Jimmy Buffett had fans across the political spectrum, but he supported and lent his talents to help elect Democrats in Florida and elsewhere.
Buffett, who died Friday at age 76, was not a fan of either Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis. He campaigned for the Democrats who ran against both Republicans.
He died in Sag Harbor, on the eastern end of Long Island. After his famous Key West years, Buffett was a longtime part-time resident of Palm Beach, and was still registered to vote there.
Buffett was well known as a singer, songwriter and entrepreneur.
“What is perhaps less known, especially to those outside of Florida, was Buffett was very politically involved. A major environmentalist, Buffett has held concerts and fundraisers for Democratic politicians in Florida since the 1980s,” Matthew Isbell, a Democratic data strategist, wrote Tuesday in his Substack newsletter. “Buffett never hid his politics.”
He was a draw for Democrats.
Days before the 2018 midterm elections, for example, when Trump was in office and DeSantis was seeking his first term as governor, Democrats sought to rally support with a Buffett performance at a campaign rally in West Palm Beach.
Appearing just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Buffett offered an updated version of the song “Come Monday.”
“Come Tuesday, things will change. Come Tuesday, we’re making a change. It’s been two insane years and it’s time to really switch gears,” Buffett sang.
He ab-libbed during “Volcano” that he didn’t want to “land on no Mar-a-Lago.”
And he altered “Margaritaville” to address Rick Scott, then the outgoing Florida governor who three days later won a close election to the U.S. Senate.
“Some people say that there’s a red tide to blame, but I know that it’s all Rick Scott’s fault,” he said speaking about the red tide outbreak that had killed millions of fish.
He was a better entertainer and businessman than political prognosticator. At that pre-election event in West Palm Beach, he told the crowd he was feeling optimistic about Election Day.
“There will be a party Tuesday night,” he said. “I promise.” Besides Scott winning the U.S. Senate race, DeSantis narrowly won his first term as governor.
The day before the 2016 election, Buffett appeared in St. Petersburg on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump. Also at the event was then Vice President Joe Biden.
Mitch Ceasar served for 20 years as chair of the Broward Democratic Party. “I think (Buffett) always had Democratic leanings. But it was cemented by his friendship with Bob Graham. They seemed to be kindred spirits in many ways.”
Buffett was an outspoken environmental activist who founded the “Save the Manatee” Club in 1981. His co-founder was Graham, then the state’s governor and later a U.S. senator.
In 1984, Buffett and Graham appeared together at an annual event in the state capital that brings together journalists and politicians, performing “Wastin’ Away in Tallahasseeville.”
Brian Crowley, a Florida political analyst who as a Tallahassee and South Florida-based journalist spent decades covering the state’s governors, said via text that the performance, Graham dressed like Buffett and Buffett wearing a jacket and tie, was memorable. “They were great together and you could see the fondness they had for one another.”
It is good to remember happy times on this sad day.
Dad and Jimmy took the stage to sing “Wastin’ Away in Tallahasseeville.” Jimmy as Dad. And, Dad as Jimmy. pic.twitter.com/oxRgHFrCwf
— Gwen Graham (@GwenGraham) September 2, 2023
Graham was often at Buffett’s side campaigning for Democrats, including 1998, 2002 and 2004 campaign events in West Palm Beach.
Days before the August 2018 gubernatorial primary, Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band performed before a crowd of 5,000 at the Hollywood Arts Park Amphitheater in Hollywood on behalf of Graham’s daughter.
Gwen Graham narrowly lost the Democratic primary. During her successful 2014 campaign for Congress in north Florida, Buffett performed at a concert for her in Tallahassee.
“The Graham family is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of our longtime family friend Jimmy Buffett. Bob and Jimmy became friends nearly fifty years ago, a relationship borne out of a shared love for this wonderful state that we all call home, which started when Bob and Adele’s daughter Suzanne insisted they go to one of Jimmy’s concerts together,” the family said in a statement.
“The longer Bob and Jimmy worked together, the closer the friendship between our families grew. The Buffett family spent time with the Grahams in Tallahassee, and built a relationship that extended both to issues that Bob worked on in the United States Senate, as well as Gwen’s work in the United States House of Representatives. Jimmy’s impact on environmental issues in Florida can’t be understated,” the Graham family said.
In a White House statement, Biden said Buffett was “a poet of paradise,” describing him as “an American music icon who inspired generations to step back and find the joy in life and in one another.”
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried called Buffett “a true Florida icon.”
Politics notwithstanding, Buffett had Republican fans.
Jimmy Patronis, the elected Florida CFO and DeSantis supporter, posted the lyrics to Buffett’s song “One Particular Harbour” on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
Also on X, state Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, wrote, “Rest in paradise JB. Thank you for so many memorable songs that we celebrate life’s memories with.”
This report contains information from Sun Sentinel archives and The Associated Press.
Anthony Man can be reached at email@example.com, on Facebook @browardpolitics and on Post.news/@browardpolitics.