Many Republicans ran to succeed Governor Rick Scott, who is running against Bill Nelson for Senate, but the main two were Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Freedom Caucus member Ron DeSantis. Polling varied greatly, though DeSantis rarely trailed. Though the establishment Putnam was far better funded, a Trump endorsement helped DeSantis to a landslide victory in the primary, 56.5% to 36.6%. The Republican Liberty Caucus endorsed Bob White, who finished with only 2% (though DeSantis’s libertarian streaks and higher viability likely pulled much of the vote away from him).
Democrats nominated Andrew Gillum narrowly over a field of six others. Gillum, who garnered 34.3%, supports radically progressive items such as a $15 minimum wage, single-payer health care, and higher corporate tax rates to throw aimlessly at schools. His closest opponent, Gwen Graham, at least had a plan for improving education beyond massive budget increases and teacher raises. CEO and moderate Chris King finished 5th in a field crowded with progressives, earning only 2.5% of the vote. Florida Democrats have very clearly signaled in what direction their party is going.
While Democrats chose self-described “independent voice” Kyrsten Sinema for Senator Jeff Flake’s seat, Republicans chose between establishment Congresswoman Martha McSally and immigration hawks Dr. Kelli Ward and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in this primary. McSally took a majority over the field, finishing with 53% of the vote. Ward, who was likely the most liberty candidate in the field, finished second, and the sheriff pardoned by President Trump finished last, receiving less than 20% of the vote. Sinema could certainly make a convincing case to the state that elected never-Trumper Jeff Flake and longtime “Maverick of the Senate” John McCain (whose seat will not be up for election until 2020). Libertarian activist Adam Kokesh will also be on the ballot.
Democrats nominated moderate, business-friendly David Garcia over social progressive Steve Farley and extreme socialist Kelly Fryer (who claims on her website that “Scarcity is a lie that politicians tell to keep us fighting each other while they pick our pockets”). Garcia got 49% of the vote in the primary and will face incumbent Doug Ducey. Ducey, who handled his own challenger by 40 points, was one of five governors in the country to receive a fiscal “A” from the Cato Institute in 2016. Garcia’s campaign is largely focused on economic investment and education spending. The Libertarian Party will be running Barry Hess.
Republicans in Oklahoma nominated businessman Kevin Stitt over former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in a primary run-off for governor. The primary got ugly at times but was largely separated in policy on education. Term-limited Republican Governor Mary Fallin received a lot of heat on education amidst teacher strikes. She signed a large increase in education spending that Cornett commended but Stitt condemned. The state is fairly red, and it should be a safe general election. Democrat Drew Edmondson won his primary outright earlier. Libertarians nominated Chris Powell in the run-off over Rex Lawhorn, but less than a thousand voters cast a ballot.
FL-6: In DeSantis’s vacated seat, Republicans nominated Michael Waltz over John Ward and Fred Costello, and Democrats nominated Nancy Soderberg over John Upchurch and Stephen Sevigny. Waltz’s priorities are defense and aerospace spending, while Soderberg is primarily focused on education and the environment. Cook rates the seat as likely Republican.
FL-7: Incumbent Democrat Stephanie Murphy easily defeated challenger Chardo Richardson, while Republicans nominated Mike Miller by a 23-point margin over Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois. Murphy has been labeled as a Blue Dog, while Miller is very fiscally conservative, given the Champion for Economic Freedom Award by Americans for Prosperity for his work in the state house in 2016. Cook rates the seat as likely Democrat.
FL-15: Retiring Congressman Dennis Ross’s open seat is rated by Cook as only lean Republican, making it a prime target for Democrats. They nominated moderate Kristen Carlson with 54% of the vote over Andrew Learned and Ray Pena. Republicans nominated Ross Spano over Neil Combee and Sean Harper, among others. Spano will focus on President Trump and conservative issues such as abortion and the Second Amendment as Republicans defend this important seat in the fight for the House majority.
FL-16: Democrats nominated David Shapiro by ten points over Jan Schneider in Florida’s 16th District. Cook rates incumbent Vern Buchanan as vulnerable, giving his seat only a “lean Republican.” Shapiro will look to attack Buchanan especially on health care and the economy in the R+7 district.
FL-18: Incumbent Brian Mast easily defended his seat against two challengers, but Cook expects him to have a tougher general election challenge, giving yet another Florida seat a lean Republican rating. Mast will face DCCC-assisted Lauren Baer, who defeated Pam Keith by 20 points.
FL-26: Democrats chose Debbie Mucarsel-Powell by a wide margin over Demetries Grimes to challenge incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo in another competitive “lean Republican” district. Curbelo is seeking his third term and tends to be more moderate on abortion, immigration, and the environment. He was notably rejected from joining the all-Democrat Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 2017.
FL-27: With the retirement of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republicans need to find a strong candidate to keep the open seat that Cook rates as lean Democrat. Democrats nominated Donna Shalala, a moderate and former Clinton official, in a five-way race where she gathered only 32% of the vote. Republicans nominated Maria Elvira Salazar over eight other candidates, giving her 40.5% of the vote. Clinton won the district by 20 points, so Salazar has her work cut out for her.
AZ-1: Republicans nominated Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers with 43.7% of the vote, just 6 points above Steve Smith, in the First District. Tiffany Shedd finished a distant third. Rogers will be facing incumbent Tom O’Halleran in the likely Democratic district. Rogers, like every Republican in that seat, is fairly good aside from defense spending. There, she seems to be an absolute hawk. Libertarians will field Zhani Doko.
AZ-2: For McSally’s open seat, Democrats nominated Ann Kirkpatrick over the field, and Republican Lea Marquez Peterson defeated three others for the nod. Peterson made a point to boast about the district’s revenue in defense contracts, so it’s safe to assume she won’t do much to advance liberty. Kirkpatrick at least paid lip service to the budget but also advocates typical progressive spending measures. The seat leans Democrat, according to Cook.
AZ-6: Republican David Schweikert looks to defend his seat against a strong challenge from the Democrats, who have targeted his district. Cook rates the seat as likely Republican, but still competitive. The Democratic primary was close, with Anita Malik holding a 400 vote lead over Heather Ross at the time this article was published. AP has yet to call the race, so the article will be updated when that happens.
OK-1: For the open First District in Oklahoma, vacated by now-NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Republicans nominated Kevin Hern by ten points over Tim Harris. Democrats nominated Tim Gilpin, but the seat is safely Republican.
Win at the Door
Young Americans for Liberty’s Win at the Door program endorsed Matt Nye, chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus, in his race for state representative. Unfortunately, Nye fell short of defeating incumbent Thad Altman by a little more than ten points, capping off a poor showing for the RLC. YAL’s record drops to 8-6.
Certainly, this wasn’t the best election day for libertarians, but DeSantis is quite the bright spot.
Read more from Ian Scar on Think Liberty here.