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Crist can thank the FCAT for his victory over Davis

Democrats in Florida didn’t have a very good night Tuesday. Sen. Bill Nelson may have trounced Katherine Harris – hardly a surprise, given Harris’ lack of consensus seeking. But in nearly every other race, Democrats in Florida lost.

Nearly every representative being sent – or sent back – to the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida is a Republican. A Republican also beat a Democrat in nearly every seat for the Florida State Senate, and every proposal to expand homestead exemptions (read: tax cuts) was adopted.

The socially conservative – though economically liberal – straw poll asking whether law enforcement in Hillsborough County should crack down on adult-oriented businesses was adopted, though it is not legally binding.

Most notably, Florida will have a Republican governor for the next four years. Charlie Crist has won the Florida governorship, and not by a small margin, either.

For a race in which many thought there was essentially no difference between the candidates, there are two explanations for the large margin that defined Crist’s victory. One possibility is that Republicans expected a likely takeover by Democrats and voted based on party affiliation, and certainly this sort of voter played a role in making Crist’s campaign a success.

However, a more likely explanation is the FCAT.

The FCAT – the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test – was a central point of the debate for both Crist and Jim Davis. Crist tried hard to portray himself as a candidate in the style of Jeb Bush. To that end, he considered the FCAT a vital element in maintaining accountability in education. At the same time, Davis said the FCAT was a weapon used to “punish children, teachers and schools,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

This is not an opinion on the FCAT, however. Whether Crist or Davis were correct in their respective assessments of the FCAT is up for debate. However, it’s easy to tell why Crist’s assessment was more popular – when given a lack of accountability, voters will choose any alternative.

It is easy to make the assumption that Davis was surrendering to the expectations of teacher’s unions at the expense of Florida’s educational system. Davis never detailed a reasonable alternative to the FCAT in a public enough manner to make the voters trust him when it came to education.

As education was one of the prime issues in the race, the conclusion was expected. Davis made a big mistake, and he has paid the price. For Crist – to the victor go the spoils.