The Volusia-Flagler area’s next representative in Congress will be Republican Michael Waltz.
By late Tuesday, however, it appeared that he would be part of the minority, as Democrats were projected to win control of the U.S. House.
The Army lieutenant colonel and former Green Beret defeated Democrat Nancy Soderberg in each of the four counties the GOP-leaning 6th Congressional District encompasses. It had been considered a close contest with little publicly available polling data, but Waltz took the win with more than 56 percent of the vote and all but one precinct counted.
At a victory party at Stonewood Grill & Tavern in Daytona Beach, Waltz said he got a “gracious” concession call from Soderberg.
“I have a heck of a lot of respect for her service and for stepping into the arena for a country that she believes in,” Waltz said.
Waltz said the economic success of the past two years was the biggest reason for optimism, with unemployment at record lows. He also pledged to “keep America safe,” a goal to which he’s contributed throughout his military career. He’s a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who served in Afghanistan and later as an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney in the George W. Bush White House.
Soderberg has worked has director of a the Public Service Leadership Program at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, while Waltz has previously appeared as a Fox News contributor. Both candidates run international consulting firms.
Despite their shared backgrounds in global security, their campaigns centered more on domestic issues: Jobs and health care.
Neither Waltz nor Soderberg ran with the president as a central issue, but that didn’t keep Trump from getting involved.
Trump tweeted support for Waltz at 1:52 p.m. Tuesday. “He has my Strong Endorsement!” the president wrote.
Waltz, on Facebook, shared the tweet and wrote: “It’s an incredible honor for this soldier to have the support of our Commander in Chief!”
Soderberg, 60, of Crescent Beach, was able to outraise Waltz in campaign cash, while both attracted a lot of outside spending by PACs. Soderberg had topped $3.5 million, and benefited from some $1.6 million in last-weeks spending by the Michael Bloomberg-led Independence USA PAC.
Soderberg repeatedly attacked Waltz over health care in television ads and direct-mail pieces, sharing her story of having once been denied health insurance coverage because of her pre-existing condition, diabetes. She cited Waltz’s support for dismantling the Affordable Care Act in pointing to differences between the two.
Waltz addressed the last-minute attacks in his speech to supporters at Stonewood.
“Liberal outside groups spent more money this last week attacking our campaign and what we believe in … they spent more money in a week than we’ve spent in the entire year,” Waltz said. “And you know what, it came crashing against a red wall.”
Outside polling places
Soderberg stopped to chat with a few residents at Precinct 522 at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Ormond Beach on Tuesday morning, one of 12 stops she had planned.
“I’ve been in this 16 months now, and you can feel independents, Democrats, Republicans all wanting change and to make sure that we protect Social Security, Medicare and we bring down the cost of health care and bring jobs that you can raise a family on,” Soderberg said. “It’s a very powerful day and we’re feeling great about getting across the finish line tonight.”
Later in the day, Waltz greeted folks outside Flagler County’s Precinct 31 at Grand Haven Village Center in Palm Coast, one of several stops he’d planned.
“We’re seeing fantastic turnout on both sides of the aisle, but we seem to be seeing more Republican enthusiasm, which I’m thrilled with, of course,” Waltz said. “But at the end of the day, this is about representing the voters of District 6 in Washington (and seeking answers to) how do we get past all of the infighting and continue to get results?”
Voters in both locations carried with them their own messages after hearing plenty from the candidates.
“For me, it’s the economic message, the fact that our economy is improving and I want to keep improving it. I don’t want to be overtaxing and overburdening local businesses and have us go backwards with the progress we’ve made in the last two years,” said Richard Clark, a conservative, no-party affiliate voter from Palm Coast.
Clark said he supported Republicans like Waltz this year because he supports President Trump’s economic agenda.
“There was no choice for me. They were completely opposite, both of the candidates,” Clark said. “So I voted for Michael Waltz.”
Brenda Martin, who also said she “always” exercises her right to vote, indicated one of her biggest concerns is health care, an issue repeated by the Democratic candidate for Congress, while she also considers the tone heading into the election not evocative of the America she’s known.
“Soderberg was definitely on my list,” Martin said. “I just don’t like all the rhetoric going around from the top.”
Earlier Tuesday, before the votes had been counted, Waltz reflected on his nine-plus-month campaign.
“This is our process and our democracy that I’ve fought for 22 years to defend, and now I’m really honored to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s just been really an honor of my life to be a part of this.”
Congressional District 6 covers portions of four counties. Including all of Volusia and Flagler, it also takes in voters in portions of St. Johns and Lake counties. While Republicans hold a 5 percentage point advantage in voter registrations, well over one quarter of the voters have no party affiliation or are with minor parties.
Originally posted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.