Joe Biden’s Florida campaign is ‘suppressing the Hispanic vote,' internal letter claims

More than 90 field organizers for the Florida Democratic Party sign the letter.
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the Colonial Early Education Program at the Colwyck Training Center on July 21 in New Castle, Del.
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the Colonial Early Education Program at the Colwyck Training Center on July 21 in New Castle, Del. [ ANDREW HARNIK | AP ]
Published July 26, 2020

Over 90 field organizers for the Florida Democratic Party signed a scathing letter Friday to the party’s leadership, claiming among other things that the campaign is “suppressing the Hispanic vote” in Central Florida.

The seven-page internal letter, obtained by the Miami Herald, contains eight allegations from field organizers about what they say is a lack of a “fully actionable field plan” from the Biden campaign as it transitions into the Florida party to coordinate voter outreach efforts.

This letter comes 100 days out from the general election and as recent polls show enthusiasm about voting among Latinos in battleground states like Florida could be waning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the claims: mistreatment of field organizers, relocating trained staff members without explanation, lack of organizing resources and taking on volunteers who are then left in limbo.

Related: Ranking Florida’s congressional delegation for vulnerability this election year

In a battleground state where elections are historically won by thin margins — and as presidential campaigns ramp up outreach efforts in Florida’s Hispanic communities — organizers claim that the Coordinated Campaign lacks key infrastructure and perpetuates a “toxic” work culture that is hurting morale among on-the-ground staffers.

One big issue is that at least a handful of organizers were recently transferred from a heavily-Puerto Rican part of the state to counties with a small percentage of Hispanics.

“Four of five Spanish-speaking organizers along the I-4 corridor who were moved to North Florida were Puerto Rican,” the letter says.

Field organizers add that input from staffers connected to Puerto Ricans living in Central Florida is often dismissed.

“The (Coordinated Campaign of Florida) is suppressing the Hispanic vote by removing Spanish-speaking organizers from Central Florida without explanation, which fails to confront a system of white-dominated politics we are supposed to be working against as organizers of a progressive party,” the letter adds.

Jackie Lee, Biden for President Florida state director, said in a statement the campaign has an “open-door policy” and its leadership in Florida is consulting with IBEW Local 824 on “many of the issues” discussed in the letter.

“We look forward to discussing them with organizers and getting their feedback as soon as able,” Lee said. “The stakes of this election are critical, and we are committed to working with our organizers and Florida Democrats at every level in order to build a strong, successful Coordinated Campaign.”

Lee added that for the past six weeks, “no staff are asked to move or relocate, either from out of state or within states.”

The 94 signatories, most of whom have been working directly with the Florida Democratic Party, are responsible for the day-to-day outreach of potential voters, including phone banking and community organizing to campaign for candidates at the local, statewide and presidential levels.

The letter was sent days after Florida Democratic County chairs expressed similar concerns to party leadership that the Biden campaign risks repeating some of the same mistakes of the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016.

Organizers say in the memo that while they have expressed frustration with the campaign’s missteps in Florida, some staff members have been “lectured” as a result, and their concerns dismissed as “unnecessary and wrong.” And the signatories stress that while some employees have been brought from out of state to supervise field staffers, the state party’s field organizers have not been given priority.

“We are roughly 100 days out from the election, and there is no functional targeted field outreach and organizing of the Hispanic/Spanish-speaking, Brazilian/Portuguese-speaking, and Haitian/Creole-speaking communities in our state,” the letter states. “There are no targets, scripts, data infrastructure, community outreach, or phonebanks established for this.”

Among the requests from the field organizers is for the Coordinated Campaign to:

▪ Apologize for “treatment of field staff;”

▪ Commit to restoring organizers back to their original locations;

▪ Give adequate notice of planned events and job openings;

▪ Resume previous organizing activities that have been halted;

▪ Provide more support to county chairs.

“It is necessary to emphasize that despite this lack of preparedness by leadership, existing productive work was halted and the little strategy that was shared is ill-suited for the new dynamics of remote organizing,” organizers said in the letter.

In recent general election polls, the former vice president appears to be leading President Donald Trump, including among Hispanic voters. In Florida, the Democratic Party official added that the Coordinated Campaign is still recruiting bilingual organizers in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Osceola counties ahead of the election.

And in an effort to further their engagement with Hispanics, the Biden campaign announced earlier this month it was coordinating with one of the nation’s top Hispanic polling firms, Latino Decisions.