by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Aaron Bean has seen a lot during his more than two-decade career in Florida politics. The Republican won his first state House campaign during Florida’s razor-tight presidential contest in 2000, and he went on to serve in the legislature under four different GOP governors before his election to the U.S. House last week.
But even a grizzled Sunshine State political veteran such as Bean had not witnessed the level of success his party enjoyed during Tuesday’s midterms. Republicans dominated up and down the ballot, a resounding success that cemented Florida’s transformation from the nation’s premier swing state to a conservative stronghold. “We not only won this election,” Governor Ron DeSantis (R.) said during his victory speech Tuesday night, “we have rewritten the political map.” That rewriting, top party officials and strategists say, is attributable to three primary factors: years of effective and popular governance, an influx of new residents seeking freedom from stringent COVID restrictions, and a large-scale minority voter outreach effort.
“The legislature has been constantly reducing taxes, making it better to open up a business here, increasing school choice, giving more freedom—that’s been going on for 25 years. And then DeSantis just rocked it over the last few years with COVID, giving a clear distinction of Florida versus the rest of the country,” Bean, who won his own congressional race Tuesday by a whopping 21 points, told the Washington Free Beacon. “And I think all of that culminated in the red wave blowing very hard in the state of Florida. So it’s pretty good stuff, man. It’s good to be in the free state of Florida for sure.”
How they turned Florida red is a story of a successful Governor DeSantis, but it’s also thanks to the pandemic. The policies Bean cites have long attracted an influx of new Floridians—even before COVID, Florida routinely led the nation in net migration. The pandemic, however, brought a unique breed of new residents. …