Florida Dems Prepare to Choose New Leader as Party Hits Rock Bottom – ‘It’s Going to be a Thankless Job’
Florida Democrats are gearing up to choose a new leader after a years-long catastrophic decline that has sent the party to rock bottom. Party leaders are set to meet in Orlando on Sunday to elect a new state chair, and four candidates have thrown their hats in the ring. The winner, if they can be considered that, will take on one of the most unenviable jobs in the country.
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“For whoever becomes the party chair, it’s not going to be about celebrity. It’s going to be a thankless job,” said former state senator Dwight Bullard in a report by ABC 27 News. “It’s going to be probably one of the most difficult jobs they take on, but baked into that is an opportunity. An opportunity to build without the heavy hand of national influence that Florida has operated under for a long time.”
Since Ron DeSantis’ razor-thin victory over Andrew Gillum in the 2018 gubernatorial race, the Florida Republican Party has exploded to become one of the most dominant in the nation. Today, Republicans control supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature. DeSantis also grew his margin of victory to almost 20 points in 2022.
Four candidates are hoping to take the spot of party chair Manny Diaz, who resigned last month over the colossal defeat suffered by democrats. Those candidates include former Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, former State Senator Annette Taddeo, progressive activist Carolina Ampudia, and Broward Democratic Party Chair Rick Hoye.
Fried, a last-minute entry into the race, previously lost to former governor Charlie Crist in the 2022 democrat primary. Now, she is neck-and-neck with Taddeo at the front of the pack.
“This doesn’t happen overnight. This was 30 years in the making,” Fried said during a debate last week. “We have to start listening once again to the people on the ground.”
“I’m ready to do this job,” Taddeo said. “I know how to do it. I know how to do the fundraising, and it does take money to do the things we want to do.”
Like Fried, Taddeo also took home a loss in 2022, failing to oust Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar from her seat.
“We have lost ground with youth. The entire country, youth came out to vote. We didn’t in Florida. With regard to the Hispanics, there are many things we need to do,” Taddeo said in a report from WESH 2 News. “And we have let the Republicans define us instead of us defining them and defining ourselves.”
Whether the incoming chair can save the Florida Democrat Party remains to be seen. Republicans recently celebrated a 400,000-vote lead in terms of total registered Florida voters. The report showed a massive 700,000 vote swing from 2018 when Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the state by 300,000.
“Freedom is here to stay.” Governor Ron DeSantis wrote at the time of the announcement.
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There are 1,152 votes expected to be cast in the race for the new Democrat Party chair. The winner needs to take home at least 577.
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