Florida Dems plot how to wrest back control of state from DeSantis-led red wave

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Democrats in Florida are plotting how to regain control of what used to be a key battleground state but which has trended Republican for the past few election cycles and now appears to be a solidly red state in the age of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rising star within his party.

The uphill effort comes after Republicans managed, for the first time in the state’s history, to outnumber Democrats in terms of registered voters, and as the Democratic Governor’s Association made a decision earlier this fall not to put many resources into trying to unseat DeSantis next year.

Annette Taddeo, a Democratic state senator who is running to try and unseat DeSantis anyway, told The Associated Press that state party leaders came away from a recent annual strategy confab with a foreboding sense of what lies ahead for them in a Sunshine State completely controlled by the GOP.

“Of course this fight will not be easy, but it’s about so much more than any one of us, and as Florida Democrats, we have lost so many times that donors and pundits have given up on us,” Taddeo told the AP.

However, she said, “I believe and I know we can win if we create the coalition of voters that are needed to win in a state where these decisions are made by 1 percent or less.”

The huge task of beating DeSantis aside, Democrats are facing political headwinds all around the country ahead of the 2022 elections, when the party in the White House — in this case, Democrats — historically lose congressional seats. Also, the party suffered losses in trending-blue Virginia last month and had an unexpectedly difficult time clinging to the governorship in blue New Jersey, while losing seats in blue New York.

As for Florida, Democrats “are confronting a host of disadvantages as they work to rebuild campaign networks and try to reignite excitement in their party,” the AP reported, adding that state Democrats believe big donors and the party’s national wing have essentially written the state off following years of losses.

“In the current state of American politics, and especially in a state with as many major television markets and population centers, you’re going to need more help,” state Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne told the AP. “It’s not as if Floridians can’t be swayed one way or the other. We need more coordination with the national party.”

Despite earlier reports that the DGA has given up on the Sunshine State, a spokesperson told the AP that in reality, the organization is building out its election infrastructure with media buys and investments in messaging in mind. Also, the Democratic National Committee is said to be increasing organization efforts in Florida, the AP added.

“Florida is a competitive battleground in 2022, and the DGA has made defeating DeSantis a priority. That’s why we’ve already started investing in Florida and are working with our candidates to ensure we have what it takes to take on DeSantis next fall,” Marshall Cohen, political director for the DGA, told the newswire.

As for Republicans in the state, the party has done well in recent years. Former President Donald Trump won Florida twice; DeSantis is seen to be on pace to win next year by a bigger margin than he did in 2018; Republicans hold all elected state offices except the Department of Agriculture; and the GOP controls both legislative chambers. Also, the party has aggressively organized at the local level, especially as DeSantis’ popularity soared in response to his ‘light touch’ COVID-19 policies.

“We did not dismantle any operations; to the contrary, we continued to build on them,” Helen Aguirre Ferré, the executive director of the state Republican Party, assured the AP. “The power is from the bottom up. It’s not top-down, and that continues to be our big commitment.”

Despite an infusion of $100 million from billionaire Michael Bloomberg last year, Trump won Florida, the party gained Florida seats in Congress, and expanded their majorities in the state legislature.

Jon Dougherty


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