Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida Democratic Party says it has a plan to beat Trump in 2020. Florida Democrats aren’t so sure.

Gathering in Orlando, Democrats are anxious about winning in 2020. Party leaders say it’s about getting back to basics. Activists want more.
Former Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum speaks to supporters during a gathering at the Florida Democratic Party state conference, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Published Jun. 8
Updated Jun. 8

ORLANDO -- A few dozen Democratic activists gathered in a small and steamy convention center room Saturday morning where they were told they would hear the Florida Democratic Party’s plan to start winning statewide elections. Or, as some Democrats see it, stop losing them.

The blue print? Compete in all 67 counties. Build the ground game earlier. Engage minority groups. Register more voters.

The presentation lasted all of 15 minutes. The reaction was a resounding: “That’s it?”

Florida Democrats from across the state are huddling in Orlando this weekend to regroup after 2018′s devastating losses and to plan for 2020. There is an anxiety hanging over the three-day summit, with Democrats fearful the country’s most important swing state will help President Donald Trump win another four years in office.

Nowhere was that angst more palpable than the room where Democratic leaders unveiled the preliminary results of the “Path to Power,” a months long reflection on why the Blue Wave seemed to miss Florida last year. Hands of grassroots activists and local party leaders shot up across the room after former state Reps. Sean Shaw and Cynthia Chestnut finished their brief power point.

Where was the analysis of where and how Democrats lost its senior senator Bill Nelson by 12,000 votes and a governor’s race by 32,000? Is the party investing in large counties where voter turnout lagged? What’s the strategy to keep growing counties like Pasco from turning more red?

“We cannot be ignored at the risk of losing statewide elections again and again and again,” said John Ford with Pasco County Democrats.

MORE TIMES POLITICAL COVERAGE: How felons can register to vote in Florida under new Amendment 4 bill

Florida officials wanted an elections cybersecurity team. Lawmakers said no.

Trump needs Florida in 2020. He obviously knows that.

Heads shook as Shaw and Chestnut struggled to appease concerns. Others said the party didn’t listen to what its own members from across the state had to say. For example, the Path to Power commission didn’t get to see the results of a statewide survey of local party officials on the 2018 election, which Shaw acknowledged was frustrating.

To many, the outlook sounded just like what they heard after narrow loses in 2010 and 2014.

“I didn’t see any groundbreaking ideas,” said Stacey Patel, chair of the Brevard County Democrats. “We’ve seen reports like this before, but then they sit on the shelf. How are we going to actually get this done?”

If the solutions sound simple, Shaw said, that’s because they are. Some of the basics of running a statewide campaign -- following up on vote-by-mail ballots, registering new voters, sustained outreach in bedrock voting blocs -- have long eluded the Florida Democratic Party. It’s not enough that Democratic registrations outnumber Republicans by 250,000.

“It’s not genius stuff,” Shaw said, while also emphasizing that the report was not finalized yet. “This is just blocking and tackling and putting the resources behind it to do it.”

Other 2018 failures were acknowledged. Chestnut lamented the party’s reliance on out-of-state consultants to orchestrate outreach in minority communities.

In Alachua County last year, "someone was brought in from Oregon to work in the African-American community -- all of the two black people in Oregon,” Chestnut said. The quip elicited laughs and broke up some of the tension, but the point, Chestnut assured, was to say that they won’t make that mistake again.

“The commitment is here to grow from local talent," she said.

The party is putting many of its eggs in Andrew Gillum’s pledge to engage 1 million new voters by 2020 with the $3 million he has left over from his unsuccessful campaign for governor. Gillum has been treated like a rock star in Orlando, with no signs that Democratic rank-and-file are concerned by recent news that he is a focal point of a new federal grand jury subpoena.

In a packed reception room Friday, Gillum posed for selfies and encouraged supporters to ignore the noise and stay focused on 2020.

“If we’re even marginally successful in this effort, say we don’t hit the 1 million person mark, if we get 250,000 people into the process here in the state of Florida," Gillum said, "that can be pivotal to what happens to Florida’s 29 electoral (college) votes.”

MORE ON ANDREW GILLUM: Federal subpoena demands records on Andrew Gillum and his campaign for governor

Andrew Gillum agrees to $5,000 ethics fine.

Records show FBI agents gave Andrew Gillum tickets to ‘Hamilton’

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Lev Parnas, center, leaves federal court following his arraignment, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 in New York. Parnas and Igor Fruman are charged with conspiracy to make illegal contributions to political committees supporting President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Prosecutors say the pair wanted to use the donations to lobby U.S. politicians to oust the country's ambassador to Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP
    Appearing with their attorneys, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman said they will fight allegations in a grand jury indictment that they used a shell company to secretly steer hundreds of thousands of dollars...
  2. -
    A report presented to the Senate panel showed a variety of causes of deaths, including inmate-on-inmate assaults and suicides.
  3. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., attends an executive session of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) SUSAN WALSH  |  AP
    The senator drew backlash for the claim on ABC’s “The View.”
  4. Former sheriff of Broward County Scott Israel, right, and his attorney Benedict Kuehne wait their turn to speak to the Senate Rules Committee concerning his dismissal by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday in Tallahassee. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    The vote is expected to be seen as a political victory for the governor and validation for the families of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
  5. Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, speaks on the floor of the Florida House. Grall is sponsoring a bill for the second time that would require parental consent for minors to obtain an abortion.
    The legislation would enact a consent requirement for minors.
  6. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Times
    He could use his position on the Board of Clemency to allow nonviolent felons to serve on juries and run for office.
  7. Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, says the Legislative Black Caucus will prioritize both public education and school choice during the 2020 Florida session. The caucus held a news conference on Oct. 22, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The caucus announced its 2020 goals for justice, housing and other key issues, as well, with members saying they will stick together to pursue them.
  8. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, thanks supporters including Ukrainian businessman Lev Parnas, left, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando. DeSantis defeated Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    This new fact indicates an attempt to directly influence DeSantis’ early policy agenda as he took office, one that DeSantis said was unsuccessful.
  9. Pre-season baseball practice at Wesley Chapel High School. Lawmakers want to ensure student-athletes remain safe in the Florida heat as they participate in high school sports. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    PreK-12 Innovation chairman Rep. Ralph Massullo expects legislation requiring some ‘simple things.’
  10. President Donald Trump speaking during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS  |  AP
    And few people are on the fence.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement