A Florida footnote

In a close election everything matters. Serving as treasurer for Rudy Boschwitz’s 1996 Senate campaign against Paul Wellstone I was treated to a presentation on the Minnesota electorate by the late campaign consultant Arthur Finkelstein. In the course his presentation he mentioned that he had also served as a consultant to former Florida Senator Connie Mack III. Finkelstein attributed Mack’s narrow victory over Buddy McKay in the 1988 election for the Senate seat vacated by Lawton Chiles to the voters who mistakenly preferred Mack to McKay “because she is a woman” or something like that. It served as a sardonic reflection on ill-informed voters.

William Mattox makes an observation that may serve a contrary point in the Wall Street Journal column “‘School-choice moms’ tipped the Florida governor’s race.” Coincidentally, it also derives from a statewide Florida election. Mattox attributes the victory of Ron DeSantis over Andrew Gillum to well-informed black female voters who opted for DeSantis because of his support of Florida’s Step Up For Students school-choice program. He writes:

Believe it or not, Republican Ron DeSantis owes his victory in the Florida gubernatorial election to about 100,000 African-American women who unexpectedly chose him over the black Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum.

Of the roughly 650,000 black women who voted in Florida, 18% chose Mr. DeSantis, according to CNN’s exit poll of 3,108 voters. This exceeded their support for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott (9%), Mr. DeSantis’s performance among black men (8%) and the GOP’s national average among black women (7%).

To be sure, 18% of the black female vote in Florida is equal to less than 2% of the total electorate. But in an election decided by fewer than 40,000 votes, these 100,000 black women proved decisive. Their apparent ticket splitting helps to explain why the Florida governor’s race wasn’t as close as the Florida Senate race, though Mr. Gillum was widely expected to carry Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson to victory on his coattails.

What explains Mr. DeSantis’ surprising support from African-American women? Two words: school choice.

Mattox hopes Republicans will take encouragement for the future in his findings: “The unexpected outcome of the Florida governor’s race should encourage Republicans nationwide to pitch their education agenda to minority voters.” I find encouragement now in the state of knowledge among the voters Mattox focuses on. Read the whole thing here.

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