Florida Democrats flip GOP seat, boosting party and humiliating DeSantis

Florida Democrats flip GOP seat, boosting party and humiliating DeSantis

Florida Democrats kicked off the new year with a major victory as businessman and Navy veteran Tom Keen flipped a Republican-held seat in the state House―a development that represents Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second electoral humiliation in the span of 24 hours.

Keen defeated his Republican rival, Osceola County School Board member Erika Booth, 51-49 in Tuesday’s special election for the 35th House District, a constituency in the Orlando suburbs that Joe Biden carried 52-47. The Democrat will succeed Republican Fred Hawkins, whom Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed in June to serve as president of South Florida State College despite lacking any background in higher education.

Republicans will hold an 84-36 supermajority in the state House as well as a similarly lopsided edge in the state Senate, so Keen’s victory won’t jeopardize the party’s iron grip on state government. But Sunshine State Democrats are hoping that this win, which comes less than a year after the party flipped control of the mayor’s office in Jacksonville, will give them another chance to convince Biden’s reelection campaign and other deep-pocketed organizations that this longtime swing state is still winnable.  

Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who stumped for Keen over the weekend, is making the same argument as she tries to persuade national Democrats that her campaign against Republican Sen. Rick Scott is worth investing in. She’s linked the two races in arguing that Floridians “can’t afford to pay their bills” thanks to “the failed policies” that began while Scott was governor.

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