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Let's Talk About The FL HD 35 Special Election

David Washington

In the aftermath of the House District 35 special election, spanning East Orange and East Osceola Counties, the results left us genuinely surprised. First and foremost, a hearty congratulations to Tom Keen, the Democratic nominee for the general election in January. Tom, your victory is well-earned, and we anticipate you'll knock their socks off come January. Best of luck!

Now, turning our attention to Tom, it seems this election appeared to have been his political swan song. With a history of running for office and losing, this campaign marked a departure from his usual aggressive stance. Despite initial perceptions of low energy, Tom defied expectations. The Orlando Sentinel endorsement, somewhat of a backhanded nod to opponent Marucci Guzman, placed Tom initially as an "also-ran," but he emerged victorious. Yes, Tom did it!

His success lay in connecting with an older electorate, a reliable voting bloc familiar with his name. Votes spread across both counties, with a notable domination in Osceola County, particularly in the suburbs of St Cloud and Narcoossee. Tom executed his strategy, working both parts of the district, and it paid off with a win by approximately 42 votes.

Now, let's shift our focus to Marucci Guzman. From the get-go, her husband, and former Republican state Representative, Rene "Coach P" Plasencia, was intimately involved in her campaign, with significant support from the Guzman-Plasencia family. However, anecdotal evidence suggests Marucci failed to spark excitement, coming across as disengaged and somewhat off-putting during public appearances. Despite endorsements, particularly from outside the district, her campaign faced challenges.

The widespread support from state elected officials raised eyebrows, considering Guzman's alleged lack of engagement with the local Democratic party. The endorsements seemed to echo a familiar tune of political elitism, disappointing to longtime Democrats and newcomers alike. The lack of acknowledgment for individuals like Tom Keen, who actively contributed to the local Democratic party, raises questions about the underlying motivations of these endorsements.

Moving forward, we must address the disappointment surrounding the vetting process. Guzman's recent registration as a Republican in 2016 and her proximity to Republican values and campaign tactics should have been taken into account. As we gear up for the January 2024 special general election, where the Democrats trail in turnout compared to Republicans, there's an urgent need for strategic planning and stronger engagement.

As we reflect on the Rishi Bagga campaign, disappointment looms over the outcome. Despite confidence in a close victory, the numbers, particularly in East Osceola County, stand out. A deficit of over a hundred votes in that region underscores a missed opportunity and a need for a stronger Osceola County strategy. 

In conclusion, the House District 35 saga has laid bare the challenges that the Democrats face. With the January 2024 election on the horizon, Democrats face a daunting task of sustaining the ‘Jacksonville momentum’ during the holidays. As Democrats navigate the aftermath and prepare for this next chapter, one thing remains clear – the road ahead is fraught with obstacles, but with strategic planning and akeenunderstanding of the electorate, victory remains within reach.

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