Today on Context Florida: Campaign cash, Gwen Graham, BP money and lessons to learn

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Today on Context Florida:

Political parties, corporate patrons, gazillionaires, dark money groups, and the candidates themselves spent $345 million on the 2014 elections — making it the most expensive in the nation. What did Florida get for all that cash, asks Diane Roberts. Weed drew nearly the 60 percent needed to pass (it’ll get there in two years), while earmarking 33 percent of the documentary stamp tax for buying critical habitat, wetlands and other environmentally sensitive properties, got 1.4 million more voters than Rick Scott.

Gwen Graham’s victory should give Florida Democrats something to think about, says James Call. Campaign appearances in Bay, Jackson, Taylor, Liberty counties and so on were investments that paid off in smaller victory margins for U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, reducing his vote total and enabling Graham’s super majority victory margin in Leon and Gadsden withstand his rural appeal.

Graham beat Southerland to become the first woman elected to the Second Congressional District seat. On a bleak night for Democrats nationwide, Andrew Skerritt notes that Graham’s less-than-3,000-vote margin of victory felt like a landslide. She can thank the voters of Leon County, where she got 31,000 more votes than Southerland. Graham’s race was smaller geographically, but its importance cannot be exaggerated.

Shannon Nickinson says that the third installment of BP money sent to the Pensacola area under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process includes $18,793,500 for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to build a hatchery and research facility at Bruce Beach.

In the wake of mistakes, failures and defeats, Daniel Tilson believes that learning and adaptation opportunities abound. With so much of the underlying disengagement among Democratic and independent non-voters rooted in the assumption that corporate money and influence corrupted both parties, taking a bigger, bolder stand against it in 2013 could only have helped the cause in 2014.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.