Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach
After a brutal and expensive contest, Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs is returning to Tallahassee after edging out GOP opponent Ellyn Bogdanoff in the state’s only battle between two incumbent lawmakers.
With nearly all precincts reporting, Sachs, a former prosecutor from Delray Beach, handily defeated Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, in Palm Beach County, winning more than 56 percent of the county votes. Bogdanoff maintained a lead in Broward County in the newly drawn, Democratic-leaning district.
Speaking to supporters at a Democratic victory party in West Palm Beach Tuesday night, Sachs called her victory a defeat of a political “machine” that “beat up a little guy.”
Instead, she added, “it’s the little guy here who beat them up.”
“And we didn’t do it with money, did we? We didn’t do it with limousines. We didn’t do it with phony TV ads. We didn’t do it with airplane banners. You know how we did it? We did it with people,” she said.
Sachs said the race wasn’t about her and Bogdanoff but “about the power of money of corporate greed and the arrogance of power trying to take over the people.”
Bogdanoff and Sachs were both elected to the Senate two years ago after serving in the state House. After redistricting, both women’s districts were redrawn and they opted to run for the new seat encompassing portions of southern Palm Beach County and northern Broward County.
The race was considered by leaders of both parties the most important legislative contest in the state. A Bogdanoff win would have allow Republicans to maintain a two-thirds majority in the chamber and meant a virtual carte blanche to pass legislation without cooperation from Democrats.
With a price tag estimated at up to $10 million, the District 34 race was one of the most expensive legislative races in Florida. And the contest was highlighted by ugly attacks on both sides with accusations involving limo rides, the Holocaust and abortion.
Sachs threatened to sue the state Republican party over a mailer she said scared Jewish voters. The mailer accused Sachs, whose husband is Jewish and who traveled to Israel with Gov. Rick Scott, of “a political power play” with her vote against the state budget that included funding for the Florida Holocaust Museum and holocaust survivors.
Palm Beach County Republican Party chief Sid Dinerstein also filed an ethics complaint against Sachs last month, accusing Sachs of breaking state law by neglecting to report her legislative salary as income and a Tallahassee condo she owns with her husband on her financial disclosure forms. And the Republican Party of Florida also ran TV ads accusing Sachs of more than $7,000 worth of limo rides without submitting receipts for the state-paid travel.
The Florida Democratic Party paid for ads accusing Bogdanoff of “crimes” including “child abandonment, senior abuse and neglect, plus forcing pregnant women to have ultrasounds,” referring to Bogdanoff’s votes on legislation and the budget.
Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz congratulated Sachs on her win but was unapologetic about the partisan attacks.
“Senator Bogdanoff ran a hard-fought campaign in a district where Republicans are less than one-third of registered voters. The hard work and vigor she displayed on the campaign trail comes second only to the dedication with which she has approached her role in the Senate. I am proud that our Republican Caucus strongly supported Senator Bogdanoff and that many members of our caucus raised resources to help her and came to South Florida to walk door-to-door for her. She will be truly missed in the Senate,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in a statement. “I fully expect Ellyn Bogdanoff to resume her service to the people of Southeast Florida in future years. I congratulate Senator Maria Sachs on her victory and look forward to working across the aisle with her in the days ahead.”
Sachs joins a handful of Democrats who made surprising upsets in legislative races on Tuesday. Democrats ousted incumbent state Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, and nailed down two open seats in GOP-dominated Central Florida. Late Tuesday night, future House Speaker Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, appeared to be leading Democratic opponent by less than 100 votes.