Margaret Good, Democrat who won Florida House seat in Trump territory, now running for Congress

She’s challenging seven-turn Republican incumbent Vern Buchanan in Sarasota-based congressional district
State House Rep.-elect Margaret Good, right, celebrates her election victory with House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, on Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. (Steve Bousquet  |  Times)
State House Rep.-elect Margaret Good, right, celebrates her election victory with House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, on Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. (Steve Bousquet | Times)
Published July 22, 2019|Updated July 22, 2019

Less than two years after Democrat Margaret Good defeated Republican James Buchanan in a closely watched Florida House race, she has now set her sights on unseating his father.

Good announced Monday she’s running for Congress and will challenge seven-term incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan for his Sarasota-based district.

“I’m not afraid of a tough fight when it’s about doing what is right in this community,” Good said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times shortly after jumping in the race. "Because when you’re motivated to do the work and be the best representative you can, that resonates with people. "

Good captured the attention of the country in 2018 when she defeated the younger Buchanan in a February special election in a Republican-leaning district. Though just a race for a nine-month term in the Florida Legislature, it became a proxy in the national political fight, drawing donors from across the country and high-profile assistance from former Vice President Joe Biden and from President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

RELATED: Democrat wins state House seat in Trump-friendly Sarasota

Good’s victory was seen as a harbinger for the so-called blue wave that ultimately swept dozens of new Democrats into Congress, many in parts of the country President Donald Trump won in 2016, and flipped the House of Representatives.

But that wave crashed in Sarasota, where the elder Buchanan won re-election with nearly 55 percent of the vote despite a strong challenge from Democrat David Shapiro. Democrats had targeted the race in 2018 but in 2020 had appeared more focused on winning the neighboring 15th congressional district, represented by embattled freshman Republican Rep. Ross Spano.

MORE: Ross Spano goes to Washington … under a cloud of controversy

Good, though, proved to be a formidable fundraiser in her 2018 race and when she narrowly won a full-term later that year by about 1,200 votes. Buchanan has $517,000 on hand, though he also still owes himself $250,000 for a loan he made his campaign in last year’s election.

While the race that put her on the map was widely viewed as a referendum on the president, Good said she doesn’t expect that to be the case in 2020. She intends to focus on health care, environmental problems caused by climate change and pushing back on the Trump administration’s advocacy for school vouchers under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

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It’s a playbook that closely mirrors one Democrats successfully deployed in purple districts across the country during the mid-terms. And like many of those Democrats, she’s putting distance between herself and the platform pursued by the more progressive wing of the party.

Good said she supports a government alternative to health insurance often called the “public option,” but not Medicare for all, the nationalized healthcare plan championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and now embraced by many of the presidential contenders. She wants resources to address aging infrastructure and to ready for rising sea levels, but wouldn’t go so far as to get behind the Green New Deal, the progressive plan to fight global warming by aggressively cutting greenhouse gases and phasing out fossil fuels over the next decade.

“If it’s in a three-word slogan then it’s probably not something I support,” Good said. “Getting health care for all Floridians accessible and affordable is more complicated than a few words."

The 16th Congressional District includes parts of Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties.