Snapshot: Florida Politics in 1979

I am an avid collector or Michael Barone’s Almanac of American Politics series, going back to the 1970s. The fact that Barone has turned his once solid and unrivaled commentary in conservative hack writing in the 2010’s should not detract from his earlier works. Barone still posses an uncanny knowledge today which makes his Almanac worth buying and reading while trying to ignore whatever rubbish he has recently written in the Examiner or spouted on FOX News. Through the years Barone has had various co-authors for the Almanac. In 1980 he was joined by Grant Ujifusa and Douglas Mathews.

In the Almanac of American Politics 1980 (published in 1979),  the authors outline the state of Florida saying the following:

“No Southern State has changed more than Florida over the last generation.”

The book talks extensively as to how Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Sarasota have become like the north. But he discusses that Florida’s apparent move into the Republican column that seemed inevitable in the late 1960s had stalled due to the state’s southern heritage and more liberal northern migration. Prior to the 1960s, almost all northern migration to Florida outside of Miami was by conservatives and Republicans largely from the midwest and places like upstate New York and western Pennsylvania. The 1970s saw a great wave of northeastern migrants, more liberal and Democratic.

The Askew legacy is discussed in great detail as is the campaign that elected his successor Bob Graham. The wild swing of Florida from a 72% Nixon state in 1972 to a 53% Carter state in 1976 is attributed to a southern nominee and the influx of liberal northeast migrant in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area.

The breakdown of elected officials and party registration in Florida was as follows:

Voter Registration:

D – 67%

R -28%

Other – 5%

US Senators:

Lawton Chiles (D)

Dick Stone (D)

Governor: Bob Graham (D)

Lieutenant Governor: Wayne Mixson (D)
Secretary of State: George Firestone (D)
Attorney General: Jim Smith (D)
Treasurer: Bill Gunter (D)
Comptroller: Gerald Lewis (D)
Commissioner of Agriculture: Doyle Conner (D)
Commissioner of Education: Ralph D. Turlington (D)

State Senate:  29 D 11 R

State House:  89 D 31 R

Congressional Delegation (12 D 3 R):

1st:  Earl Hutto (D) of Panama City


3rd: Charlie Bennett (D) of Jacksonville   CHAIRMAN of ETHICS COMMITTEE

4th: Bill Chappell (D) of Ocala

5th: Richard Kelly (R) of Zepherhills

6th:  Bill Young (R) of Seminole

7th:  Sam Gibbons (D) of Tampa

8th:  Andy Ireland (D) of Lakeland

9th: Bill Nelson (D) of Melbourne

10th:  Skip Bafalis (R) of Fort Myers Beach

11th: Dan Mica (D) of West Palm Beach

12th: Ed Stack (D) of Fort Lauderdale

13th: William Lehman (D) of North Miami Beach

14th: Claude Pepper (D) of Miami

15th: Dante Fascell (D) of Miami

13 thoughts on “Snapshot: Florida Politics in 1979”

  1. Fuqua was an old time southern Democrat but he had to vote more liberal because of the possibility of a primary fight because Gainesville and Tallahassee were both in the second at the time and the dem caucus determined committee chairs.

  2. Lewis in Lauderdale

    Ed Stack was interesting. A liberal Republican as Sheriff he switched to Dem and challenged J. Herbert Burke a longtime Republican Congressman from Fort Lauderdale. Burke was teetering on the edge of defeat for a while, a conservative Tribune style Republican who was old Fort Lauderdale but not in touch with the migration.

    Stack crushed him but then lost to E. Clay Shaw who won on Reagan coattails. Shaw got 52% in the district when Reagan got 60% or so.

    Stack was flamboyant and passionate. A great politician.

  3. Palm Beach and Broward were largely Republican in the 1960s and 1970s. Broward began trending away from the GOP in the mid 1970s, electing Ed Stack to Congress and voting for Carter just four years after Nixon won the county by 35 plus points. But then 1980 saw a return to Republican strong performance as Reagan won the county by 20 points and E. Clay Shaw was elected to Congress. But the 1984 and 1986 elections showed Broward to be strongly Dem, running substantially ahead of the rest of the state for losing liberal dems Mondale and Pajcic.

    Palm Beach was more southern than Broward and stayed Dem longer than Broward into the mid 1960s but then also stayed Republican longer into the late 1970s and in some ways into the 1980s. But when it flipped, much like Broward it went all the way.

  4. I’m not sure if he went to jail but he was caught up in the ABSCAM scandal and he quit congress. Interestingly, at this point the Orlando area did not have a resident member of congress as it was split between Kelly’s seat (he was from Pasco) and Nelson (from Brevard). Nelson had flipped the previous Republican seats of Lou Frey and before that Ed Gurney. The Space Coast went Republican in the late 1950s, and Orlando had been Republican since the 1940s. The areas were not terribly southern even then explaining why they trended Republican so early.

  5. It is interesting that I have never noticed this before, but not a single African-American in either the constitutional offices or Congress.