Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Tom Keen defeats Erika Booth, flips Florida House seat from Republican to Democrat. What to know. (USA Today Network)

Great news.  The shibboleth about Florida being a Republican stronghold is struggling with the new reality. Donna Deegan was elected Jacksonville Mayor last year.  People are more intelligent than Dull Republicans think -- they have used negative campaigning and money bombs for so long they think they are invincible.  Let's prove them wrong. From USA TODAY NETWORK;

Tom Keen defeats Erika Booth, flips Florida House seat from Republican to Democrat. What to know

C. A. Bridges
January 17, 2024

Democrats in Florida got a win in the House.

Despite being wildly outspent in advertising campaign dollars, Orlando Democrat Tom Keen, D-Lake Nona, narrowly won out against Republican opponent Erika Booth in a hotly contested special election for District 35, which represents nearly 180,000 people in Orange and Osceola counties. The seat was previously held by Republican Fred Hawkins, who resigned to become president of South Florida State College. 

"This victory is not just mine; it is OURS!" Keen posted to his election website, keenforfl.com. "It belongs to every single one of you who believed in our vision, stood by our side, and put your trust in our campaign. Together, we have shown the power of unity, determination, and a shared commitment to a better future."

Results for 2024 Special Election Florida house District 35.

“This journey was about bringing positive change to our community, and together we've made a clear statement about the future we want to see,” Keen said in a statement Tuesday night. “Now, the real work begins, and I am more committed than ever to serve and represent each one of you with integrity, passion, and dedication.”

Here's what you need to know.

Who is Tom Keen?

Charles Thomas “Tom” Keen III, 67, a manager at Collins Aerospace, is a former naval Flight Officer and decorated 21-year military veteran. He has a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Cincinnati.

While this is his first political position — he ran for the district in 2022 but narrowly lost the Democratic nomination — he has been active in several veteran service organizations and has served on both the City of Orlando Citizens’ Police Review Board and the Mayor’s Veteran Advisory Council, according to his website. Keen is married to Laura Keen and they have two grown children. They live in the Laureate Park neighborhood of Lake Nona, southeast of Orlando.

How many Democrats are in the Florida House?

Keen is the 36th Democrat in the Florida House, compared to 84 Republicans.

"We saw unprecedented enthusiasm and investment in this special election from all corners of the state, as well as many of our national partners,” Nikki Fried, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party, said in a statement. “We proved that Florida is still worth fighting for, and that a well-organized, well-funded Democratic campaign can still win a swing seat in this state.”

Keen raised $115,386 from all sources for his campaign.

Who is Erika Booth?

Booth, 46, is a former teacher and Osceola County School Board member who won the seat in 2022 but resigned to run for this office. She has twice been named Teacher of the Year at schools where she taught and was a project manager for the Youth Leadership Osceola and Project OPEN programs, serving at-risk youth and adults in the Central Florida community, according to her website bio.

Booth is married to Osceola County Commissioner Ricky Booth and they have three children.

What did Tom Keen campaign on?

Keen campaigned on issues of high property insurance premiums, unaffordable rent and abortion rights, and criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis' culture wars agenda. He was endorsed by the Orlando Sentinel, the Orange County Classroom Teachers, Florida Planned Parenthood PAC, the Florida Leadership Council, VoteVets, state Democratic leaders and more.

Booth avoided media interviews but campaigned with slogans that included “stop the woke mob,” “cancel the woke agenda,” “stop the brainwashing” and “free and fair elections,” Fresh Take Florida reported, along with embracing former President Donald Trump’s “America First” platform. The Orlando Sentinel, in endorsing Keen, noted her lack of response. 

“We’ve had no response to requests to talk about what she believes on state issues, and she still appears confused about what office she’s seeking,” the newspaper's Editorial Board wrote. “Most of her communications have talked more about immigration, border security and other issues that Florida legislators can’t do much about.“

Where is District 35?

House District 35, created in its current form after DeSantis pushed a congressional redistricting plan in 2022, extends from the northern boundary of Orange County to the southern boundary of Osceola County. About three-fourths of the nearly 180,000 voters live in Orange County.

The district is more or less evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and non-party affiliated voters, said Fresh Take Florida's Silas Morgan. Hawkins won the first election in the newly revamped district, defeating his Democrat opponent 55%-45%.

"The district is considered a highly competitive battleground," Morgan said, "whose outcome could signal whether Democrats can flip other swing seats in the November elections." The special election represents a 15-and-one-half point swing toward Democrats from DeSantis’ re-election performance in the district in 2022.

Silas Morgan, of the University of Florida journalism school's Fresh Take Florida, contributed to this report. 

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