Susan Baird REP 54.04%
Cynthia M. Chestnut* 45.96%
Recent history was made last night in Alachua County. For the first time in over 20 years, a Republican was elected to the Alachua County Commission.
This race is pretty remarkable – a newcomer outs a long standing “dynasty”
Chestnut was first elected in 1987. She has held various offices from City Commission, State Representative, and County Commission. Her son is a current state Rep. (Chuck Chestnut), etc. We are talking a long term, long standing political dynasty here that was knocked off by a Realtor – knocked off by a neophyte.
When things like this happen, everyone looks for the silver bullet of “How did this happen?”
My theory, there is NO ONE silver bullet – only several factors that came together to enable Baird to win:
1) Baird was willing to run. It is no secret that Republicans have a difficult road ahead of them in Alachua County. However, Baird was willing to put herself out there and that should be celebrated.
2) Strong anti-incumbency statement.
3) Sadie Darnell endorsement. Arguably, the most popular elected official in Alachua County crossed party lines and endorsed a Rep over a Dem. THAT took courage, gave Dems permission to for Baird, and got Baird some press.
4) Tea-party – they went out and found some new voters for Baird that don’t typically vote in County Elections.
5) Depressed African American votes – Admittedly, I have not completed my research but at first glance, it appears African American votes were down this cycle.
6) Chestnut did not campaign. For whatever reason, Chestnut did not campaign.
7) Chestnut forgot the constituency that got her elected. Remember when Chestnut ousted a long time incumbent from the County Commission? She won with help from the rural community. She thumbed her nose at them 5 too many times, and they came back at her with vengeance.
8) This election took place in an off-Presidential Year.
9) Depressed Young Voters – student vote was depressed in Alachua County and across the country.
10) Lets not forget Lloyd Bailey dropping out of the race either.
I was talking with some friends last night. Do I think this signals a major realignment in Alachua county politics? No. I think this election was very unique and I am not sure these factors will be present in future elections; HOWEVER, this election does two things for Republicans long term.
This election gives Republicans in Alachua County HOPE and gives them a voice at the table.
Now the hard work begins – Susan Baird will have incredible responsibility and pressure on her as the de facto elected spokesperson for Alachua County Republicans.
If she does well, the party could build upon this victory. If the hope remains, it will lead to better candidate recruitment, increased fundraising, and an upward spiral.
But for just today, stop analyzing it – savor the victory Susan Baird – you made modern history!