In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, pundits will be picking through Election Day stats for months, if not years, to tell the story of this election cycle.
All those narratives will have to contend with one clear outlier — Florida.
And many are likely to miss the nuances of Republican leadership in our state that have shored up Republican dominance here for decades, despite the national political winds in any given election cycle. That includes leadership on a number of issues not often closely associated with the national Republican Party platform, issues like environmental protection and addressing climate change, which are quality of life issues for many Floridians.
The main headline, of course, will be that on Election Day 2020, Floridians turned out in record numbers to vote for Republicans up and down the ticket — delivering nearly every other Republican on the ticket a huge margin of victory and in the process wiping out Democratic gains in recent cycles. That certainly happened and our state — the Tampa Bay region included — provided a resounding endorsement of conservative governance.
Of course, this isn’t really a new development and the state, despite its battleground status every four years, has been Republican-dominated for decades. Election Day, in many ways, was just another affirmation of the Sunshine State’s bend toward conservative leadership. Republican resilience in the state remains year-after-year, as blue or red waves bring changes in partisan leadership to other areas of the country.
One of the more important takeaways should be that conservative governance in Florida looks different from conservative leadership elsewhere in the country, which likely accounts for why it was (and probably will continue to be) an outlier in cycles to come.
Just prior to Election Day, the Florida Climate Resilience Survey showed that 86% of Floridians believe climate change is happening right now — and that includes more than 8 out of 10 Republicans. Those survey results also show that 56% of Floridians believe Florida should be exploring solar energy as the primary form of energy production for our state. Another poll released by Conservatives for Clean Energy-Florida highlights the growing support for an all-of-the-above energy strategy that transcends political parties.
Tampa Bay Republicans ran on these issues, as did Republicans in other areas of the state. Republican Florida Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls was reelected to represent northern Pinellas County. Even before the election, in an op-ed co-authored by Republican Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, he signaled that next session the state Legislature will focus on balanced approaches that increase the state’s resiliency against the effects of climate change.
This comes after the Republican-led legislature passing its first climate-related legislation in over a decade, earlier this year.
Environmental stewardship was also central to the race for representative of the state’s 69th House District, which saw Republican Linda Chaney’s underdog victory against Democratic incumbent Jennifer Webb. Elsewhere, Republican Lawrence McClure, whose professional career has been built on environmental cleanup, was reelected to represent the state’s 58th House District.
The significance of these issues is also apparent among our statewide and congressional Republicans. In his first days in office, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, took bold steps to strengthen the state’s response to climate change by appointing a science officer and chief resilience officer.
Sen. Marco Rubio, also a Republican, recently joined the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan caucus to advance efforts that address the changing climate and has been a leading voice within the national party.
When the book closes on the 2020 elections, the story is likely to include Republican gains with Hispanic/Latino voters, changing demographics in suburban and exurban areas, as well as other issues. Pundits and Republican leaders in other states would be wise to look beyond 2020 and examine why Republicans in Florida consistently overperform their counterparts cycle-after-cycle.
Leading on environmental issues — mitigating climate impacts, protecting beaches and other sensitive areas, transitioning to clean energy — are local, quality of life issues that Republicans in our state have embraced.
The rest of the country should take note — Florida Republican’s winning approach provides a road map for the National Party.
Jake Hoffman is president of the Tampa Bay Young Republicans and a board member of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans.