State Senate special elections don’t generally receive national attention, but yesterday’s race in Florida did. And as the Washington Post reported, it’s Democrats who are celebrating the results.
Democrats continued a streak of special election wins with a victory along the Gulf Coast of Florida on Tuesday, the 36th red-to-blue switch in a state legislative race since the 2016 election.
Democrat Margaret Good triumphed by seven points in the Sarasota-based 72nd District, defeating Republican candidate James Buchanan in an area that backed Donald Trump for president in 2016 by more than four points.
On the surface, this looked like a good race for the GOP. Sarasota tends to be a pretty conservative area; the Republican candidate was the son of a former congressman; this is a district where Democrats were at a significant registration disadvantage; and relatively high-profile GOP surrogates took an interest in the race, including Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.
A pro-Republican super PAC even weighed in, sending direct mail pieces trying to connect the Democratic candidate to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (Remember, this was a state legislative race in Florida, in which Pelosi has literally no relevance.)
Lewandowski warned locals at a rally over the weekend that Democrats are “winning elections in places where they shouldn’t be.” That was certainly the case in Sarasota – and it’s been the case in districts all over the country.
Republican control of the state Senate remains intact, despite yesterday’s results, though the GOP advantage is now just a little smaller.
As we discussed last week, after similar results in Missouri, the typical response from GOP partisans is to focus on the congressional special elections, where Republican candidates have had far more success this year.
It’s a fair point, but I’m still inclined to disagree. There have been five U.S. House special elections so far this year, and Republicans have won four of them (Trump has repeatedly said the GOP went “five for five,” but that’s demonstrably wrong.) And while losing is certainly worse than winning for a party, I continue to take a different lesson from those four races: in each of these contests, Democrats ran first-time candidates in ruby-red districts, and in every instance, these Dems exceeded expectations and forced Republicans to scramble to secure narrow victories.
And then, of course, there was a certain U.S. Senate special election in Alabama, which didn’t exactly go Republicans’ way.
Add this to the 36 state legislative seats in the Trump era that Democrats have flipped from red to blue, and the emerging picture is one that should leave GOP officials feeling pretty anxious.