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

Can these two political operatives help Democrats win Florida from the middle?

Common Ground Project wants to win over moderates and no-party affiliation voters. Here’s how they plan to do it.
Common Ground Project
Published Jun. 28

Democrat Andrew Gillum often said his campaign for governor was “for anyone who has felt like they didn’t belong.”

As Lisa Perry knocked on doors in Florida’s suburban neighborhoods — the ones that swing with each election — she wondered: “Does that message resonate with them?”

In a state where Democrats have pinned their fortunes on registering more people who may feel like they don’t belong, Perry wants to try something different. She has teamed up with fellow political operative Tess Martin to launch the Common Ground Project, an organization that aims to win over the political middle by engaging them on issues close to their hearts.

The Common Ground Project will make its public debut this week with a town hall at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Hyatt St. Petersburg.

The goal is the same as the rest of their party: Get more Democrats elected and pass progressive policies. But they don’t plan to do that by trying to beat Republicans in the registration game. Instead, they hope to engage the 3.6 million non-party affiliate Floridians, the fastest growing bloc of registered voters in the state.

There’s a reason those people have decided not to ascribe to a party, Martin said. But she doesn’t believe that means these voters don’t align with the Democratic Party views on water quality, good public schools and affordable child care.

Common Ground will operate in regions across Florida and identify local problems or hot-button community debates. From there, they hope to mobilize and organize groups around these issues year round — not just at election time — and train candidates at every level to campaign around them.

At a statewide level, they’re focusing on affordable housing, Medicaid expansion and creating a state Earned Income Tax Credit.

“You can’t go up to many of those (independents) and say, ‘I’m working for a Democratic candidate, I want your support.’ They would say, ‘No thanks,’ ” Martin said. “But if we can come in and say, ‘This is the top issue of concern in this area, do you agree? What do you think about it?’ we can connect with them."

Perry helped organize the Women’s March in Florida and Martin is the president of the Brevard Chapter of the ACLU. They met while working on Chris King’s campaign for governor. He finished last in Democratic field of five, but was later named Gillum’s running mate.

While working on that campaign, Perry said she was frustrated that the party was so focused on turning out voters in cities like Tampa, Orlando and Miami, but didn’t have a strategy for booming counties like Pasco. She said she felt like the party had conceded traditionally red areas of Florida where progressive ideas — like Amendment 4 and medical marijuana — have received overwhelming support.

“They continue to use the same tactics over and over that aren’t as successful as they need to be,” Perry said.

Democrats and Gillum are working to register 1 million voters by the next election. If successful, the pay off would be immediate.

Common Ground isn’t a quick fix, its founders said, but it would build a bench of candidates, increase Democratic gains in local governments and make inroads in places where the word “progressive” is a dirty word.

“A lot of people say if we just do this, next election cycle, we’re going to win big,” Martin said. “This is a long term strategy. We’re not asking for a vote, we’re really interested in what moves the needle.”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  2. Richard Swearingen, Florida's Commissioner of the Department of Law Enforcement, testifies before state lawmakers on Monday. Florida Channel
    But law enforcement officials are getting behind a “threat assessment system.”
  3. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
    School districts will have to report how they are providing the instruction required in Florida law.
  4. The Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach. JOE RAEDLE  |  Getty Images
    It wasn’t immediately clear how much Mar-a-Lago would charge to host the Marine Corps Birthday Ball — or even if it might do so for free.
  5. In this March 24, 2018, file photo, crowds of people participate in the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in San Francisco. JOSH EDELSON  |  AP
    ‘Guns are always a volatile topic in the halls of the legislature,’ one Republican said.
  6. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  7. Tonight's LGBTQ Presidential Forum is hosted by Angelica Ross of FX's Pose. Twitter
    A live stream of the event and what to watch for as 10 candidates meet on stage in Iowa.
  8. In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass.  [AP Photo | Steven Senne] STEVEN SENNE  |  AP
    "The department does not appear to have the authority to do anything.”
  9. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos listens to a speaker share an opinion about a city matter during a city council meeting at Clearwater City Hall in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017.  On Thursday, the Clearwater City Council rejected the mayor's resolution urging lawmakers to ban assault weapons.  [Times files] TIMES FILES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    However, the city did pass a resolution calling for more modest gun control measures.
  10. Maurice A. Ferré at his Miami home earlier this year. JOSE A. IGLESIAS  |  Miami Herald
    He served as mayor for 12 years and set the stage for Miami to become an international city.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement