In a local special election with national implications, former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday is endorsing a Florida House candidate in a swing seat that Democrats hope to win back from Republicans and demonstrate that a blue wave is mounting in the Sunshine State.
“I’m proud to endorse Margaret Good, who gives us a real opportunity to elect a strong Democrat to a critical seat in the Florida House,” Biden said in a written statement by the Good campaign obtained by POLITICO. “Margaret will be a champion in Tallahassee in the fight for affordable healthcare, public education for all our kids, and protecting Florida’s vital coastline.”
In addition to his endorsement, Biden is expected to robocall for Good. She faces Republican James Buchanan — son of Rep. Vern Buchanan — and Libertarian Alison Foxall in the Feb. 13 general election for Florida’s 72nd House District based in Sarasota. The seat became open after newly elected Republican Alex Miller unexpectedly resigned.
Biden aside, the race has already drawn a few national names. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, headlines a Republican get-out-the-vote event next weekend and former Maryland Gov. and 2016 presidential candidate Martin O’Malley headlines a Good fundraiser on Wednesday, according to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Biden’s endorsement of Good is the third he has made in Florida in recent months. In the other two contests, a state Senate special election in Miami and the St. Petersburg mayor’s race, the Democrat won in each despite initial polls and insider opinion favoring the Republican candidates.
The 72nd House District could be the toughest challenge yet for Democrats. Trump carried the district by 4.6 points in 2016. So far, of the 20,617 in-person early votes and vote-by-mail absentee ballots cast in the race, 44 percent were from Republicans and 43 percent from Democrats. Though the actual ballots won’t be tallied until Election Day, the raw numbers of ballots cast by members of the major parties are generally used to gauge the strength of each campaign’s ground game.
And right now, the race looks like a tossup, said Matt Isbell, a Democratic data analyst with MCI Maps.
“It’s easy to see both parties being neck and neck in turnout when Election Day comes thanks to Dem early-vote advantages,” Isbell said in a written statement analyzing the race. “Several 2017 elections showed Democrats outperform on Election Day thanks to enthusiasm and the strong Democratic absentee return rate in this election shows energy is there for Democrats.”
The seat has shifted left and right over the years as well.
While Miller and Trump carried the seat in 2016, Democrat Charlie Crist narrowly edged out Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the district’s boundaries in 2014. Before Miller, the seat was held by tea partier Ray Pilon. Before him, it was held by liberal New College Professor Keith Fitzgerald.
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