The elephants in the room liked their odds Tuesday night.
Hovering around two large screens Tuesday night at the Sarasota Hyatt, local Republicans stood nervously and cheered whenever news outlets called a state in favor of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
But they felt especially confident when it came to the race between U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald.
“He’s gonna win,” Longboat Key resident Alycia Craft said.
“He’ll probably win it by 2-1,” said Phyllis Black, president of the Republican Club of Longboat Key, whose husband, Jack, agreed.
“I’d rather be in Vern’s shoes than Keith Fitzgerald’s shoes, just like I’d rather be in Aaron Rodgers’ shoes than Michael Vick’s shoes,” Tom Reed said.
“No problem,” Lee Pokoik said. “The biggest problem was someone kept stealing my signs.”
Sure enough, Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, won his fourth term in the Nov. 6 election with 186,627 votes, or 53.6%, compared to Fitzgerald’s 161,257, or 46.4% votes.
As Sarasota County GOP Chairman Joe Gruters introduced each Republican candidate, the crowd cleared the way. But when Gruters introduced Buchanan, the crowd hovered close to the congressman, applauding him as he joined his family at the podium.
Buchanan reiterated many of the messages on which he campaigned:
He promised to focus on jobs and controlling spending.
“We need to balance our budget just like you do,” he said, drawing cheers.
The cheers grew louder when he talked about taking action against illegal immigration and loudest when he vowed to work toward repealing Obamacare.
“We can’t afford another billion-dollar boondoggle,” he said.
Buchanan was first elected to office in 2006 and serves on the House Ways and Means Committee.
In 2010, Buchanan received 69% of the vote against then Democratic challenger James Golden, for the widest margin of victory in the district in the last 25 years.
Fitzgerald is a New College political science professor who served two terms in the Florida State House from 2006 to 2010.
“The things that make democracy work are the orderly transition of power and respect for the outcome of elections,” he said in a concession speech Tuesday night. “We owe it to our country to honor those traditions. I’d like to congratulate my opponent, Vern Buchanan, on his victory. This is what makes democracy work. It’s our obligation to respect the outcome of elections.”
Speaking of his next step, Fitzgerald said:
“I’ve been at this for seven years, and I think it’s time I take a timeout to spend more time with my family, who has suffered.”
On Longboat Key, voter turnout was 33.1% on Election Day, with 2,069 votes cast.
Click here for a graphic on how Longboat voted.