Bullsugar.org voters helped clean water politicians from both parties score impressive victories on Tuesday. Even as sugarcane-funded candidates spent millions to protect key offices for their big donors, water policy influenced nearly every race.
One in particular might still turn on water issues. Matt Caldwell, whose record may be the most directly responsible for this year's toxic blooms, was expected to cruise into the Florida cabinet as commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. He boasted an almost limitess war chest thanks US Sugar and Florida Crystals, and he faced an underfunded political newcomer in Democrat Nikki Fried.
But Caldwell drastically underperformed his fellow Republicans on Tuesday, and even as the media named him Florida's incoming agriculture commissioner the race was heading for an automatic recount. Yesterday it looked like Bullsugar.org voters narrowly missed upsetting a sugar-funded candidate who openly backed polluters and toxic water policy. Today it's looking like you might not have missed at all.
The recount will take weeks. But Caldwell's sugar ties and anti-water legislative record, which already dragged his performance down even below Rick Scott's razor-thin margin, could cost him even more.
In a year when Florida poisoned its coastlines by stockpiling and then dumping massive water reserves for growers, far too few candidates talked openly about the role of sugarcane in the crisis.
On a night when a handful of votes separated winners and losers, how many campaigns second-guessed their decisions not to call out the industry by name? How many state party officials finished the night lining up excuses for letting a special interest off the hook for another toxic algae disaster?
Bullsugar.org voters like you made a difference this week, though. You gave us a wave of politicians who we now need to hold accountable for their clean water promises. But you deserved more from party leadership and from high-profile candidates. You deserved more honesty. You deserved more sugar-free choices.
To the clean water candidates who won this week, congratulations: Comm. Michelle Coldiron (R-Monroe County), Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Florida House, D47), Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Florida House, D78), Rep. Michael Gottlieb (D-Florida House, D98), Rep. Michael Grieco (D-Florida House, D113), Rep. Delores Johnson (D-Florida House, D84), Mayor Teri Johnston (NPA-Key West), Rep. Brian Mast (R-US House, D18), Comm. Sean Mitchell (D-St. Lucie County), Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-US House, D26), Rep. Cindy Polo (D-Florida House D103), Comm. David Rice (R-Monroe County), Rep. Donna Shalala (D-US House, D27), Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Florida House, D49), Rep. David Smith (R-Florida House, D 28), Comm. Marcella Smith (D-Hillsborough County), and Sen. Annette Taddeo (D- Florida Senate, D 40). We’re excited to work with all of you on advancing real solutions to Florida’s water management crises.
To you, our members, and the Bullsugar.org voters across Florida who helped elect candidates committed to getting our water right, we cannot thank you enough. We made great progress on Tuesday. But Florida still has a sugar problem--and together we’re going to fix it.