The “blue wave” that gave the Democratic Party control of the U.S. House of Representatives hit a rock wall in the State of Florida. Bill Nelson, the state’s Democratic U.S. Senator, lost his bid for a fourth term to Rick Scott, the outgoing Republican Governor, albeit by a narrow margin.
A sadder, though equally narrow, loss was handed to Andrew Gillum, Mayor of Tallahassee and Democratic candidate for governor.
His victorious opponent, Republican Ron Desantis, rode his victory on the coattails of President Donald Trump who, though unpopular elsewhere, is liked in red state central and north Florida. Red Republicans retained control of the State Cabinet and both branches of the State Legislature. Not even progressive Broward County could elect Emma Collum, who lost to Chip LaMarca in House District 93.
Though the elections of 2018 were rather dismal for Florida Blue, there were a few victories for state Democrats. Nikki Fried beat Republican Matt Caldwell in a race for Agriculture Commissioner that was even more of a nail bitter than the ones for Senator and Governor. Two Democratic women, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala flipped U.S. House Districts 26 and 27, respectively. Jennifer Webb (District 69) became the first lesbian elected to the State House of Representatives, joining Carlos Guillermo Smith (District 49) and Shevrin Jones (District 101). Several progressive amendments passed, most notably Amendment 4, which will restore voting rights to most convicted felons who served their time.
Even so, Florida Democrats have a long way to go before we regain even a minor amount of power on the State level. Though Florida is almost equally divided, as evidenced by the Senator, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner, Reds still outvote Blues, and it is uncertain that newly-emancipated felons will change this fact.
“Florida has been red as a sunset for well over a decade,” journalist Buddy Nevins wrote in his blog browardbeat.com. “Although there is hope for Democrats on the horizon because of the changing demographics, Florida remains a tough nut for Ds to crack.”
Even Broward County, the center of Blue State Florida, did not produce the percentage of votes that the Villages, the center of Red State Florida, gave GOP candidates. At least the people who run elections in north and central Florida manage to do so with some degree of efficiency, something that Broward’s well-meaning but incompetent Supervisor of Elections, Dr. Brenda Snipes, could never do.
Meanwhile, the City of Wilton Manors, made the news – and history – by electing an all-LGBT City Commission.
Justin Flippen was easily elected Mayor of the Island City, as were Commissioner Gary Resnick, Flippen’s predecessor as Mayor, and Commissioner Paul Rolli. The three men join incumbent Commissioners Julie Carson and Tom Green. This makes Wilton Manors only the second city in the country with an all-LGBT ruling body, after Palm Springs, California.
In a recent column, I called Wilton Manors my “second home,” and that of every other LGBT person in South Florida. Though I regret the election loss of veteran Scott Newton, as true an Ally as ever was, he accomplished much and should retire with dignity. Now is the time for the Island City’s new Mayor and Commissioners to move forward, knowing well that they represent not just their LGBT constituents, but everyone who lives, works and plays in their City.