The Florida Democratic Party made a big move at the top of its leadership Monday, announcing that it has hired Juan Peñalosa to be its new executive director.
In a release announcing his hire, the party touted Peñalosa's work on recent political campaigns and his background as a grassroots activist.
"Juan's experience as a grassroots organizer, as a communicator and a leader has helped candidates and communities win in Florida and will be extremely valuable as we gear up for critical elections in 2018 and beyond," Party Chair Terrie Rizzo said in the release.
Peñalosa zeroed in on the economy in a statement from the same release.
"We know what happens when Democrats don't win, because we are bearing witness to a Rick Scott and GOP led economy where more than half of the state's 67 counties are in recession," Peñalosa said.
That kind of messaging from the person who has just been tapped to run the party's daily operations could foreshadow Democrats' pitch to voters in 2018.
Read the Democrats' full release on Peñalosa here:
Veteran progressive activist and Democratic operative Juan Peñalosa will take the reins of the Florida Democratic Party as Executive Director, putting him in charge of the Party's day-to-day operations, as he works with newly-elected Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo to oversee the Party's rebuilding project in efforts to turn Florida blue.
Juan comes to FDP after serving as a communications specialist and strategist for some of the largest progressive and Democratic campaigns across the US. The announcement is the latest transition update under the leadership of new FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo. The FDP is focused on strengthening the organization, growing collaboration with progressive partners, serving Florida families and implementing a 67-county strategy for turning Florida blue.
"Juan came up from the grassroots and has worked in the trenches to ensure our government and our communities work better for Florida's families. He has held key leadership positions in the Democratic Party during recent special election wins and has been a valued member of winning campaigns in Florida and across the United States," said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo. "I'm honored that Juan is joining us, working to rebuild the Party and elect more Democrats. He is committed to getting back to the basics, working to organize Democrats in all 67 counties and win back the state. Juan's experience as a grassroots organizer, as a communicator and a leader has helped candidates and communities win in Florida and will be extremely valuable as we gear up for critical elections in 2018 and beyond."
"Progressives and Democrats across the state are exhibiting unparalleled activism and I'm excited to jump in, to organize communities and to ensure that our movement, excitement and activism translates to Democratic votes," said FDP Executive Director Juan Penalosa. "Over the course of the coming months, we are going to make sure Floridians know that Democrats have better solutions to fix our economy and provide opportunities for all of us. We know what happens when Democrats don't win, because we are bearing witness to a Rick Scott and GOP led economy where more than half of the state's 67 counties are in recession and Republican leaders are slashing funding for public schools, pushing for oil drilling off our shores and giving billions of our tax dollars to corporate donors while 45% of the state is classified as working poor. I'm committed to making this moment in history a movement, and to working with Chairwoman Rizzo and Democrats across the state to build a foundation for a new Democratic Party in Florida and kick-start a blue wave in 2018."
Juan Peñalosa is a first generation American who has been a long-time grassroots activist for LGBT and immigration rights. He comes to FDP from Mercury Public Affairs and has nearly two decades of experience working in crisis communications, public policy and political arenas and has served in leadership roles on some of the largest issue based and electoral campaigns in Florida and the US. He has overseen the development of new government agencies and helped large organizations and NGO's incorporate massive institutional changes.
In addition to a decade working in international development, policy, and digital and crisis communications, Juan joined the Obama campaign in 2011 and served the campaign in various grassroots leadership roles in 2011 and 2012. After the Obama campaign, Juan managed a string of successful grassroots campaigns and has served in advisory and communications roles for organizations and Democratic donors, including the Human Rights Campaign, Ruth's List Florida, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Florida Democratic Party.
Juan Peñalosa graduated from Boston College with honors and a degree in the geosciences. He has been a long time activist in LGBT rights and serves on the national board for the National LGBTQ Task Force and while he has lived in nearly a dozen countries, and more than half of the states in the US, he now happily resides in sunny Miami.