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Note From Chair Terrie Rizzo

Dear Party Leaders, 

It has been an honor to lead Democrats in Florida for the last three years. When I was elected Chair of the Florida Democratic Party in December 2017, just months before the 2018 elections, we were faced with the challenge of rebuilding the party. But with challenge comes opportunity, and we began to chart a bold new path for Democrats in the Sunshine State. 

Beginning in the earliest months of my Chairwomanship in 2018, I quickly hired central staff and organizers across the state with an eye toward diversity. My goal was that our staff would reflect the diversity of the state, and within months our staff became the most diverse in the nation. Black, Caribbean, AAPI, LBGTQ+ and Hispanic Floridians were represented in key positions from Executive Director, Political Director, Party Affairs Director, Communications Director and CFO down to field organizer.

Over the past three years we have righted the ship financially, we eliminated all Party debt, and FDP moved out of our rental and purchased a forever home in Tallahassee which will save the party hundreds of thousands of dollars. We also raised a record $20 million to invest in year-round organizing, registered 100,000 new voters, enrolled another 1.4 million Democrats into vote-by-mail for the first time, and elected more than 300 local Democrats to office and our first statewide Cabinet position in two decades. Even with all of this progress we still made mistakes—but we can learn from them. And although we didn’t get everything right, I believe that we can still celebrate our progress while acknowledging and improving upon our shortcomings. 

I believe the groundwork that has been laid since I was elected three years ago is critical to long-term success and I remain as committed as ever to our mission, but after much thought and with mixed emotions, I will not run for re-election as Chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party. And although I will not continue to serve as Chairwoman, I am confident our efforts will have lasting benefit to Democrats in 2022 and beyond.  

In 2018, we spent our first year focused on rebuilding relationships and coalitions with donors and partners who had lost faith in our direction and our ability to win. And together we were able to rise to the challenge, expanding our power in Tallahassee, in Washington and at the local level.

While we had wins in 2018, we had heartbreaking losses and were not able to secure the Governorship or hold on to our US Senate seat. So once again we got to work, and with the help of thousands, we began laying the groundwork for a multi-cycle plan to take our state back from Republican leaders who have no respect for working Floridians. We traveled the state from the Keys to the Panhandle to work with county parties, elected officials, and partner organizations, attended hundreds of events, and met and worked with so many passionate Democrats committed to our cause.  

Beginning in 2019, we leaned into work that we could achieve in the 2 years before the 2020 election, while prioritizing work that would also help us develop lasting infrastructure. Our focus, driven by the Path to Power commission, included three main goals: expand the electorate with year-round organizing, protect every vote from GOP-led voter suppression, and elect a broad and diverse bench of public servants at the local level to help us build power statewide.  

I’m proud of the fact that the Florida Democratic Party launched a first-in-the-nation year-round voter protection program which successfully protected tens of thousands of eligible voters from un-democratic voter purges, built relationships with Supervisors of Elections to run the first smooth election in our state in decades, and provided a blueprint for Democrats to ensure free and fair elections for decades to come.

When I ran for Chair three years ago, I promised to invest in County Parties, to help give them the resources they needed to win at the local level. As Chairwoman we pumped more than $1.5 million directly into our county and caucus infrastructure by expanding small county grant funding, launching a six figure incentive grant program, and expanding staff support for our local parties with dedicated party affairs and community engagement staff to support every county. But we didn’t stop with investment in the county parties we had—our team worked to expand County Party infrastructure, launching 5 new County Parties—giving Democrats in Levy, Suwannee, Taylor, Columbia, and Madison Counties the infrastructure they need to elect local leaders who represent their values.

With our stronger and more robust County Party infrastructure working to elect local candidates, our team secured funding so that the Florida Democratic Party could invest even more into our Municipal Victory Program. The cutting-edge program focused on training, resourcing and recruiting Democrats at local levels—and was successful in helping recruit the largest number of Democrats to run at the local level in state history. And with a $2 million investment, the Florida Democratic Party was able to help secure more than 300 wins for local Democrats in the past 18 months. Programs like MVP are good investments, because they allow more Democrats to demonstrate the stark differences between Democratic and Republican leadership AND allow us to build a bench of Democrats who will move on to higher office and help us reclaim our state.   

When we drafted our plans to expand the electorate in 2019, nobody knew that a global pandemic was around the corner. We hired organizers in March of 2019 to commit to year-round organizing, and in spite of a pandemic, our multi-million dollar investment in year-round in-person organizing dedicated to voter registration and vote-by-mail successfully laid groundwork for future efforts. Since 2019, the Florida Democratic Party registered more than 100,000 new voters and Democrats enrolled 1.4 million Democrats into vote-by-mail for the first time. Early voter files show that Democrats who were enrolled in vote-by-mail voted at a 91% rate! Expanding the electorate and increasing voter participation and turnout is a recipe for success in future elections and while we did not win in 2020—the path forward is clear.  

We now live in a digital age and while the 2020 election has taught us that in-person relationship building is necessary to win, digital infrastructure is extremely important. In the past two years, the FDP hired staff with coding and development backgrounds to build cutting edge tech tools for our County Parties and candidates. We built SendDem, an in-house SMS and texting tool which allows our local parties and candidates to reach out to voters at one tenth of the cost of market tools, we developed FDP University, an online training program with 200 online courses available for free to candidates and volunteers, and launched Campaign Blueprint, a digital and technology driven program that provides digital and data tools free of charge to candidates and campaign staffers.    

I want to thank each and every Democrat I have met over the past three years, and to the millions who share our values whom I have not yet met, thank you and our work is not yet done. I want to thank our elected leaders and our Party Officers who, even with impossible odds, secure victories for all of us through policy and disciplined and compassionate leadership. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to our County Chairs, Caucus Presidents, Trustees, State Committee and local leadership for the dedication and drive each has to make Florida a better place.

Lastly, I want to thank our outstanding FDP staff. They have worked professionally and around-the-clock to support Democratic efforts. Their creativity, passion and drive to do good and tirelessly carry out the work of the Party inspired me every day, as I know they did to so many of you.  
I am confident we are leaving the next generation of FDP leadership with programs and an infrastructure to build on that will not only serve them well, but will ensure our efforts are successful in 2022, and beyond. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for putting your faith in me to serve as Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. It has been my great privilege and the honor of a lifetime.


Sincerely,

Terrie Rizzo

Chairwoman, Florida Democratic Party

Working To Win

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