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Sarasota Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 3 months ago

Fundraising, voter turnout highlight enthusiasm behind special election

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House District 72 candidates have outpaced fundraising totals from previous elections.
by: Ryan Butler News Innovation Editor

Recently released fundraising totals and voter turnout figures have reaffirmed the higher-than-average attention being paid to a Florida House of Representatives race.

As the House District 72 special election heads into its final day, Democrat Margaret Good and Republican James Buchanan have both out-fundraised their respective party’s candidates in the 2016 House District 72 election. Another candidate in this year's race, Libertarian Alison Foxall, said she has raised the most money in her party’s history for a campaign for the Florida Legislature.

Good has raised nearly $484,373 for her campaign, compared to $135,544 raised by 2016 Democratic candidate Edward James. Good didn’t begin fundraising until September 2017 for her campaign while James began fundraising in June 2015, nearly 18 months before election day 2016.

Buchanan has outpaced 2016 Republican District 72 candidate Alex Miller, who went on to defeat James with more than 58% of votes cast. Buchanan garnered $353,320 in cash contributions compared to $234,177 for Miller.

Though Foxall is far behind the other two candidates with $30,304 raised, her campaign said this is still the most ever raised by a Libertarian in a Florida House or Senate race. No Libertarian candidate qualified for the 2016 District 72 race. 

As donors have shown their interest in the race, District 72 voters are doing the same leading up the Feb. 13 election.

By 2 p.m. Monday, 27,525 early or absentee voters had their ballots tabulated, making up more than 22% of the district's total electorate. Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner said a typical special election like this one, with no other issues or candidates to draw voters to the polls, would average closer to 15% voter turnout after all ballots were counted.

National figures have also played a role in turning out voters. Earlier this month, Good’s campaign received a public endorsement from former Vice President Joe Biden. Former Maryland governor and presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has also endorsed Good and joined other Florida Democrats in recent days campaigning in the district on her behalf.

Buchanan has also received support from national figures, including Gov. Rick Scott and his father, Vern Buchanan, who represents Sarasota in the U.S. House of Representatives. Last weekend Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, headlined a rally in Sarasota designed to support Buchanan’s race for the state house.  

The 72nd District, which includes Siesta Key, parts of the city of Sarasota and parts of Sarasota County, has more registered Republicans than Democrats or unaffiliated voters and has typically supported GOP candidates in recent elections. However, in this election, there have been nearly equal participation levels from registered voters in both major parties. As of Monday afternoon, 11,965 registered Republicans had their early or absentee votes counted compared to 11,798 registered Democrats.

The race is to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Alex Miller, who resigned on Sept. 1 citing a desire to spend more time with her family and running her business. The winner will be seated in Tallahassee with less than half the 2018 legislative session remaining.

I’m the News Innovation Editor for the Observer Media Group, which means I help report and package stories for our website, including breaking news. I graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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