The Florida Democratic Party and high-level donors would be wise to dedicate resources in HD 50.
By Kaleb Quast
Democrat Sean Ashby nearly pulled off a “David versus Goliath” upset when he almost beat a much better funded Republican in 2012. Yet, that same District 50 seat now looks even friendlier for Ashby in 2016. Since 2012, this Orange and Brevard county-based district has picked up 3,000 more registered Democrats and 7,000 independents, while losing 600 Republicans. With those party trends tilting in Ashby’s favor, and independents leaning Democrat in presidential elections, that’s reason enough for the Florida Democratic Party and top-level donors to focus on this once-Republican stronghold.
But there’s other reasons Ashby’s chances look better than 2012. He likely faces Republican Rene Placensia, who now represents Dist. 49. Yet Plasencia intends to switch districts to find an easier race, something voters likely won’t be too impressed with. In addition, Ashby has been a far more aggressive fundraiser. He’s expected to eclipse his 2012 fundraising total in the first two months of this run, sources say.
Further complicating things for Plasencia, is that he actually endorsed Ashby against Republican Tom Goodson in 2012. It made a little bit of sense at the time: Ashby and Plasencia are both teachers and friends. But that endorsement is going to be tough to explain to GOP primary voters. And George Collins, a potentially self-funding GOP college professor, is rumored to be mulling a run.
Even if Plasencia is able to get through a primary, how will he explain to voters that his friend Ashby no longer has the best ideas and character to serve the district in Tallahassee? Ashby only lost by about 3,000 votes in 2012, despite only fundraising $13,000 to Goodson’s more than $500,000. However, this would be a different race. Plasencia does not live in the district and he endorsed Ashby, plus GOP voter registration is down, and the money race should not be so lopsided.
These factors should all draw the immediate attention of Florida Democratic Party leaders and top-level fundraisers. This might be the most affordable and easy to flip GOP district in the state. Just sayin’.
Kaleb is a senior in the Creative Writing & Journalism program at the University of Central Florida. Quast previously served as an editing intern and writer for the Orlando Weekly in 2014 before joining the East Orlando Post. Kaleb also serves as an editor for UCF’s literary magazine and worked as a staffer for the Florida Democratic Party in the 2014 election cycle. In his spare time, he makes black out astrology and is growing an avocado tree.