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Good wins special election in House District 72

Democrats take control of House District 72 after losing the seat by nearly 17 points in 2016.

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  • | 7:30 p.m. February 13, 2018
Margaret Good celebrates with supporters in Sarasota Tuesday after her win in the District 72 special election.
Margaret Good celebrates with supporters in Sarasota Tuesday after her win in the District 72 special election.
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Democrat Margaret Good won the Florida House of Representatives District 72 special election on Tuesday, taking a seat that's long been in GOP control and capping a campaign that attracted national attention and stronger-than-average voter turnout.

Good heads to Tallahassee to take her seat with less than half the 2018 legislative session remaining.  She plans to take her seat and join the session Wednesday. 

"We won for the people who, like me, have had it with our state government and want to see some change," Good told supporters Tuesday night at an election night party. "With this win, we're saying 'enough has been enough'."

Good, a Sarasota lawyer and first-time candidate, secured 52.17% of the vote. Republican James Buchanan finished second with 44.8% and Libertarian Alison Foxall finished third with 3%. 

Good's edge came from widespread support throughout the district, carrying all but four voting precincts: 427 in the Osprey area; 411 in central Siesta Key; 223 near the north bridge to Siesta Key and 131 in the Oakwood Manor neighborhood east of downtown.

Running a campaign prioritizing environmental protections, Good touted plans to combat climate change and better prepare the region in case of another storm such as Hurricane Irma. She also stressed commitments to funding public schools, health care and workforce development.

"Tonight we have proven what can happen when a group of committed, engaged people unite for a common purpose," Good said. 

Good's appeals worked in what polls projected would be a closer-than-average race in a district that has more registered Republicans than Democrats and has regularly supported GOP candidates in recent elections. The 72nd district has elected Republicans in every election since redistricting following the 2010 election moved the district from Charlotte, DeSoto and Lee counties into Sarasota County. 

Good pulled out the seven-point win over Buchanan, also a first-time candidate, underscoring a major shift in voter preferences less than two years after the seat was last contested. Former Republican Rep. Alex Miller, who resigned the seat on Sept. 1 of last year saying she wanted to spend more time with her family and running her business, won the same district by nearly 17 points in 2016.  

"I think we ran a great campaign and we left everything out in the field and I'm proud of the campaign we ran," Buchanan said Tuesday night. "We had historic turnout and I want to congratulate Margaret Good."

Joe Gruters, the Sarasota County chair of the Republican Party, released a statement early Wednesday congratulating Good and Buchanan for their campaigns.

"But let's be clear,'' the statement said. "Democrats nationally have been whipped up in every special race since the historic election of President Donald Trump in November 2016. But we've seen this even more as the Republican agenda in Washington has been increasingly successful with tax cuts, a roaring economy, excellent judge appointments and so on."

Without any other offices or issues on the ballot, the special election received stronger-than-average attention from Sarasota voters and outside groups.  

In the days leading up to the election, Buchanan campaigned alongside Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump's former campaign chair, while Good was joined by former Maryland governor and 2016 presidential candidate Martin O'Malley.

Good also received public endorsements from high-profile Democrats including former Vice President Joe Biden. Buchanan received support from national figures as well, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The duo also outpaced the fundraising totals of their counterparts in the 2016 election. Good raised nearly $484,373 for her campaign, compared to $135,544 raised by 2016 Democratic candidate Edward James while Buchanan garnered $353,320 in contributions compared to $234,177 for Miller. Foxall set the all-time record for a Libertarian candidate running for the Florida Legislature with $30,304 raised. 

This interest carried over to the ballot box. More than 44,000 voters were cast, representing 36% of the total electorate. Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner said a typical special election for a house seat would garner about 15% of eligible voters.


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