one speaks for himself. He avoids the ire of Trumpworld by winning the state and establishes himself as a political force by winning it handily. He can claim victory as a referendum on his first two years.
Jeanette Núñez — Lt. Gov. may be a ceremonial position, but her role in the GOP’s Election Day dominance was anything but. She had won four House campaigns in Miami-Dade — and by double-digits — before DeSantis tapped her as his No. 2, and she pounded the pavement showing other Republicans how to win — and win convincingly — in districts that looked to be trending blue. Lieutenant Governor has been a terminal position for 50 years. Just like the Democratic dominance in Miami-Dade, that might be changing.
John Morgan — He once again gets a state Constitutional Amendment over the 60% threshold in a contentious election year. Now that he’s hiked up the state’s minimum wage, the question is, what cause will he champion next?
Laurel Lee — How many “echoes of 2000” election preview stories did we all read? Too many. And they all namechecked Lee as the state’s top elections official. Was this year similar to Bush v. Gore? Not at all, but just because the margin of victory was 1,000-fold higher doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the bang-up job she and Florida’s network of elections supervisors did to make sure early, mail-in and Election Day voting with smoothly. A Florida election without a “Florida moment” … how refreshing.
Joe Gruters — Someone hand him the keys to the RNC. Like, now. 2016 was impressive, but this cycle, he crane-kicked the Democrats — both nationally and in Florida — by delivering a solid GOP win across the board. Shoutout to Christian Ziegler, who played Goose to Gruters’ Maverick on the campaign trail.
Wilton Simpson — His goal was defending two GOP-held seats, and he did so in resounding fashion. If he ends up picking up a third — ousting an incumbent Democrat, no less — in what was supposed to be a bad environment, it’s proof that infrastructure works. The chess pieces fell into place perfectly. Jennifer Bradley cruised in SD 5. Ray Rodrigues had the resources to mostly handle it himself in SD 27. And former Rep. Jason Brodeur and Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez were the perfect drafts in the swing districts. A tip of the hat to the staff at the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, including Joel Springer, Kelly Schmidt, McNally Merlini, Dana Arbogast, and Kayna Mogelnicki.
Chris Sprowls — He led House Republicans to a five-seat gain, going from 73-47 to 78-42 — just a hair away from a supermajority. And he did it in a cycle where Democrats and progressive groups dumped $20 million into flipping the House. Of course, everyone who knows anything about state Legislative elections knew it was all flash — maybe they’d get a couple of picks, but nothing that would upend Republican hegemony. But on Election Day, the Palm Harbor Republican recorded more blocks than Tim Duncan in the 2003 Finals. In the same vein, he’s made maintaining the GOP dynasty easy for future Speakers Paul Renner, Danny Perez, and whoever the 2020 class picks. Next time, Forward Majority and their ilk should pick up a paper shredder at Wally World and save themselves the embarrassment. A boisterous shoutout to his team, including Mat Bahl and Tom Piccolo.
Paul Renner — The soon-to-be-Speaker-D and his fundraiser, Katie Ballard, raised over $4 million and spent heavily supporting Republican House candidates via House Campaigns and direct support. With the many wins by Sprowls’ team, it’s a great time to be the Speaker-designate going into 2022.
Jason Brodeur — Normally we don’t highlight winning candidates in this feature, but the Seminole Republican deserves a shout-out because certain Pinellas-based websites may have suggested he was not going to win. Rarely have said websites been more relieved to be wrong.
Manny Diaz — He established himself as a key figure statewide by becoming a prominent Trump surrogate. and proved he could help win key races in Dade county, giving him a ton of political capital with the Governor. That’ll come in handy, especially if SD 37 goes red, and he becomes a narrow favorite for the Senate Presidency in 2024-26.
Anna Eskamani — After an Election Day implosion, there’s a leadership vacuum at the Florida Democratic Party. Eskamani was already one of the party’s most-important and best-recognized leaders, but her stock has only gone up. She’s talking a lot of sense in the post-mortem — first and foremost, that the party needs to “clean house.” It’s hard to argue against that, and a popular Rep. who flipped a GOP-held district and then won reelection by 20 points is probably someone Democrats should listen to if they want to avoid an embarrassing election night in 2022.
Blaise Ingoglia — It’s almost as if he’s still Party chair with how much cheerleading he was doing for the red team on social media. It wasn’t all sunshine pumping, though. Unlike most Twitter prognosticators, he did the math and showed his work. Maybe he underestimated the final margin a bit, but the toplines his analyses — NPA splits, the Election Day turnout gap, and county level highlights — were spot on.
Shevrin Jones — He won his state Senate race with a margin Kim Jong Un would envy.
Nick Duran — Despite the veritable bloodbath of Miami Democrats all around him, Duran secured a third term in a decisive victory against former County Commissioner Bruno Barriero. Assuming JJR loses his seat in a recount, Duran and Sen. Annette Taddeo are the only remaining Hispanic Democrats elected from Miami. Expect Duran to be talked about as a candidate for CD 27, if not something statewide.
Rene Plasencia — In the deep-blue sea that now is Orange County, Plasencia put up a rare GOP victory, even carrying the blue part of House District 50. It’s not as if Democrats didn’t come after him. They did, hard. Plasencia, though, is a classic public servant, rolling up sleeves within his community. He’s been on the front lines helping people meet needs during the coronavirus crisis, just as he had been with Puerto Rican refugees after Hurricane Maria. He’s a former coach and high school teacher, and he’s a leader in assisting families with special-needs kids. In short, HD 50 voters, especially in Orange, know Coach P. He earned — and he received — their support.
Demi Busatta and Kevin Marino Cabrera — The power couple ended Tuesday night with a pair of big wins. Kevin Marino Cabrera served as the deputy political director for the RNC and the Florida State Director on the Trump campaign. He helped the President perform in Miami-Dade County and ultimately take the state. Demi Busatta Cabrera then swiped the House District 114 seat from Democrats after Javier Fernández vacated the seat for a failed Senate bid, one of five GOP pickups in the House.
Juan Fernandez-Barquin — In a seat Hillary Clinton won by 13 points in 2016, Fernandez-Barquin beat his Democratic challenger easily, securing 65% of the vote. Republicans do tend to over-perform in House races in the district. The contest was made all the easier though by the incumbent’s fundraising operation. He brought in $257,000 through his campaign account, 10 times more than his opponent.
Pete Antonacci — When there’s a problem with election results, the nation says: “Florida’s gonna Florida,” but those who know better know that most of the time, Broward is a wrench in the gears. Just two years ago, the county elections office faceplanted so hard that
DeSantis Rick Scott sacked the supervisor and installed Antonacci. On Tuesday — amid record turnout — Broward came through on time and without issue. Here’s hoping that’s the new normal.
Russ Rywell — The Miami-Dade School Board candidate spent more than half a million dollars and got trounced. His campaign was a rolling dumpster fire. His consultants got rich on his stupidity and clearly didn’t care if he won or lost.
Andria Herr — Seminole County may be turning purple, but Herr keeps a tinge of red in there. Herr was one of four candidates for the District 5 seat on the Seminole County Commission, and she came out on top with a convincing 51% share of the vote. Yes, in a county that went blue for Biden, and in a race that saw Stan Van Gundy ship $50,000 to her opponent, Herr came out on top — in fact, she was the only woman running for county office to come away with a win, and there were five other women, all Democrats, running for office in Seminole. Kudos to a strong woman who everyone should know about.
AFP Action FL — Going 9 for 11 in targeted races, including sending Scott Franklin to Congress, knocking off Democratic Rep. Cindy Polo, moving the needle in SD 9 and SD 39, and returning HD 72 to Republican control. More evidence of why state director Skylar Zander is on INFLUENCE Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in Florida Politics.
Agriculture — From the tip of the Panhandle down to the Keys, most of the candidates who prevailed Tuesday are champions for ag. It helps that three lawmakers running Senate campaigns — Wilton Simpson, Kathleen Passidomo and Ben Albritton — are outspoken ag supporters. Two of them are farmers, even. The victories were as crucial to ag as the industry itself is to the state economy — due to COVID-19 and the economic downturn, agriculture is again proving to be a force of strength in Florida. Keeping it going is key to a speedy recovery in job numbers and tax revenues.
Florida Realtors — They don’t just know how to pick winners; they are winners. Heading into Election Day, 10 Florida Realtors members and member affiliates were on the ballot for state legislative seats. When the dust settled, they had gone 10 for 10. Some were rookies — say hello to Reps. Lauren Melo and Jim Mooney. Others were climbing up a rung to the Senate — Sens. Brodeur and Rodriguez. And a half-dozen more celebrated resounding reelections. It doesn’t hurt that the housing market is in overdrive, too.
GOP lawyers — When Marc Elias came knocking trying to extend the VBM receipt deadline, lawyers stepped up and shut it down. If they hadn’t, Florida would have kept the world waiting on election night. Sometimes heroes don’t wear capes.
Microtargeting — Campaigns that had good data and used it well dominated. Campaigns that put people in big boxes and used boring old messaging lost. Trump won by microtargeting. Local candidates did too. It works if you do it right.
School choice — It seems like an eon ago; school choice advocates celebrated their best Legislative Session in years. Eight months later, there was cause for a big election night party. More than two dozen state legislative candidates — some new, some incumbent — backed by the Florida Federation for Children were elected. The 2021 Legislative Session is looking bright for John Kirtley & Co.
Susie Wiles — Does anyone care what DeSantis thinks? Republicans win statewide when she’s on their side. It’s that simple. After winning Florida twice for Rick Scott and twice for Trump, there’s no doubt that Wiles is the 🐐.
James Blair — Recently named to the INFLUENCE 100, Blair makes the winners column again. He is part of the Wiles-led team tasked with delivering Florida for Trump, which was clearly a great success. He also was part of the team that engineered a huge win for Sen. Rodriguez in SD 39 and the team that will now see Byron Donalds officially sworn into Congress. He turned around Anna Paulina Luna’s flailing campaign, defied conventional wisdom by winning an uphill primary, and defied it again by making the general election competitive enough that she remains a viable and serious candidate for the future. He’s not always seen but is often involved in key strategic operations and projects for the GOP apparatus. Right now, we hear he’s been sent to another swing state to fight it out for Trump. With a redistricting cycle on the horizon, candidates in need of a strategist and street fighter will want to call on Blair.
Steve Schale — The longsuffering Jags superfan may be lamenting another Florida loss, but it looks like the former VP is going to win it all without the Sunshine State. Schale gets a piece of the credit for chairing Unite the Country, a pro-Biden Super PAC that no doubt moved the needle in the swing states that came through for the former VP.
Alex Garcia — Speaking of Team Trump, Garcia also did work helping turn out the Hispanic vote in Miami-Dade County. He served as the regional political director for the RNC and Trump campaign. Republicans’ dedicated efforts in the region denied Democrats up and down the ballot Tuesday.
— Florida Chamber of Commerce: Chamber-endorsed candidates went 86 for 89 on Election Day. The biggest wins were in the Senate — Brodeur in SD 9 and Rodriguez in SD 39 — where the Chamber had a perfect 12 for 12 score. As for the 22 state legislative candidates it put its full weight behind, 21 were elected. Last we checked, 97% was a solid A.
Pat Bainter — The average Joe may not know who he is, but the man behind one of the GOP’s best weapons, Data Targeting, has been a winner in perpetuity for a decade-plus. From Connie Mack to DeSantis, it’s hard to name an influential Florida Republican in the modern era who didn’t rely on his expertise — at least in part — to secure victory. But this list isn’t a lifetime achievement award. In 2020, he gets a spot for his masterful implementation of Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson’s game plan. Realistically, the cycle couldn’t have gone better for Senate Republicans, and they owe a lot of the credit to the data gathering, polling and strategery of Bainter and his firm.
Ryan Tyson — Pollsters got Florida wrong — again — but The Tyson Group was the exception that proves the rule. The outfit predicted Trump would carry Florida by a larger margin than he did four years ago and forecast a blowout win for Rodriguez in SD 39. Simultaneously, many of the majors augured a Biden win and seismic shift in the Florida Legislature. Were all his polls dead on? Who knows. He only talks to his clients (and POLITICO). But in a cycle where few pollsters were light-years away from reality, he was in the same ballpark 100% of the time. If a gif could explain it all:
Ryan Houck of Consensus Communications — If there was any doubt before, there isn’t any now. Through Consensus Communications, Houck cemented his place as the go-to Republican ad maker by coming through for more than two-dozen candidates this cycle. His 2020 portfolio included candidates from small-market state House districts on up to the big leagues. Incoming U.S. Rep. Franklin and incoming Sen. Brodeur make the highlight reel for sure, but he’ll be getting Christmas cards from half the Legislature. Reps. Paul Renner, Jackie Toledo, Chris Latvala, Vance Aloupis were among the many who counted on his cutting room clout to get the word out. Best of all, he doesn’t pump his own brand with garish hype reels — he lets the candidates speak, and that speaks volumes about him and his company.
David Johnson — He ran the SuperPACs that fueled winning congressional campaigns in CD 15, 18, 26, and 27. They even had cool names. Wingman PAC booked Franklin’s flight to D.C. Valor Project backed up U.S. Rep. Brian Mast as he fought off a challenge CD 18. Leadership for A Strong America helped Maria Elvira Salazar boot “pragmatic socialist” Donna Shalala from CD 27. South Florida Residents First was instrumental in Carlos Giménez’ toppling of Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. And the list goes on, with key state House wins also in his quiver.
Kathy Mears — Obviously, being Chief of Staff to the incoming Senate President makes her an automatic winner, but given the caliber and quality of members who will now comprise the Senate majority, she will be able to focus on what she does best — providing thoughtful, sophisticated, experienced, and calm guidance not only to the Republican caucus but to the entire Senate and their staff. She is, without a doubt, one of the best in The Process.
Marc Reichelderfer — “The Marchitect” wasn’t given his nickname; he earned it. After we mistakenly doubted his skills coming out of the primaries, he came up aces in the general. Some of his clients, such as U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn and Jennifer Bradley, were shoo-ins. But Reichelderfer was also key to GOP’s successful defense in CD 15, Jim Mooney’s win in what was thought to be a swingy HD 120, and Fred Hawkins’ razor-thin victory in HD 42.
Jim Rimes — The Oracle of Okaloosa, the Prophet of Pinellas, and now Slayer of Seminole and Vanguard of Volusia. The data extraordinaire and ground game guru came through for Senate Republicans, delivering a massive win for Jason Brodeur in SD 9.
Strategic Image Management — Anthony Pedicini & Co. had a hand in two dozen races this cycle and they won darn near all of them. There were a couple gimmes, but it wasn’t all stat padding. The Simwins team was behind Dana Trabulsy’s ouster of Rep. Delores Hogan Johnson in HD 84 and Rep. Jackie Toledo’s HD 60 defense. They also navigated Rep. Mike Caruso to an 11-point victory in HD 89 — a seat he won by just 32 votes in 2018. Winning is their business … and business is good.
Tim Baker — As one of Northeast Florida’s, scratch that, Florida’s premier GOP political consultant, he didn’t disappoint. U.S. Reps. Jon Rutherford and Michael Waltz cruised. #Bluval didn’t topple Duval Clerk Jody Phillips. Rep. Wyman Duggan made HD 15, a D+3 seat, look like an R+10 yet again. But Baker’s brag board is chalked with Ws hundreds of miles away from his Jax HQ. His operation made it look easy for Webster Barnaby in HD 27, a top target. And he also gets a slice of the credit for Fiona McFarland flip in HD 72. This regional powerhouse is quickly rising the ranks at the state level.
Cynthia Busch — Yes, Democrats got crushed. But Broward Dems turned out in big numbers. That was due in large part to having a proven organizer leading the party.
Raquel Regalado — In a night where Democrats performed fairly well in County Commission races, Regalado stood out with a narrow victory in the District 7 race. She topped Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner by just over 1 point, giving Republicans a win. Regalado is no stranger to Miami-Dade politics, having served on the School Board for six years before challenging Carlos Giménez for the County Mayor gig in 2016. She lost that contest, but will now join the Commission.
Reggie Cardozo — Thanks to this veteran politico’s know-how, Jones is headed to the Senate, Laura Hine won a seat on the Pinellas School Board, and Kionne McGhee earned a spot on the Miami-Dade County Commission, winning not only the early vote but the Election Day vote as well. Cardozo’s one notable loss was Rep. Jennifer Webb, but as they say, you can’t help someone that doesn’t want to be helped.
Nelson Diaz — Miami-Dade is still blue, but the pendulum has started swinging the other way — hard. Diaz has spent the past four years making inroads into the Democratic firewall as the GOP’s county chair. We got a preview of it in 2018 when the county saw Gillum at the top of the ballot and said “meh,” going blue by about 168,000 votes. Two years later, in a presidential election cycle where the GOP nominee was being outspent nearly 2-to-1 on the airwaves, the top-of-ticket margin was halved. Calling it an embarrassment for Democrats is 100% accurate, but it undersells the transformation managed by Diaz and his team at the Miami-Dade Republican Party.
Max Goodman — He’s too humble to take credit, but he’s one of the GOP’s best assets on the Gulf Coast. He cut his teeth managing U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s first campaign, and a decade and a half later, he’s still making CD 16 look like a Republican lock, no matter who Democrats field. Now that he’s branched out and launched his own agency, it’s clear his playbook translates — look at HD 72, where he piloted Fiona McFarland to flip, simultaneously stripping Florida Democrats of arguably their most impressive achievement in the Trump era. Any Republican eyeing an office in the Sarasota area needs him on speed dial — if they want to win, that is.
Steve Marin — Simply put, he is The Man in South Florida. So many wins for this gracious, but hard-charging consultant, including for Speaker-to-be Perez who coasted to victory Tuesday night, winning 63% of the vote. We consider ourselves blessed to have become his friend.
Chris Miles — The Carlos Curbelo alum came up big in races across the state, especially on his home turf in Miami-Dade. He helped lead the successful NRCC effort to flip CD 26 and CD 27 red as regional political director. He even made the jaunt up to Tampa Bay to help seal the deal for Franklin in CD 15.
Alex Miranda — The GOP consultant is quickly becoming the go-to for Republican campaigns in South Florida. This cycle, he was the GC for now-Sen. Rodriguez and Rep. Aloupis, who won reelection by 14 points after squeaking by with a 600-vote margin two years ago. He was also behind the Spanish GOTV phone effort for Trump Victory. There’s an ocean of ink on how Trump’s inroads with Latinx voters, especially in Miami-Dade, led to the most convincing top-of-ticket win in Florida since Bush ’04. Yes, Republicans did well across the state, and a rising tide lifts all boats. But expect a fight to get on Miranda’s 2022 client list.
Ben Pollara — Pollara was pretty low key this year, compared to previous cycles, but managed to pull some of the biggest (and only) wins on the Democratic side in 2020. His client, Nick Duran, cruised to victory against a well-funded opponent, even as Shalala, Mucarsel-Powell, and every other (partisan) Miami Democrat of note was butchered. But the bigger win for Pollara was clearly pulling off yet another amendment to Florida’s constitution with Amendment 2, Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage. When everyone is writing of Florida Democrats, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Pollara has pulled off statewide wins 3 cycles in a row (medical marijuana, Nikki Fried, minimum wage).
Holly Raschein — She put her political capital and political committee funding on the line for her now-successor, Rep. Jim Mooney, who trounced Forward Majority Florida-backed Clint Barras by 10 points in HD 120. She also worked tirelessly managing the ground and voter contact operations for South Florida Residents First, which backed Giménez’s successful ouster of Mucarsel-Powell in CD 26.
Sean Shaw and People Over Profits — To the nonparty faithful, Amendment 3 didn’t seem like a devious proposition at first. But Shaw and his group helped explain the dangers it posed to non-White communities and built grassroots operation that unified progressive groups to oppose and defeat it.
Kevin Sweeny — As he’ll tell you, “lit dropping is not door-knocking.” He knocked on 600K+ doors the hard way, helping defend seats once thought indefensible, and adding five new ones for the House majority. Someone get this guy a pie.
Team Brodeur — On the eve of the election, SD 9 looked like a surefire flip. Seminole County had spent the last couple of years trending blue, Democrats dumped millions into the race, and local media nitpicked and condemned every Brodeur ad. The recipe was there. But Republicans brought in the A-Team. Campaign manager Robbie Vogan left no stone unturned on the outreach front. Zach Monahan and Zach Colletti at Supernova put digital ads in front of all the right voters. Sandy Taylor helped reel in more than almost any other — $1 million in hard money. Clay Barker converted straggling voters with a stellar ground game. Erin Isaac, the consummate communications pro, flipped the script on media’s coverage of the race. The result: A close, but comfortable GOP victory heading into redistricting.
Team Chuck Clemons — Heading into Election Day, some on the outside didn’t think Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons would win a third term. But he did, and a lot of the credit goes to campaign manager Courtney Anderson or Deputy campaign manager Cale McCall. The pair excellently navigated their candidate to victory over a tough opponent, and they did it with class.
Team Chip LaMarca — LaMarca had a tough hand. As the only Republican representing a district fully within deep-blue Broward County, it was a challenge to stave off a flip when he won his first election two years ago. And the task wasn’t any easier this year — although his team sure made it look that way. Campaign manager Corey Staniscia, strategists Ryan Smith and Blake MacDiarmid, communications pro Anna Alexopoulos Farrar, and top TV guy Brad Herold helped LaMarca battle back against deceitful attack ads from deep-pocketed Forward Majority and spread a positive message to voters. The result: a 10-point victory. That means Republicans and NPAs and even some Democrats want an elected official who gets things done.
Duval and Panhandle Democrats — Once reliably ruby red, the Biden campaign won Duval County and made gains over 2016 in Escambia, Okaloosa, Clay, and many other North Florida counties. While it in no way balances out the catastrophic performance in South Florida, at least it’s something. “North Florida way,” anyone?
ESP Media — OK, maybe there was a bright spot for Florida Democrats after all. Jamie Van Pelt and his team at ESP Media went 4-0 for their clients this cycle, including hard-fought wins for Rep. Geraldine Thompson in House District 44 and now-Sen. Loranne Ausley in Senate District 3. The Dem playbook might be smoldering at the bottom of a trash can right now, but you can bet the page with ESP’s contact sheet was ripped out before it was set alight.
Phillip Singleton — The Hip-Hop Lobbyist ran the field for U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in the primary before focusing his efforts on turning out the vote in Duval. There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on over the Democrats’ statewide performance. Still, this rising star proved he knows what he’s doing — Duval went #Bluval by about 19,000, a slight improvement over 2018 in a county that had long favored Republicans. During the teardown and rebuild, he deserves a seat at the table.
Tallahassee progressives — Brian Welch shocked Leon County Tuesday when he unseated longtime County Commissioner and National Association of Counties President Bryan Desloge in a blowout. Add in Jack Porter’s August win over City Commissioner Elaine Bryant. It’s clear the progressive foothold from City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow’s 2018 win is expanding into a solid grip, with the help of Krístellys Estanga, Ryan Ray, and Max Herrle.
Rick Wilson — The Lincoln Project didn’t move the needle in Florida, and it’s not clear if it made a difference elsewhere. Heck, some say it might have even backfired. Still, Wilson made a boatload of cash, a good name for himself, and, well, his goal was accomplished. Congrats!
Michael Worley — His candidates did incredibly well. I can’t even count the wins. And his firm has grown to become the go-to for digital and mail for Florida Democrats. Plus, he’s moving back to the Sunshine State after purchasing a house a few doors down from Jason Taylor and around the corner from Ron Book. The 2022 election night watch party just might be in the movie theater in his new pad.
Criminal justice reform — Nowhere was the concepts of forgiveness and fresh starts for nonviolent offenders in clearer illustration than in the contest for House District 42 in Osceola and Polk counties. Suspended Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. was facing felony prosecution, but come on, should that negate a career in public service? The business community urged absolution. The State Attorney offered it. The HD 42 voters delivered it. Now it will be up to Republican Hawkins to carry forward with advocacy for the kinds of judicial leniency that provides hope and future opportunities for others whose lives could be destroyed by the criminal justice system.
Mary Hall — Readers won’t know her, but she was the Operations Chief of the best run Supervisor of Elections office in Florida.
UCF — The youth vote is as elusive as ever. Every cycle, there are predictions of tidal wave turnout, break into a ripple. Not at UCF. The students showed up — there was even one precinct with 100% turnout. Maybe the Golden Knights’ claim on the 2017 natty might be a stretch, but that’s a stat no school in the country can best.
WCTV — Like all Florida TV stations, its pre-Election Day ad revenue went gangbusters. Unlike other stations, Tallahassee-based WCTV’s broadcast footprint bleeds into Georgia. With two U.S. Senate runoffs north of Georgia’s border, the gravy train will keep rolling for a while yet.
2022 Democratic Gov. candidates — Anyone with an eye on the Governor’s mansion with (D) after your name. Try again in another decade. Or start a voter “re-engagement” drive and actually put in the work.
Christian Ulvert — Daniella Levine-Cava‘s victory is a massive win. Pretty much everything else was a loss, especially his work for the Biden campaign.
Mike Bloomberg — He and his PAC partners had an ad crafted for every slice and sliver of the electorate. After weeks saturating the airwaves with $100 million in media buys, Biden comes up short — like, really short. No offense. But at least the TV stations won’t be worried about cash flow for a couple of years.
Florida Democratic Party — A bloodbath. A train wreck. A dumpster fire. There are more synonyms for abject failure than there are Inuit words for snow, yet none of them fully captures how poorly Florida Democrats performed on Tuesday. They flubbed in gimme state House races, whiffed on the state Senate slate, lost a pair of incumbent Congresswomen, and have allowed what was once the largest swing state in the nation to become the second-biggest GOP lock in the country — and maybe the biggest, if Texas’ shift continues. Worse yet, they pissed away millions of dollars doing it. There is no bright spot here. Heads will roll.
Terrie Rizzo — Where to even start? Party support in Miami-Dade is a husk of what it was four years ago. The party’s voter registration advantage, already a mirage at the polls, has almost completely disappeared. The state House is closer to a GOP supermajority than parity. Ditto for the Senate. And that PPP loan made her the Republicans’ best ad writer in a generation. All that to say, she should start packing her desk before a mob kicks down her door and flips it over.
Gary Farmer — He was basically running the show two years ago when Democrats went one for six on their targeted seats — which, it cannot be overstated, were much friendlier than the two “swing districts” on the 2020 ballot. Now, heading into his leadership term, he manages to go zero for two on flips and possibly lose a seat that shouldn’t have been competitive. There’s no one in the Senate to split the blame with this time except maybe aide-de-camp, Brian Lacy, who should get 86’d at the earliest opportunity. Oh well, at least it’s only two years and not a lost decade … unless redistricting goes poorly.
Evan Jenne and Bobby Dubose — Apparently, the incoming House Democratic co-leaders have never heard the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If they had, they probably wouldn’t have cleared out the team that grew the Democratic caucus to a 20-year high and replaced it them Laurie Watkins, who spent most of her time playing pundit on NewsMax.
Mike Fernandez, Glenn Burhans — Democrats weren’t the only one flushing money this cycle. The All Voters Vote campaign, backed by $8.5 million, sought to bring “jungle primaries” to Florida. Now that all voters have voted, it’s a no-go. Looks like Fernandez, a former Republican, will have to join one of the majors or settle for the lesser of two evils like the millions of other NPA voters in the state.
PPP loans — If the Florida Democratic Party had taken that loan check and deposited it directly into the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, they would have had a better shot of flipping SD 9 and SD 39. Not a good chance, but a better one.
The Democratic Consulting Class — The consultants who have been running FDP for a decade, folks like Scott Arceneaux and Juan Peñalosa — can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like its part of the organizational mission statement. There are a group of proven winners among Florida Democratic consultants. Their time has come. We’d put Beth Matuga in this blurb, but she gets some credit for dragging Loranne Ausley across the fish line.
Forward Majority — Yet another Democratic group showed up with millions to burn and only a few months to burn it. They made a lot of smoke — and a lot of enemies — but didn’t manage to flip a single seat on their target list.
Media — DeSantis isn’t shy about criticizing the media, and he often takes it to an absurdist extreme — no, the media doesn’t love riots. We don’t start salivating when COVID numbers spike. But when it comes to Sunshine State elections, point taken. The election was essentially over an hour after the polls closed, but everyone — from the locals to his friends at Fox — was gun-shy pulling the trigger and calling it for Trump. As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Miami-Dade Democratic Party — This was the dagger. Even if Democrats’ Dade margin matched 2016, it wouldn’t have been enough for Biden. Still, they managed to lose a Senate battleground by double digits and possibly lose another by a handful of votes while hemorrhaging votes in every swingy House district in the county. Their Spanish-language outreach may as well be in Greek. This is the state party’s failures, triple distilled and with no chaser. And if they think it can’t get worse, they are sorely mistaken.
Andrew Gillum — How is that whole “registering a million Democrats” effort going?
Tracey Kagan — Few contests anywhere got nastier than the battle for House District 29 in Seminole County. In many ways, Democrat Kagan initiated the nastiness against GOP Rep. Scott Plakon, though he certainly slung back. In the first week of her campaign, she called him anti-Semitic. She rolled out an ugly family dispute with his estranged brother. And more. Plakon is a lot of things Democrats tend to dislike, but most agree he’s a decent enough fellow. HD 42 voters agreed, rejecting her characterizations in numbers larger than polls or registration ratios would suggest.
José Oliva — His expensive vendetta against Perez looks even pettier now than it did in August. The $1.4 million he put behind a tomato can could have worked wonders for Bob Cortes in HD 30 or Michael Owen in HD 59. Do Republicans need those seats? Not really, but if they go the other way, the supermajority becomes a reality, and Oliva goes out looking a hero rather than a petulant child. And no one has forgotten about you either, David Custin.
Alex Penelas — Not to pour salt in an open wound, but this guy just can’t win. The former Miami-Dade County Mayor and a central figure in the 2000 recount finished 3rd place in August trying to get his old job back; then, the one-time Democrat endorsed the two Miami Republicans who lost last night (Renier DLP and Bruno Barriero). Just go home, dude.
Steve Simeonidis — Turnout in Miami-Dade was humiliating for Democrats. Messaging wasn’t much better. Maybe the Bernie Bros need to realize that all they’ve built is a losing machine, and they’re dragging the rest of the Democrats down. It would probably be good to have the Party run by people who have won a campaign or two rather than those who just think they know.