Mixed Bag for Democrats in State House Races

The biggest story of the night was Chris Dorworth’s potential defeat in HD-29. But the rest of the map contained some good news and bad news for Democrats and a clear indication that the targeting of seats for which we have criticized the Democrats all cycle was flawed.

We have for months advocated the Democrats spend money in HD-63, HD-114, HD-115 and more recently noted how strong a campaign Carl Zimmerman was running in his third attempt to defeat Rep. Peter Nehr. Yet the FDP steered clear of these seats and choose to target four central and southern Pinellas seats and in only one did they have a good candidate (Dwight Dudley). Dudley is a potential superstar, but the other three campaigns were lackluster, and suffered from overly optimistic early projections.

Mark Danish’s victory in HD-63 took place without the party’s direct help and largely on a low budget with volunteers staffing the campaign. I volunteered my time because for this reason, no candidate who had a better chance to win a seat in the entire state was getting as little from the party. The same can be said for Ross Hancock in HD-114 another candidate we strongly advocated and I did my best time permitting to help. As of this morning, Hancock trails Rep. Erik Fresen 51-49, but as the national media has reported lots of Miami-Dade County ballots have yet to be counted. Jefferey “Doc” Solomon in HD-115 also could have won with minimal party help.

Danish’s seat is instructive. When the new redistricting maps were approved, Shawn Harrison was thrown into one of the most difficult seats a Republican with right-wing voting record could be asked to defend. Yet, the party didn’t show a great deal of interest in the seat and Danish relied on volunteers, including old pro Marcia Mann to craft a winning campaign strategy. Other opportunities were lost that we failed to note. In HD-41 Karen Cooper Denzel ran a savvy grassroots oriented campaign that could have been successful with minimal party involvement. John Wood was thrown into a tough district, a seat that Obama and Nelson were always going to run strongly in, yet the FDP showed no interest.

On a positive note the party swept targeted seats in the Orlando area. Linda Stewart will be a truly dynamic House member, the type of activist progressive we yearn for. Joe Saunders, Karen Castor-Dentel and of course Mike Clelland will also be good members.

The party had some great victories but the missed opportunities from last night mean retaking the House, which we felt was attainable by 2016 is now further off in the distance.

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