Saturday, November 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida turns red with Republican wins

Florida has turned from purple to red. For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans will hold every statewide office assuming Gov. Rick Scott’s narrow lead over incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson holds up in an expected recount. Wins by Scott and former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race complete the Republicans’ complete domination of what was once a swing state. And the biggest winner is President Donald Trump, who carried the state two years ago and campaigned hard for Scott and DeSantis.

Scott and DeSantis won Tuesday by portraying their opponents as too out of touch, too liberal and too flawed to effectively govern. They took slightly different approaches toward Trump, with Scott distancing himself during portions of the campaign and DeSantis warmly embracing the president and his scare tactics. But together they energized just enough Republicans and independent voters to create a long red wall that blocked a modest blue wave of urban Democrats.

Following the successful playbook he used in his two campaigns for governor, Scott invested about $60 million of his personal fortune and stayed on message. He pushed term limits and portrayed Nelson as an ineffective Washington insider who stayed too long. The governor took full credit for the state’s economic recovery, received praise of his leadership during hurricanes and became an election-year environmentalist. He also apparently muted concerns about health care by declaring he would support continuing to require insurers to cover patients with pre-existing conditions.

DeSantis rode his endorsement from Trump to the Governor’s Mansion, narrowly defeating Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. He issued few policy proposals, but he effectively portrayed Gillum as a liberal threat to Florida’s economic recovery and constantly reminded voters of the FBI investigation involving Tallahassee city government. Gillum could never escape that cloud.

The impact of the Republicans continuing to hold the Governor’s Mansion will be far-reaching. DeSantis will support the Legislature’s embrace of tax cuts, deregulation, school choice and free-market approach to health care (forget about Medicaid expansion). He can be expected to appoint three conservatives to the Florida Supreme Court, who will reshape the court for decades. DeSantis will be in charge as Trump runs for re-election in 2020, and he will be in charge when the Legislature redraws legislative and congressional districts in 2022.

Democrats had some smaller victories Tuesday. They picked up two South Florida congressional seats, a state Senate seat in Tampa and five state House seats -- including three in Tampa Bay. But Tuesday reconfirmed they have failed to make inroads in suburban and rural areas, and narrow losses in statewide races are no consolation.

For Republicans, their control of Florida now is virtually complete. They will hold both U.S. Senate seats for the first time in modern history. They will keep the Governor’s Mansion they have held for 20 years. They will continue to hold the three statewide Cabinet offices. They still firmly control the Legislature, and they still have one more U.S. House member than the Democrats.

For Democrats, Tuesday’s election is the final indignity. Nelson apparently was ousted. Gillum’s inspiring bid to become the state’s first African American governor failed. Democrats previously have embraced centrist candidates for governor and lost. Now they have tried a liberal candidate for governor and lost. Except for a few big city mayors, they have nowhere to turn and nowhere to go but up. Who will emerge as the progressive voice to answer the conservative chorus of DeSantis, Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio?

Florida’s government has turned entirely red even as the electorate remains narrowly divided. It’s up to Scott and DeSantis to be consensus-builders rather than partisans and uniters rather than dividers.

Comments
Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Your vote sends a message to our leaders that we value education.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Local referendums cannot make up for Tallahassee’s cuts.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Tampa's Riverwalk continues to grow into its own.This month, the American Planning Association named the linear park along the Hillsborough River through downtown Tampa as the winner of its "People's Choice" award. Part of the association's...
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

St. Petersburg’s proposed 5-cent fee on shopping bags could encourage better consumer habits.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Domestic violence carries a huge price tag in addition to the human toll.
Published: 11/15/18
Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

The Conviction Review Unit follows through on a campaign pledge to review past conviction cases.
Published: 11/14/18
Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott should stop making unfounded claims of voter fraud.
Published: 11/13/18
Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Hillsborough County scored a historic win this month when voters approved a one-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. The $9 billion or more it will generate over the next 30 years should transform mobility across the region and impr...
Published: 11/12/18
Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

The state is taking action to minimize wrong-way crashes
Published: 11/11/18
Updated: 11/12/18
Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Three veterans depart, clearing the way for new faces
Published: 11/09/18
Updated: 11/12/18