William March: Margaret Good confident she can defeat Vern Buchanan

The Sarasota Democrat has three major challenges in her attempt to unseat Buchanan, a six-term GOP congressman.
Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good of Sarasota believes she can unseat six-term GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan in 2020. [Photo courtesy of Margaret Good]
Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good of Sarasota believes she can unseat six-term GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan in 2020. [Photo courtesy of Margaret Good]
Published August 14

In an interview this week, Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good of Sarasota, expressed confidence she can unseat six-term GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan, but stayed on message instead of talking about strategy or details.

“There’s no question that this is going to be a tough fight, but anyone who knows me knows I am not afraid of a tough fight,” Good said.

Health care and water quality were the issues she most emphasized as reasons she’s giving up a likely state House re-election for a tough race against Buchanan. Good said millions of Floridians lack affordable coverage, and that water pollution, a major southwest Florida issue, is a problem with national causes and solutions.

The 16th District they’ll fight over covers Manatee County, Sarasota and southern Hillsborough, including Sun City Center and parts of Fish Hawk, Gibsonton and Riverview.

Good faces three challenges off the bat.

First, Buchanan, a millionaire, can spend his own money heavily if he chooses.

Good, a strong fundraiser, scored an impressive $730,000 to win her legislative seat in a 2018 special election against Buchanan’s son, James Buchanan, drawing national attention. She raised $135,426 in a day after announcing her new campaign and will get help from national fundraising groups, including Emily’s List.

But Vern Buchanan already had $517,066 in cash as of June 30, including $250,000 not yet repaid from $500,000 he loaned his campaign last year.

Second: Good, a Sarasota attorney, has never run in Manatee County, which has 44 percent of the district’s voters, or Hillsborough, with 25 percent.

Buchanan, also from Sarasota, has run repeatedly in Manatee and twice in Hillsborough, winning the Hillsborough part of the district 52-47 percent in 2018.

Asked how she’ll get her name known, she said, “I am going to do like I always do – we’re going to show up, listen to the voters in every single community, Sun City Center, FishHawk, Bradenton. That’s the kind of representative I will be and the kind I already am.”

Third: District 16 leans Republican.

It voted more Republican than the state as a whole in 2018 and went for Donald Trump 53-43 percent in 2016.

Allies point out that Good won her state House district even though it also leans GOP and voted for Trump.

“This district is ready to move forward and we deserve a representative that listens, that’s transparent and accountable,” Good said.

Asked whether national-level Democrats recruited her to run against Buchanan, Good didn’t answer directly, saying, “I decided to run for the seat because I believe the people of southwest Florida need better representation.”

Global warming heats up CD 15 race

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, made headlines last week with a WFLA interview in which he flatly disavowed man-made causes of climate change, saying there is a “push to force people” to believe it, and compared it to the ancient belief in bloodletting as a cure for illness.

That may push the issue to the forefront in Democratic state Rep. Adam Hattersley’s challenge to Spano, in part because of a national organization that helped recruit Hattersley into the race, 314action.org.

314action — its name comes from the first three digits of pi — is an organization that recruits and supports political candidates with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math to run for office. Hattersley is a former nuclear submarine officer and Naval Academy electrical engineering instructor.

After Spano’s interview, 314action sent out news releases bashing Spano and helped organize an event Monday in which about 20 local environmental activists delivered textbooks on climate change to Spano’s Brandon office, including Climate Science for Dummies.

In a news release, Hattersley responded to Spano’s interview: “I’m listening to the experts at the Pentagon who are warning that human-caused climate change is the number one long-term threat to our national security.”

He noted the threat to Florida and said, “I will stand up to career politicians like Ross Spano who won’t even admit that climate change is real.”

Hattersley lists first endorsements

With the possibility of a Tampa-area primary competitor still looming, Adam Hattersley has released the first of what he says will be a number of endorsements by Tampa-area Democrats, including Kristen Carlson, who lost to Spano in 2018.

Besides Carlson, the list is dominated by his legislative colleagues — Sen. Janet Cruz, Reps. Diane Hart, Fentrice Driskell, Susan Valdes and Wengay Newton and former Rep. Sean Shaw — plus Hillsborough Commissioners Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith and Tampa council members Guido Maniscalco and Luis Viera.

But for the congressional race, Hattersley must expand his turf from Tampa and East Hillsborough into Polk and Lake counties. More backing is coming from those places, he said in an interview.

Former Tampa and Sarasota TV news anchor and investigative reporter Alan Cohn has been considering entering the race. Hattersley denied that his quick release of an initial round of endorsers was an attempt to preempt primary competition.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.