Political Insider: Margaret Good in elite fundraising company

Originally published in the Herald Tribune

Good raised more in the third quarter than all but three other Florida candidates

As a seven-term incumbent who serves in a district with 48,588 more Republicans than Democrats and is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has a number of advantages as he faces off against another Democratic challenger.

Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good, a Sarasota attorney, will need to raise some serious money to get her message out and have a chance at unseating Buchanan, R-Longboat Key.

Democrats have reason to be hopeful after seeing Good’s first fundraising report.

The $450,333 that Good raised in the third quarter of 2019 puts her in elite company among Florida congressional candidates, both challengers and incumbents.

Only one candidate who is challenging an incumbent member of Congress in Florida raised more than Good in the third quarter, according to campaign finance reports released last week.

Good also raised more in the third quarter than all but two incumbent members of Congress from Florida.

Good’s third quarter fundraising haul is the fourth best among all candidates running in Florida’s 27 congressional districts, behind only the $601,002 raised by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, the $501,489 raised by Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and the $454,303 raised by Maria Salazar, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala. Salazar also loaned her campaign $50,000.

Good raised more in the third quarter than Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who is known as a prolific fundraiser and faces a competitive race this year. Crist pulled in $403,030 in the third quarter.

And Good outraised Buchanan in the third quarter by nearly $100,000.

Good’s early fundraising numbers also are unprecedented for a Democrat challenging Buchanan. The $450,333 she raised last quarter is the largest initial fundraising quarter of any Democrat Buchanan has faced.

Christine Jennings, who lost to Buchanan by just 369 votes in 2006, raised $105,498 in her first full fundraising quarter that cycle. Jennings didn’t approach Good’s level of quarterly fundraising until the final months of the 2006 race, at which point money began pouring in. The 2006 race is the closest any Democrat has come to defeating Buchanan.

Jennings challenged Buchanan again the next cycle. She filed to run in July of 2007 and raised $269,275 in the third quarter of 2007, her first quarter in the race.

Democrat David Shapiro, who challenged Buchanan in 2018, raised $250,000 in his first fundraising quarter.

Good’s strong fundraising is a major reason she was able to win a nationally-watched special election in state House District 72 last February. Good then defended the seat in November.

In both races Good raised more than her Republican opponent, which is not an easy task in GOP-leaning Southwest Florida.

Buchanan has raised $1.3 million for his reelection bid and also can dip into his personal wealth if necessary, which means he should have the resources to run a strong race.

Any Democrat who takes him on must raise big money. So far Good is on track to do just that.

Fundraising is just one aspect of campaigning.

Jennings came so close to winning, in part, because she was an appealing candidate who was perceived as a moderate and had deep community connections. She also ran in a wave year for Democrats and benefited from the fact that Buchanan endured a bruising primary.

A lot of factors will have to come together for Good to truly be competitive in a GOP-leaning seat, but without money she doesn’t have much of a chance.

Buchanan taps Goodman as campaign manager

The 2018 election cycle was expected to be a tough one for Buchanan.

The congressman was grappling with political headwinds that were unfavorable for the GOP and facing off against an opponent who was raising big money.

But Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, ended up trouncing Democrat David Shapiro by 10 percentage points and bucking the blue wave that put Democrats in control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

So it is no surprise that, facing another tough reelection fight, Buchanan is sticking with the campaign manager who helped him notch a commanding victory last year.

Max Goodman will manage Buchanan’s 2020 campaign, giving Buchanan a veteran presence at the helm of his campaign and someone who knows the Southwest Florida political landscape well.

“We’re thrilled to have Max back again to run the campaign,” Buchanan said. “He’s a talented and respected professional who understands the district and needs of our communities and oversaw our 33,000-vote win last year against David Shapiro.”

Goodman, 36, was the first person Buchanan hired when he first ran for Congress in 2006. He started as a travel aide, became deputy field director and moved to Washington D.C. to work in his congressional office.

In 2015 Goodman left Buchanan’s office to work as the political director, and later campaign manager, for former U.S. Rep. David Jolly’s U.S. Senate campaign. Jolly dropped out of the Senate race after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for reelection and Goodman then worked on Jolly’s unsuccessful bid to hold onto his House seat, which had been redrawn to make it Democratic-leaning.

“Unquestionably I think Max is the best in the business in the state of Florida and the reason why is in the campaign industry there are lots of capable consultants but there are very few warriors, and Goodman’s a warrior,” Jolly said, adding: “He wakes up and goes to war every day. He’s in the trenches. He takes it personally.”

After the 2016 election cycle Goodman ended up back with Buchanan, guiding him to a comfortable win last year despite Shapiro raising more than $2 million.

Goodman has a political pedigree. His father Bob Goodman, who died last year at the age of 90, crafted campaign ads for a wide array of leading political figures, including former Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President George H.W. Bush. His brother also is a well-known political ad maker.

A native of Baltimore, Goodman attended Franklin and Marshall College and was the play-by-play announcer for the school’s football team before going to work for Buchanan after graduation. His footprint in Southwest Florida politics has grown since the 2018 election.

Over the last year Goodman has done political consulting for Sarasota state House candidate Fiona McFarland and Sarasota state Sen. Joe Gruters. But his political career has largely been tied to Buchanan, and he relishes the opportunity to help the congressman try and hold onto his seat.

“Vern is the same guy today as he was the first time I sat across from him — honest, hardworking, and hell-bent on improving the lives of others,” Goodman said. “It’s why his favorability continues to grow despite so much polarization in this country. That’s the kind of person I’ll go to bat for any day of the week.”

Buchanan splits with Trump on Syria

Buchanan joined in a bipartisan rebuke of President Donald Trump last week over his decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria.

Shortly after Trump’s decision, Turkey attacked Kurdish forces in Syria that had been allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

“Congress needed to send a message to Turkey’s president Erdogan that he made a huge mistake by attacking the Kurds, our allies in the fight against ISIS,” Buchanan said in a statement. “President Trump was right to impose economic sanctions against Turkey and demand an immediate end to its military offensive.”

Trump’s troop withdrawal has been heavily criticized by leaders in both parties. The House voted 354 to 60 in favor of House Joint Resolution 77 declaring that “an abrupt withdrawal of United States military personnel from certain parts of Northeast Syria is beneficial to adversaries of the United States government, including Syria, Iran and Russia.”

But while many Republicans have criticized the president over Syria, U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, said Trump made the right decision. Steube opposed H.J.R. 77.

“I voted against H. Res. 77 because I share President Trump’s goal of ending the endless wars in the Middle East,” Steube said in a statement. “As a veteran who served in Iraq, I understand the cost of war. Our brave warriors completed the mission in Syria of defeating ISIS and bringing down the caliphate. Now, it is time for us to bring our brothers and sisters in arms home and let those in the region deal with their ongoing security.”