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Monday, May 28, 2018
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Richard Corcoran’s role in that Sarasota House seat loss

Congratulations on a strong debate last night, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Dozens of political junkies across the state saw it.

You may have been too busy with Gillum to hear the news, but as you stepped to a podium for that live-streamed sanctuary cities debate, Democrats across Florida and the country were celebrating. They cheered an easy victory by Democrat Margaret Good over Republican James Buchanan in a Sarasota County state House District that had been held by a Republican. Donald Trump won that same district by nearly 5 percentage points.

Margaret Good, center, with House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz and Leader-Designate Kionne McGhee (Courtesy of Florida House Victory)

This raises a question. Who's minding the store? While you're running a long-shot campaign for Florida governor while also leading the Florida House, are your own interests coming at the expense of your fellow House Republicans?

No Republican, probably including Buchanan, is more to blame for the loss than Donald Trump. Let's stipulate that. Not only has the president energized Democrats like never before, but he has apparently turned off enough old-line Republicans (especially women), that thousands of Republican votes went to the Democrat.  Also, you no longer run the Republican House campaign operations. Your successor, Jose Oliva, is supposed to be doing that.

But the buck still stops with you. You're the one setting the agenda in Tallahassee, an agenda that apparently did not appeal much to voters in that Republican-leaning swing district. You could have found time to show the flag, zipped into the northern Sarasota district to knock on some doors on behalf of Buchanan or a token visit with phone bankers in the widely watched special election. Instead, you found time to fly to Vegas to schmooze with donors at a Republican Jewish Coalition conference and to prep for and attend an online debate with Gillum.

Then there is the fundraising question. Maybe no amount of money could have helped push Buchanan over the finish line in this tough political climate. In most election cycles, however, the Republican House campaign operation is not competing with the sitting speaker when raising money. Political organizations have pumped about $2.5 million into your committee – special interest money that otherwise could be going to elect House candidates like Buchanan.

Your House members have donated more than $950,000 to your self-promotion campaign through their political committees – more than $700,000 alone from the next three Republican in line for speaker, Olivia, Paul Renner and Chis Sprowls. Wonder what would happen to a House member's legislative priorities if they declined to contribute to your committee.

It hasn't worked out wonderfully when legislators campaign for statewide office while simultaneously presiding over a legislative chamber. Johnnie Byrd and Mike Haridopolos come to mind. You may prove the exception. But this morning Republicans have one less House seat.

Like it or not, you have some fingerprints on that loss.

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