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Dems flip seat in Florida state special election

The Hill logo The Hill 2/14/2018 Reid Wilson
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Democrats on Tuesday won yet another special election for a state legislative seat once held by a Republican, this time in a battleground seat south of Tampa, Fla.

With all precincts reporting, attorney Margaret Good (D) took 52 percent of the vote, ousting Sarasota real estate agent James Buchanan (R).

President Trump carried the state legislative district by a 5-point margin in 2016. It opened when the incumbent Republican quit to spend more time with her family and building her business.

Good won despite Buchanan's well-known name: His father, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R), owned some of the largest car dealerships in the area. He now represents a district in Congress that includes the legislative seat in which his son ran.

And Buchanan had some outside help, most recently from Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager. Lewandowski held a rally for Buchanan over the weekend near Sarasota, where he warned about Democratic wins in state legislative seats.

Good won support from former Vice President Joe Biden, who recorded an automated call her campaign blasted across the district in the race's final hours.

Steve Schale, a Florida Democratic strategist who ran the state for former President Obama's campaigns, said Good's margin should worry Republicans in the Midwest, because so many voters in the Sarasota area migrated south along Interstate 75.

"Not only did Democratic women really come out, the fact that so many Republicans and independents voted for Good says to me that there is a good chunk of these swing voters who are just frustrated by the direction of the administration, and sent the only message they could," Schale said.

The district is the 17th special election in a Republican-held seat to fall into Democratic hands since Trump was inaugurated. Democrats have portrayed the wins, in states ranging from deep-red Oklahoma and Alabama to swing-purple Wisconsin and Florida, as evidence that their voters are fired up ahead of November's midterm elections.

In some cases, Democrats have dramatically overperformed their typical vote tallies. Last week, Democrats won a state House district in Missouri where Trump won by a 61 percent to 33 percent margin.

Voters in two other deep red state legislative districts headed to the polls Tuesday night. In Oklahoma, a Republican easily won a vacant state Senate seat. In Georgia, no candidate won enough of the vote to prevent a runoff election.

Updated: 9:17 p.m.

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