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Democrats Cause ‘Earthquake’ in Florida With Shock Election Victory

Florida Democrat Tom Keen flipped District 35 in the state house on Tuesday, beating Republican rival Erika Booth by 11,390 votes to 10,800.

Booth conceded defeat in the special election which was caused by Fred Hawkins, formerly the Republican representative for District 35, stepping down from the seat in order to become president of South Florida State College.

The victory is a major boost for Florida Democrats who suffered a dramatic blow during the November 2022 midterm elections, which left Republicans with a supermajority in both the state house and senate. Heather Williams, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, branded the win an “earthquake,” noting the GOP had won the seat in 2022.

“This victory in Florida is an earthquake… Rep-elect Keen’s victory delivers a blow to Florida Republicans—this was a Republican seat that DeSantis won in 2022 and they should’ve had it in the bag,” Williams said.

Tom Keen
Florida Democrat Tom Keen (pictured) defeated Republican rival Erika Booth by 11,390 votes to 10,800 to represent the state’s District 35 in the state house on Tuesday. The result was a blow for Governor Ron DeSantis who is currently running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Tom Keen

With all precincts having reported, Keen was ahead by 11,390 votes against 10,800, according to an analysis of state and county election data from local outlet Fox 35 Orlando.

In an email sent to supporters, Keen, an aerospace engineer, commented: “I am honored and humbled to announce that I am now your State House District 35 Representative!

“This victory is not just mine; it is OURS! 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.”

Booth, who had served on the Osceola County School Board, conceded defeat in a statement on Tuesday night. She said: “First, I want to thank my amazing family, the countless friends, new and old, volunteers and campaign staff that helped propel us to this point.

“Obviously, this is not the result we wanted—but I respect the will of the voters. I congratulate Tom Keen on his win and a race well run.”

Due to Florida election law, Booth had been required to resign her Osceola County School Board seat, which she won in 2022, to run for the state house.

In a statement released after Keen’s victory was confirmed, Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, said the result shows the state “is still worth fighting for” after a string of defeats.

She said: “Florida Democrats rallied behind Tom Keen. We saw unprecedented enthusiasm and investment in this special election from all corners of the state, as well as many of our national partners.

“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.”

According to his campaign website, Keen was in the military for 21 years before going into business in the aerospace training and simulation industry. Booth is a teacher who had vowed to “crack down on illegal aliens” and “fight Joe Biden’s woke agenda” in education.

On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came second in Iowa’s Republican presidential caucus with 21.2 percent of the vote, well behind former President Donald Trump on 51 percent and only just ahead of ex-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley with 19.1 percent.

However, an American Research Group poll published earlier this month put DeSantis in fourth for the New Hampshire Republican primary which takes place on January 23, behind Trump, Haley and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who has since dropped out.

DeSantis built up a strong Republican following by focusing on culture wars issues including a very public feud with Disney, the state’s largest employer, after the company opposed his Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics. This banned discussion in schools about sexual orientation or gender identity, up until a certain grade.