If you listen to Republicans, Florida Rep. Keith Fitzgerald was able to get elected the District 69 representative because of a favorable climate for Democrats in the past two elections.
Surprisingly, Fitzgerald agrees.
“I probably had the wind at my back,” he said.
And, when Republicans attribute his two victories to a more moderate district, as opposed to the more traditional GOP stronghold across the rest of Sarasota County, Fitzgerald, again, says there’s something to that argument.
That honesty is what he believes delivers him some moderate Republican votes.
“I’m a pragmatic person,” said Fitzgerald. “I don’t look at issues as an ideological scorecard. I judge bills on their merit.”
Make no mistake, Republicans make up a majority of District 69: 37,293 Republicans to 31,373 Democrats.
But the GOP has had a tough time coming up with a candidate to defeat the Democrat. In 2006, Fitzgerald defeated Laura Benson 51% to 49%, and in 2008, he once again defeated Benson, but widened the gap to 51% to 46%.
Fitzgerald is hoping the same moderate Republicans who helped propel him to those victories give him his third term come Election Day in November.
Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, believes dissatisfaction with Democrats, in Washington, will play a big part in the next election and make Fitzgerald beatable.
“I think Keith was able to capitalize on a bad year for Republicans,” said Gruters. “The climate has changed, and Fitzgerald is going to lose this year.”
Rita Ferrandino, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Sarasota County, believes Fitzgerald’s track record will carry him to victory again.
“I think the reason he has won is that he’s thoughtful and careful in his decision making,” she said. “He’s earned the respect of both sides of the aisle in Tallahassee.”
Will his opponent this year, former County Commissioner Ray Pilon, be able to capitalize on the national discontent with Democrats? That remains to be seen, but Fitzgerald seems confident in his position.
“Any election with an incumbent is a referendum on that incumbent,” he said. “I’m comfortable with my track record.”
Contact Robin Roy at email@example.com
Hometown: Louisville, Ky.
In Sarasota since: 1994
Favorite part of Sarasota: The entire city
Interesting fact: One of the few people in town to meet the real Col. Sanders
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