If the Florida Republican Party had the opportunity to undermine the state's Democratic Party by choosing its leaders, they couldn't have found better people than the Democrats found themselves. The Florida Democratic Party is the worst state party in the country-- yes, worse than Ohio's. Before dawn this morning, Politico ran an eye-popping headline, ‘I’m not a fucking socialist’: Florida Democrats are having a postelection meltdown. Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout noted that the 2020 election in Florida "wasn’t just one bad cycle [but] a tipping point in a long, painful buildup to irrelevancy. After suffering crushing losses from the top of the ballot down, the state party now is mired in a civil war that could have profound consequences for future elections. High hopes for gains in the state Legislature have given way to recriminations and finger-pointing. Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo is almost certain to lose her job, but no one has stepped up to claim her mantle. Prospective 2022 gubernatorial candidates, including state Rep. Anna Eskamani and state Sen. Jason Pizzo, are slinging blame. And redistricting, which could deliver Democrats into another decade of insignificance, is around the corner. Even as Joe Biden heads to the White House, state Democrats know that President Donald Trump did more than just win in Florida. He tripled his 2016 margin and all but stripped Florida of its once-vaunted status as a swing state. His win, a landslide by state presidential standards, was built on record turnout and a Democratic implosion in Miami-Dade County, one of the bluest parts of the state."
Sean Shaw, a former state representative who lost a bid for attorney general in 2018 told Politico that the FDP had "turnout problems, messaging problems, coalitions problems, it’s up and down the board. It’s not one thing that went wrong. Everything went wrong."
Bob Lynch, a candidate for state Rep in one of the Miami-Dade districts the FDP wanted to leave unchallenged, was attacked and smeared, not by the Republicans as much as by a vindictive and loathsome FDP. Today he told me that "The thing that stood out most to me was the deference and in some cases outright fear that the Florida Democratic Party-- both the organization as well as incumbent state Senators and Representatives-- have towards the Republican Party. It became incredibly clear that incumbents were more interested in currying favor,or not angering Republicans, than with supporting Democratic candidates." He pointed right to Gary Farmer the in-coming minority leaders who, famously, tried forcing a progressive Democrat out of her race so as to help a Republican he was having an affair with and who running for the same seat. Bob:
The most egregious example of this, is obviously Senate Minority Leader, Gary Farmer, attempting to bully Rachel Brown into dropping out to make it easier on his GOP “friend.”
But examples of this abound. In my own race, I was told by two high profile incumbents that before they could endorse me they would have to “speak with and check with” my opponent so as to avoid future retaliation.
You can never win with this mindset. Democrats should support each other up and down the ticket. It should not be contingent on which Republican you’re running against.
While calling around the state to garner support And endorsements for my fellow candidates, the first question was always “How much money have they raised?” As if that was the only predictor for their chances to win. Refusing to endorse candidates because you don’t think they have a chance to win is forfeiting the game before taking the field.
The reality is that the 36+ candidates recruited by Dr. Fergie Reíd and Dr. Janelle Christensen did as well, or in many cases, outperformed the candidates the party focused on and funded. Despite having a fraction of the budget. That is undeniable proof that there is a massive amount of waste, corruption, grift, and useless overhead within the Florida Democratic Party.
The whole thing is broken and needs to get fixed fast or 2022 will be even worse than this year. I didn’t see anyone quoted in the Politico article with any ideas on how how to fix things. Just people who all share part of the blame trying to shift it.
Especially the quote from Ruth’s List. They literally told Katherine Norman to drop out of her debate with Joe Gruters because they didn’t think she could do a good enough job and thought it would piss him off. She did a great and they still ignored her. [Katherine actually won 131,491 votes and just over 40% of the vote against one of the most powerful Republicans in Florida-- in a district the FDP didn't want to contest.]
Ruth’s List refusing to back a young woman who was subject to disgusting misogyny and intimidation during her campaign against one of the worst, but most powerful Republicans in the state, sums the entire situation in Florida up perfectly.
A Member of Congress who requested anonymity in return for candor told me that "if you’re running against the worst dictator America has seen in at least a century, it really is feckless to allow the opponents to analogize you to foreign dictators. But nature abhors a vacuum, so if the party doesn’t define itself, then the GOP will be happy to do it for the party."
Dixon and Fineout continued by pointing out that "This year, Florida Democrats had one of the worst performances of any state party in the country. They lost five seats in the state House after expecting to make gains. Three state Senate hopefuls were defeated, and incumbent U.S. Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represented districts in Miami, were unseated... What happens next in Florida could be an early signal of how the Democratic Party’s current progressive-centrist divide plays out in Washington and elsewhere. In interviews, more than 20 Democratic officials, organizers and party leaders throughout the state said the party schism has grown only deeper since Election Day. Would-be gubernatorial candidates have already begun trading fire as they begin to lay the ground to try and defeat Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis... As Trump made the state his official residence and his top political priority for four years, lavishing resources and attention on it, the Democrats again neglected to build an infrastructure for talking to voters outside of campaign season. The Biden campaign chose to forgo voter canvassing in the state because of the coronavirus pandemic. And outside money that the party apparatus couldn’t control sometimes worked against its own candidates. Democrats also failed to counter GOP messaging that branded them as anti-cop and pro-socialism, an expected and effective-- albeit misleading-- message aimed largely at South Florida Hispanic voters.
The aforementioned state Senate candidate Katherine Norman told me that "The Democratic messaging of 'vote blue no matter who' was the exact antithesis to 'keep America great' (again, or whichever). Florida Democrats were obviously counting on Biden‘s turnout here. We were repeatedly hearing vote Biden, and blue down ballot. Clearly Republicans in Florida are not turned on by the idea of voting 'blue.' I personally find the 'vote blue no matter who' messaging to be very vacant, paltry, and antagonistic. Vote for us because we’re not them? Obviously that did not work in a state where people seem to think everything is going great. We’ve seen most citizens uninterested in learning the truth about their respective leaders and more concerned about maintaining the core conservative values they hold. People believe they are voting for freedom when voting red, we must address this. In order for Democrats to gain new Republican voters we have to understand and motivate them based on those values. Attacking them while simultaneously offering nothing but radical changes to 'Flip Florida Blue' gave Republicans exactly what they needed to define some sort of 'progressive' movement that was enough to scare conservative voters into turning out at record levels. Focusing on attacking Trump was obviously ineffectual in Florida. It is time for the Democratic Party to step up and own the incredible opportunity of being so inclusive and diverse and get our messaging together to reflect strategically and comprehensively that Democrats can successfully incorporate conservative values in government."
"Progressives," wrote Dixon and Fineout, "say the Election Day drubbing is proof that centrism and party pandering to corporate donors doesn’t work. 'Systematic change is what we need,' said [Anna] Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat and a leading voice on the left who is considering a run for governor. 'We can’t win more seats unless we lead with values and fight back and challenge corporate interests. Money was not a real problem this cycle, and we still lost.' Centrists, who traditionally have made up the party’s base of power in Florida, say a lurch to the left will decisively doom the party’s chances of taking the governor’s mansion in 2022." That's what Centrists always say and they've been losing in Florida for decades. Democrats haven’t held the governor’s office for more than two decades, and the state legislature has been controlled by the GOP for nearly a quarter-century. Since Obama's 2012 Florida win, Democrats have won just a single statewide race-- out of 12.
Joshua Hicks ran a hopeful and spirited campaign against an entrenched Trumpist in a heavily Republican state legislative district in Nassau County and part of Duval. He did far better than any other Democrat has done in that area in recent times. He should run again. Meanwhile, he told us this morning that "Florida Democrats need to stop allowing ourselves to be defined by the other party. After 20+ years of being in the minority, you’d figure we’d have learned a lesson or two. It’s time for us to stand up for what we believe in and make it crystal clear to the voters. That starts with having a leader as party chair who can effectively communicate our platform to the public. It includes having a party that takes real stances on the policy issues facing Floridians, and having a rapid response operation that actually makes an impact. And we need to fight back with resources-- we need a leader who can fundraise to give Florida Democrats a chance to compete. Time is running out if we want to keep Florida competitive. The time to act is now and it starts by electing a party chair who will invest in down-ballot Democrats by building a bench of future leaders, and as a party, take real stances on the issues that matter to Floridians in small and large counties across this state."
Adam Christensen's congressional district is south west of Hicks' legislative district and they faced many of the same problems from the state party. Christensen did the opposite of what party establishments expect of their candidates-- he ran the most inspiring and exciting congressional campaign in the state.
"It’s clear that the Florida Democratic Party is years away from having a viable solution to the problems it faces," he told me today. "The first of which is admitting they have a problem not only with messaging but with the fundamental and basic infrastructure that is takes to compete. Add on inept leadership at the top and you get the disaster that was the 2020 Democratic Florida election cycle. We not only need 'new' leadership but we need a head of the party that will do whatever it takes to win and make people's live better. Someone who understands how to build a solid base, prioritize investment in the right areas, and counteract bad faith messaging. We need someone who has spent their entire career doing what is effective but not always popular while finding ways to win against the odds in Republican strongholds. We need the best person for the job. We need an Angie Nixon."
Fergie Reid, the 90For90 leader who helped with the candidate recruiting in the districts the FDP had abandoned, sent me this NY Times map and noted this morning that "Much has already been written about the 2020 Florida election results-- recriminations are in abundance, fingers are being pointed, blame is being assigned, and many more 'Dems in Disarray' stories are in editors’ inboxes. Running Democratic state legislative candidates throughout the state worked to activate dormant Democratic voting blocs in Republican areas. Activist Democratic candidates pushed the dialogue in previously ignored Republican geographic regions. Many Dem voters told these candidates how great it was to see a Democrat running in their district. Some of these candidates have already announced their 2022 intentions. When Democrats begin to think more about competing, and sharing their progressivism within their own districts, instead of worrying about what Republicans will say about them or their campaigns, we win. Trump had to work exceedingly hard to win Florida; he rallied in Pensacola, Ocala, the Villages, and Fort Myers-- all Republican strongholds; also, all areas that saw Dem overperformance. Trump was smart to hold rallies in these regions. He won Florida by doing so; he also lost America. That’s reasonable. We can win Florida sooner than later. Register voters all year long, especially 17 to 35 year olds; run Democratic candidates in every contest; this is a winning formula. It’s not rocket science."