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Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz speaks as he introduces former Democratic presidential candidate, Mike Bloomberg during a stop at one of Mr. Bloombergs campaign offices in the Little Havana neighborhood on March 3, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida Democratic Party Blown to Smithereens, Seeking to 'Clean House'

The state's Democratic Party infrastructure under Diaz's leadership has fallen apart at the seams.

Nadia AhmadJames Langford

In a state known for its alligators, hurricanes, and theme parks, Florida remains politically wild and uncharted despite constant development and growth. If the state has swung to a huge right in the 2022 midterm elections, a confluence of factors can swing the political pendulum back with long-term strategic planning and year-round organizing.

If Donald Trump is known for The Art of the Deal, Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz should be remembered for the art of losing—and losing BIG.

The state that gave rise to former President Donald Trump now has an incumbent governor re-elected to his second term in office. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been in the political crosshairs with Trump since his former protege seeks to mount his own Presidential bid.

Yet Trump remains popular with the Republican party base with huge loot of campaign money stashed away. Infighting and bickering between DeSantis and Trump could create an opportunity for Florida Democrats. Trump said of DeSantis: "Ron had low approval, bad polls, and no money, but he said that if I would Endorse [sic] him, he could win. I also fixed his campaign, which had completely fallen apart."

In the same way that Ron DeSantis has emerged as the new leader of the Republican pack, Florida needs a new leader at the helm of the state party. If Donald Trump is known for The Art of the Deal, Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz should be remembered for the art of losing—and losing BIG. The state's Democratic Party infrastructure under Diaz's leadership has fallen apart at the seams. The only way any candidate in Florida can be competitive is to work outside the party system. The more reliant candidates are on the state party, the more likely they will experience frustration and blistering loss.

Winning elections is about the ground game. Local and state party leaders complained of the inability to reach Diaz in critical moments of the election. They also indicated that the state party appeared to be more of an organizational liability with guardrails than a voter mobilization machine. In our time with the Florida Democratic Party, we have observed an uninspiring old guard of party leaders who will discount youth, minorities, LGBTQ, and progressive voices at every turn—left, right, and center. We have also witnessed state parties in Minnesota, Maryland, California, and Illinois that are functional and manage to win elections or stay competitive. We have seen in those states that the party bosses work with communities and grassroots activists rather than shunning them.

Republicans in Florida have managed to master the Democratic playbook to win over voters with a groundswell of support. What the Florida Republicans are doing is no secret when they can bolster their campaigning with gerrymandering and voting restrictions.

RPOF Chairman, state senator Joe Gruters stated, "The Republican Party of Florida has made voter registration a priority over the last several years. The results are overwhelming, as registered Republicans now outnumber registered Democrats by nearly 300,000 voters. We also put together a turn-out machine at the state level, working closely with every county GOP. Tonight's results, bolstered by strong candidates, reflect the fruit of those efforts. Further, voters know they can trust the results because Florida has been a leader in election integrity and rapid results."

The backsliding in Florida is attributable to the catastrophic leadership of Manny Diaz. Bloomberg reported: DeSantis beat challenger Charlie Crist by 1.5 million votes or 46 times the 2018 margin of victory. Senator Marco Rubio upped his county share of the vote by a median of 6.7 points, clinching victory, while Republican House members saw an increase of 6.2 points.

"The State Party needs to clean house. It needs to start with a clean slate of people with a proven track record of success. FDP must start training all Democratic Executive Committees (DECs) and candidates on organizing, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, canvassing, messaging, party building, voter registration, targeting, and GOTV," said Wes Hodge, Orange County Democratic Party Chair.

He added, "We have to go back to the fundamentals and rebuild from the ground up in a manner that is inclusive and respectful of all Democrats."

Nicole Varma, who is an Orlando-based political strategist, echoes these sentiments.

"We need to build a bench of candidates and run candidates for every race, even if deemed unwinnable. More importantly, we cannot leave our candidates high and dry without support. Or we won't be able to recruit candidates no matter how blue the district is," Varma said. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Nadia Ahmad

Nadia Ahmad is a law professor at Barry University School of Law and the author of the article, Climate Cages: Connecting Migration, the Carceral State, Extinction Rebellion, and the Coronavirus through Cicero and 21 Savage.

James Langford

James Langford

James Langford is a board member of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida.

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