Politics & Government

National Democrats are watching Buchanan’s opponent. Is Margaret Good enough to win?

Editor’s Note: This story, originally published on Aug. 29, 2019, was updated on Sept. 10, 2019, to accurately reflect what it means for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to label a Congressional district as an “offensive battlefield. The DCCC has not endorsed Margaret Good.

National Democrats have once again highlighted the campaign against Rep. Vern Buchanan in the 16th Congressional District as one of its “offensive battlefields.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to get Democrats elected to the U.S. House, says it’s watching state Rep. Margaret Good’s bid to flip the FL-16 to blue very closely. DCCC leaders say they want to capitalize on the party’s progress since last year’s election.

In 2018, David Shapiro, a Sarasota lawyer, fell short in an effort to unseat Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, but in doing so, he came the closest that anyone had since the district was redrawn in 2012. Shapiro earned 45.4 percent of the vote.

Each of Buchanan’s previous Democrat opponents had failed to defeat the seven-term congressman. In a statement, Good argued that she’s the right politician for the district, which encompasses Manatee and parts of Hillsborough and Sarasota counties.

“This campaign is about the people in this district — about healthcare, water quality and good-paying jobs. We want a representative that listens to and works hard for her constituents,” said Good. “That’s the kind of representative I am, and this campaign reflects that work ethic. I welcome everyone and anyone who wants to work for the best interest of the people of our community to join us.”

In a statement provided to the Bradenton Herald, National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Camille Gallo questioned whether Good would accept the DCCC’s assistance in the race.

“Does this mean Margaret Good will denounce all support DCCC tries to give her candidacy? she asked.

Avery Jaffe, a DCCC press secretary, claimed that Buchanan’s time in Congress has been spent fighting for “special interests.”

“Voters across Southwest Florida deserve new leadership that puts people ahead of politics and Vern Buchanan represents the worst of Washington,” he said.

The DCCC’s attention to the FL-16 race has come time and time again, as Democrats have worked to flip the district from red to blue. Max Goodman, an advisor for Buchanan’s campaign, said the organization’s support hasn’t made much of a difference in previous races.

“We’ve seen this movie in the past,” said Goodman, pointing to the DCCC’s previous support for Shapiro and Keith Fitzgerald, a candidate who ran and lost against Buchanan in 2012. The DCCC has not formally announced an endorsement of Good’s campaign.

Manatee County Democrats are also doing everything they can to get Good elected, according to chairwoman Tracy Pratt. Shapiro couldn’t get over the hump, but the momentum he built isn’t going anywhere, she said.

“I think one of the great things about Shapiro’s race was that he was a good candidate who could galvanize voters. We didn’t have the numbers to push him over the line, but that doesn’t mean all the work he did is gone,” said Pratt, who also ran for office in 2018 against state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton.

“It’s really only increasing,” she added. “They laid a strong foundation.”

Good has another edge, as well, with her recent upset victory in a Republican district that Trump won in 2016. She defeated Buchanan’s son James in that race. That history should make a difference in the upcoming election, Pratt argued.

“It speaks to Margaret’s tenacity. She’s a true champion. I’ve never seen a candidate work as hard as she does. She’s such a fighter for her area,” Pratt said.

Manatee County GOP Chairwoman Kathleen King says Republicans are working just as hard to ensure Buchanan gets to keep his seat in Washington.

“We’re not going to take anything for granted,” she said in an interview with the Bradenton Herald. “We’re going to work hard like we always do. Good has an uphill battle.”

Running for federal office is more difficult than running for a state office, said King. Whereas Good’s District 72 seat sits entirely within Sarasota County lines, the 16th Congressional District spans Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties, which calls for a level of name recognition that Good will need to build up significantly before Election Day.

King also highlighted the fact that the DCCC’s involvement hasn’t gotten previous Democrats elected.

“All politics are local. He’s been a target before and it hasn’t helped (Democrats),” she pointed out. “Vern has experience, constituent service and always does what’s best for his district.”

A major focus heading into the 2020 election is a bipartisan push to get new voters registered. It’s a statewide effort that already yielded hundreds of thousands of Florida voters in 2019. In Manatee County, more than 7,500 people have registered to vote this year, according to data from the Florida Division of Elections.

Ryan Callihan is the Bradenton Herald’s County Reporter, covering local government and politics. On the weekends, he also covers breaking news. Ryan is a graduate of USF St. Petersburg.
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