One of the most contentious downballot races in Florida has ended with Democrat Loranne Ausley emerging victorious in State Senate District 3 over Republican Marva Preston. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Ausley pulled in 53.3 percent of all votes, to Preston’s 46.6 percent.
The race attracted significant attention and an estimated $2 million in spending on attack ads, mailers and other expenditures by Republican, Democrat and independent campaign committees. The massive escalation in spending largely happened because Republicans believed Ausley might be vulnerable to a concerted effort to sway persuadable Black voters in Leon County to support Preston, who is also Black, and because Democrats believed Ausley could win.
The ads launched against Ausley forced her to weather personal criticisms that included allegations of phony social justice activism and blistering attack ads that focused heavily on the Florida Democratic Party’s use of guaranteed federal loans through the controversial Paycheck Protection Program to bolster Democrat candidate campaigns – including Ausley’s campaign. Ausley denied the allegations and waged a strong grass roots campaign, heavily focused on turning out support in Leon County.
The end result showed that the attacks against Ausley did some damage, but not nearly enough. Ausley won with 99,260 votes to Preston’s 59,866 votes. But Ausley underperformed in Leon County by about 4,100 fewer votes than Joe Biden, who racked up 103,364 votes in the county. Meanwhile, Preston overperformed in the county, exceeding Donald Trump’s 57,384 tally by 2,482 votes.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Ausley issued a statement praising her predecessor, outgoing Democratic State Senator Bill Montford, and thanked voters for electing her:
“Having spent my life in the Big Bend, it is truly an honor that the citizens of Senate District 3 have put their trust in me to serve as their next Senator.”
Ausley’s victory returns her to the Florida legislature, where she previously served as a State Representative, serving 12 years there.