Tracking Dem Performance Changes From 1994 to 2010

The Democrats last won a Governor’s election in 1994, which was a historically bad year for Democrats on the national level. The next three Governor’s races in better Democratic years (relatively speaking in the case of 2002) were landslide Republican victories but in 2010, a horrible Democratic year, Alex Sink almost won the Governorship. What is particularly interesting in comparing these two races is how shifts at the county level took place. The Democrats performed almost across the board better in what term “metropolitan” counties in 2010 than in 1994. The one exception to this rule is Palm Beach which turned heavily Democratic before the other former “Republican horseshoe” counties thanks to a large Jewish-American influx in the 1980s and has stayed at about the same performance numbers since.

Alex Sink won six of Florida’s seven “metropolitan” counties and the one she didn’t win, Duval (Jacksonville) has developed a clear trend line towards the Democrats in the last decade. However, the situation in  the large & medium sized counties is dramatically different and is a clear reflection of the unwillingness of the Florida Democratic Party to build a field network and infrastructure in these counties despite the best effort of some operatives (myself included) to stress the importance of these areas.

The growth of the Villages and surrounding areas has placed Lake, Marion, and Sumter County out of the reach of the Democrats. At the same time, the party has seemingly been unaware of the opportunities presented by new residents in Pasco, Hernando, Western Polk and Eastern Hillsborough counties. The residual effects of leaving legislative race after legislative race unopposed in the outlying areas of the Tampa Bay media market have been felt at the top of the ticket the last several election cycles, as new residents have no history voting for Florida Democrats.

Volusia County was once the most reliable county for progressive candidates outside of Southeast Florida or college/activist dominated Alachua and Leon counties. However, the trend line in a county that has half a million residents is unfavorable to the party. Brevard County, long Republican has moved even more significantly away from the Democrats in the last two decades. The Democrats also have not taken full advantage of changing attitudes and demographics in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, and has essentially decided not to compete south of Venice along the west coast, meaning booming Northport, Port Charlotte and Cape Coral see very little attempt at organization from the state party.

In rural north Florida with the exception of Union County whose strong swing in 2010 can be attributed to Rod Smith being on the Democratic ticket, the trend is highly unfavorable to Democrats. In fact, the Democratic decline in counties west and southwest of Tallahassee is painfully evident in these numbers. While rural counties such as Franklin, Calhoun and Gulf do not matter in the larger scheme of things, Bay and Santa Rosa do have enough voters where a decline in Democratic performance does matter in the statewide picture.

The bottom line is that trends favor the Democrats in urban areas but that large and medium sized counties are trending the other way even at the Presidential level. Pasco and Hernando both voted for Al Gore in 2000 but for John McCain in 2008. In direct contrast, Orange County voted for Bob Dole in 1996 against Bill Clinton but was won by Obama 60%-40% (two party vote), a nearly unprecedented reversal for an urban county in favor of the Democrats in modern Florida history. Keep in mind Clinton beat Dole by almost seven points statewide while Obama beat McCain by just three.

Definitions of county size for the below chart

Metropolitan – over 750,000 population

Large – Between 450,000 and 750,000

Medium- Between 90,000 and 450,000

Small- Below 90,000

NOTE: These percentages are TWO PARTY VOTE ONLY and do not include votes cast for third party or write-in candidates.

County Chiles Bush Sink Scott D % swing County Size
Alachua 61 39 61 39 0 Medium
Baker 31 69 36 65 5 Small
Bay 44 56 30 70 -14 Medium
Bradford 37 63 38 62 1 Small
Brevard 46 54 43 57 -3 Large
Broward 65 35 66 34 1 Metropolitan
Calhoun 51 49 46 54 -5 Small
Charlotte 46 54 43 57 -3 Medium
Citrus 49 51 42 58 -7 Medium
Clay 29 71 28 72 -1 Medium
Collier 39 61 33 67 -6 Medium
Columbia 42 58 39 61 -3 Small
Desoto 46 54 44 56 -2 Small
Dixie 50 50 43 57 -7 Small
Duval 41 59 47 53 6 Metropolitan
Escambia 42 58 40 60 -2 Medium
Flagler 53 47 55 45 2 Medium
Franklin 66 34 50 50 -16 Small
Gadsden 69 31 74 26 5 Small
Gilchrist 47 53 35 65 -12 Small
Glades 51 49 41 49 -8 Small
Gulf 57 43 37 63 -20 Small
Hamilton 51 49 49 51 -2 Small
Hardee 50 50 38 62 -12 Small
Hendry 44 56 44 56 0 Small
Hernando 51 49 45 55 -6 Medium
Highlands 46 54 40 60 -6 Medium
Hillsborough 49 51 52 48 3 Metropolitan
Holmes 42 58 28 72 -14 Small
Indian River 44 56 39 61 -5 Medium
Jackson 47 53 47 53 0 Small
Jefferson 62 38 59 41 -3 Small
Lafayette 45 55 42 58 -3 Small
Lake 49 51 41 59 -8 Medium
Lee 44 56 38 62 -6 Large
Leon 63 37 68 32 5 Medium
Levy 51 49 39 61 -12 Small
Liberty 48 52 51 49 3 Small
Madison 54 46 54 46 0 Small
Manatee 46 54 43 57 -3 Medium
Marion 44 56 44 56 0 Medium
Martin 45 55 42 58 -3 Medium
Miami-Dade 52 48 57 43 5 Metropolitan
Monroe 57 43 50 50 -7 Small
Nassau 35 65 29 71 -6 Small
Okaloosa 34 66 26 74 -8 Medium
Okeechobee 49 51 43 57 -6 Small
Orange 48 52 56 44 8 Metropolitan
Osceola 45 55 52 48 7 Medium
Palm Beach 62 38 60 40 -2 Metropolitan
Pasco 52 48 45 55 -7 Large
Pinellas 51 49 53 47 2 Metropolitan
Polk 47 53 44 56 -3 Large
Putnam 48 52 40 60 -8 Small
Santa Rosa 37 63 26 74 -11 Medium
Sarasota 47 53 48 52 1 Medium
Seminole 43 57 47 53 4 Medium
St. Johns 37 63 34 66 -3 Medium
St. Lucie 51 49 53 47 2 Medium
Sumter 51 49 35 65 -16 Medium
Suwannee 43 57 34 66 -9 Small
Taylor 49 51 38 62 -11 Small
Union 29 71 49 51 20 Small
Volusia 53 47 49 51 -4 Large
Wakulla 60 40 48 52 -12 Small
Walton 44 56 28 72 -16 Small
Washington 48 52 25 75 -23 Small
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13 thoughts on “Tracking Dem Performance Changes From 1994 to 2010

  1. Again a clear example of the consequences of not campaigning in north Florida and devoting serious effort to the grassroots.

    How much more evidence does everyone need to see how the lack of attention to North Florida has killed the party?

  2. Again, I’d love for us to win North Florida but the loses there have been more than offset by victory in Orange, better performance in Miami-Dade and Duval and higher turnout in Palm Beach and Broward which provide greater numbers even if percentages are roughly the same. Rural north Florida is the lowest priority electorally in the state. We need to focus on continued urban success, and then Pasco and Volusia type counties.

  3. Good analysis

    Volusia is particular is worrying.

    What has happened there???

    Unions used to be stronger there than anywhere in the state except Broward.

  4. It’s pretty clear Democrat organizational efforts need to be concentrated in where the greatest number of potential favorable votes are located. It makes much more sense to go after 10,000 more votes in large and metropolitan counties than it does 100 votes each in 30 rural north Florida counties. As has been said numerous times before…..it’s simply a matter of arithmetic!

  5. Excellent analysis. I think long term trends certainly favor the Ds if we can finally show some competence at the state level.

  6. Excellent analysis and study. Your conclusions are pretty much on the mark.

    One piece of info missing though is that if you take the Orlando area out of it, the actual Democratic share of the vote along the I-4 corridor is declining. Volusia is getting worse, Pasco/Hernando terrible and Hillsborough spiked for the one election but will probably go back to the GOP because of the growth in the Brandon/Riverview area.

    So the Tampa Bay area is not really moving in our direction. Gains in Pinellas are being offset in Hillsbrough and Pasco/Hernando.

    Sarasota and Manatee have not moved the way we thought they would either. That is more the fault of the party than anything because those places have changed for sure in the last 15 years.

  7. The problem in Sarasota is the FDP has hardly ever made an effort to cultivate new voters. The opportunity is ripe to flip the county. It has been for twenty years, yet we are always fearful of really working in difficult areas.

  8. Those counties probably combined have less votes than any individual county called “metro” here. So a total waste they are. We need to focus on the medium size counties where it seems we are being trounced.

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