Democrats are celebrating this morning after an upset victory Tuesday night in the race for House District 72 special election. Siesta Key attorney Margaret Good defeated her Republican opponent Jame Buchanan, the son of Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan.
Good’s victory was the latest legislative seat to be flipped nationwide by Democrats in districts which President Donald Trump won in 2016 giving them more momentum heading into the midterm elections.
Good not only won, she won by seven percentage points. She received 52.2 percent of the vote compared with 44.8 percent for Buchanan. Libertarian candidate Alison Foxall received 3 percent.
House District 72 leans Republican. The GOP has more than 12,000 more registered voters in the district than do Democrats. Trump had won in this district two years ago by more than 4 percentage points.
The race started off with many believing that Buchanan would be able to keep the seat in the GOP’s column. But it gradually transformed into a referendum about Trump. Both parties poured millions of dollars into their respective candidate’s campaigns. Big names on both sides offered up endorsements, including former Vice President Joe Biden for Good and Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for Buchanan.
A seat that Democrats often wrote-off in previous elections suddenly turned competitive and the state party began picking up Good’s campaign expenses.
The interest that was generated in the special election caught the attention of voters. According to the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office, the race appeared to set a record for voter turnout for a special election in Florida even before Election Day.
Voter turnout figures for special elections in the state’s online archives only go back to 2003. Since then, the largest voter turnout for a state House special election was 22 percent in 2008. In the House District 72 contest, turnout had already exceeded that number by Monday. According to the elections supervisor, by Monday evening, the turnout had reached 22.8 percent from absentee and in-person early voting.
The final turnout figure was 36 percent. A high percentage for a special election.
When the votes were tallied Good gave Florida Democrats their second major legislative victory in recent months. Miami Democrat Annette Taddeo flipped the Senate District 40 seat in a special election in September.
Nationally, House District 72 was the 36th legislative seat to be flipped by the Democrats since the 2016 election. It gave Democrats more hope that a ‘blue wave’ was building for the midterm elections later this year.
Republican strategists warn Democrats to be cautious in their optimism. As a consultant for Buchanan told Politico Tuesday night that Republicans came out to vote, they just didn’t vote for the right candidate.
“This was less a blue wave than a red revolt,” said Anthony Pedicini, a top Republican consultant for Buchanan. “Republicans turned out on Election Day, and looks like there was little benefit to our campaign.”