After nearly 20-years of all-Republican rule in Florida, people are ready for a change, and our candidates are offering it, says Terrie Rizzo, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.
There’s a lot of talk of the viability of the so-called “Blue Wave,” with experts on both sides saying there is little proof of it, and underestimating the momentum Florida Democrats are seeing in 2018. To them I say, analyze on, because we are organizing, collaborating, mobilizing, and communicating to voters in all 67 counties, working to see not just a blue wave, but a blue tsunami.
The criticism of Florida Democrats is fair; we haven’t elected a Democratic governor in 24 years, we haven’t held the majority in the state House or state Senate in nearly 20, and we haven’t elected a Democrat statewide since 2012. But our hard work and commitment to grassroots organizing has put us on the path to victory.
What our bellwether special election wins have proven is that no Republican is safe in 2018. Senator Annette Taddeo flipped Senate District 40 from red-to-blue by running a strong grass-roots campaign. In House District 72, Representative Margaret Good became the first Democrat to win the seat in over a decade by talking to people in the community about the issues affecting them, about the economy, expanding medicaid, and investing in our public schools.
In the Senate District 31 Special Election, Senator Lori Berman received 75 percent of the vote, which is the highest vote share for a Democrat in over a decade. In House District 114, we were outspent, but not outworked and that’s one of the reasons the better candidate, Representative Javier Fernandez won.
While the Republican party continues to focus on the past, using a message of fear and enlisting Trump campaign officials to stump for its candidates, Democrats are focused on bringing their message of moving Florida forward to every corner of the state. We are talking to voters in places we haven’t in decades, in rural areas that have seen jobs leave and never come back under Republican leadership.
We are continuing to identify seats we can win, and with the help of outside progressive groups we are recruiting the best candidates to run, those who reflect the values of their district and understand the issues facing their community. In some districts, Republicans who haven’t had an opponent ever, are now facing viable challengers.
There is no question that there is a clear enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. Out of the Trump presidency formed wide networks of strong progressive groups like Indivisible and the Women’s March, who are working alongside the Democratic Party to help elect progressive candidates.
In our Democratic clubs across the state we are seeing more engagement than ever before, in places like Seminole County, The Villages, Escambia and in rural counties like Hendry, where they didn’t have Democratic club until we recently started one. Floridians are passionate, energized, and action-oriented this year, eager to stand up against Republican policies in Tallahassee and Washington, and they’re already doing the critical work needed to win in November.
This new energy is putting us in a stronger position to elect Democrats up-and-down the ballot in November.
Last year we started a new position at the party, Community Engagement specialists, who are running community-based field programs empowered by cutting-edge technologies, data and digital tools. We are using this new technology to identify and reach voters we haven’t been in able to in the past.
We are focusing on reaching out to non-party-affiliated voters, registering Democratic voters and enrolling Democrats to vote-by-mail in advance of the 2018 elections, all things we are doing this weekend during our “I Will Vote Day of Action”, with over 38 events being held in 23 counties.
After nearly 20-years of all-Republican rule in Florida, people are ready for a change, and our candidates are offering it. They are talking about creating an economy that works for everyone, investing in our public school system, passing common sense gun laws that will protect our children at school, expanding Medicaid, and ensuring that healthcare is a right, not a privilege here in Florida.
The cause of the Blue Wave may have been failed and divisive policies created by out-of-touch Republican leaders, but it’s endurance will be because Democrats are committed to doing the hard work to take back Florida.