Rebuilding the Florida Democratic Party starts with a 67-county strategy.
We need to focus and think strategically and make sure that DECs have the resources they need to succeed. We need to focus on reaching voters across the state while remaining mindful of regional issues and the constantly shifting demographics in counties and regions across the state. We must build a strong party infrastructure, fight on important issues so we can define ourselves before our opponents do, and set the stage to win elections. It is that simple. We must build, fight, and win.
In order to build a strong party infrastructure, we need members at every level to feel invested and have a sense of ownership of the party. We need to empower local DECs and make sure that our programs operate in partnership with local parties and local elected officials, not as a parallel system. Our statewide success depends on the success of our DECs, caucuses, clubs and elected officials.
We will rebuild by listening and learning from you and by assessing best practices from partner DECs and state parties across the country. We will not shy away from hard conversations.
This statewide strategy requires hiring internal staff to sustain year-round training, organizing, voter registration, messaging, persuasion and mobilization operations.
To facilitate this, we cannot confine our office operations to one location. We must have a presence throughout Florida. In addition to offices in North and South Florida, I will open a Central Florida office as the first step in my vision of having regional organizational hubs throughout the state. In my plan, each region will be led by a team of high-performing organizers who are dedicated to supporting DECs in enhancing their capacity to build, fight and win. They will work with the DECs in their region toward shared core competencies and being accountable to specific, measurable goals. We will be aggressive in doing the work to win. We can’t afford to leave anybody behind. We are one state, one party; our successes and failures are interconnected and will be shared. When we lose, poor and working people suffer, black communities suffer, Hispanic and Asian, LGBTQ+ and other communities suffer, our environment suffers. We can’t afford to fail.
We need to have smart, efficient use of each dollar, our time, and every volunteer’s time.
Core to that is improving our VAN data. Our outputs are only as good as our inputs. Misguided polls, inaccurate modeling, and unreliable data breeds inefficiency. So we have to explore new systems and information sources that improve the accuracy of the data we use for targeting, messaging and strategic resource decisions. I will ensure that all candidates who meet achievable data-driven benchmarks, have access to VAN so they can run successful campaigns, and that your DECs have the organizational training and tools needed to build strong internal coordination and external outreach programs for your polylithic communities and circumstances.
Just as important as building party infrastructure is defining ourselves and what and who we are fighting for.
When we do not, we allow Republicans to fill that void with lies and fear-mongering. We cannot shy away from issues that are core to our party values like raising the minimum wage or expanding Medicaid. We need to find those opportunities at the state and local level and prove ourselves to be champions for poor and working people. We also need to work closely with our local and statewide elected leaders to ensure we are all on the same message. This includes our candidates. We need to educate and train them on how to take action, debate, and push back. We can’t just message to ourselves. We have to be out in the community with messages that resonate with individualized voters. Our shared and specialized messages must be heard in paid, earned and social media (especially through local, diverse outlets). We cannot fight misinformation if we are not part of the conversation or sharing our message in the places our voters receive information.
This year we did great work in making vote by mail a priority, and I will continue to invest in these efforts, in addition to building a voter registration program that will engage and allow us to mobilize more voters across the state.
One of the most impressive tools in every one of our local DEC’s is the extraordinary programs that each county has built which enabled Florida to not only be ready for the unprecedented vote by mail surge of 2020, but to meet the new challenges of record-breaking VBM requests, VBM returns, and finally, a cure process dominated by Democrats. This feat would have been impossible if our DEC’s had not been steadily building successful VBM campaigns for the last several years.
Our successes and failures at the bottom of the ticket are just as important as those at the top of the ticket.
Democratic officials in local offices are closest to the people, have the ability to make decisions felt by residents immediately, and can be some of our most visible champions. With that in mind, we must continue building on the success of our Municipal Victory Program where we begin to build a bench and have candidates primed for higher office. Effective candidate recruitment support in partnership with legislative leadership and outside partners will be key to our success.
We must also be ready for redistricting at the state and local levels that will have significant implications for our ability to compete for the next 10 years.
In 1980, I led and was joined by Common Cause, Urban League, NAACP, League of Women Voters, SALAD and others in our successful effort to adopt single-member districts statewide. I also am proud of the work I did as chair of the Fair District Campaign in 2010, as well as the redistricting challenges of 2014 when Florida Democrats won five new Congressional seats. Both of these efforts resulted in more elected Democrats and more seats at the table for Black, Hispanic and other minority groups. I will be using my background and experience to ensure the FDP is prepared for what will likely be one of the most difficult redistricting processes in Florida’s history. We will challenge the Republicans again to draw fair districts, and if they do not live up to our expectations, I am prepared to challenge them in court if necessary.
To accomplish these things and build a considerable amount of infrastructure needed to engage in the above ideas, we will need considerable resources.
I will dedicate my time to leveraging my statewide and nationwide to relationships to build trust among donors and get them to buy into what we are trying to accomplish here in Florida. My time as President of the US Conference of Mayors, my philanthropic activities and my work supporting democratic candidates and progressive causes all across the world will be an asset that helps position us for success. Of course, I can’t do it alone. I will prioritize training to enhance our ability to tap into local donors whom can be a great source of funding. This includes large donors in addition to small-dollar donors. We have to cultivate our small donor program with an eye toward sustainability. We can not afford to fundraise year to year, cycle to cycle, and start from square one. Additionally, outside groups spend millions of dollars in parallel, uncoordinated efforts in part because they have not historically trusted FDP to do the real work of organizing and mobilizing voters with a year-round infrastructure that doesn’t pop up just before an election. Doing the work of making structural changes I’ve outlined and showing data- and people-driven results will be critical to getting the buy-in of these groups and significantly increasing resources to the party.
As I’ve committed to many of you in our phone conversations, my leadership will be guided by a north star of diversity and inclusion.
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee is one of the very best and hardest working groups FDP has to offer. In their very first few months, the committee presented a plan to bring diversity to our hiring practices, vendor engagement and overall Party structure. We should continue to build on this foundation and acknowledge historical deficiencies we’ve had, as a party, in black and brown inclusion at the highest levels.
My Executive Director search, leadership team, staff and resources decisions will acknowledge the value, contribution and loyalty of black and brown communities to the Democratic Party. I will also ensure that other underrepresented communities inside and outside the party have a seat at the table and that our clubs and caucuses, whom represent many of these communities, are supported to do the constituency work that brings power to their voices.
There is a great deal of hard work ahead. Turning Florida around won’t be done in one or two cycles but we can set on a path that will, in the long run, win power for poor and working people.
I understand that part of getting us on that path includes looking within and getting our own house in order.
I am committed to expanding access within the FDP by increasing the numbers and diversity of people with a meaningful seat at the table and will propose changes to our policies, procedures and bylaws that make that a reality. We must perform a top to bottom review of all policies, procedures, rules, bylaws, staffing, budgeting and other processes with an eye toward equity, transparency and creating a new and better state party.
There will be no room in my administration for status quo. My focus will be squarely on what and who has a proven track record and what will result in electoral wins for candidates and for poor and working people in this state. If it doesn’t get us to a win, I will not devote time to it.
An issue of importance to me that has distracted this party for way too long is the weighted vote. It is clear to me decades ago our predecessors created a system of voting to further their personal interest versus the interest of the party. In so doing, the power was vested in the hands of a few. The resulting manner in which we conduct business at the State Executive Committee has reduced morale and limited meaningful involvement in key party decisions.
This issue is not personal, it is structural. We are a big tent party and I am committed to working with all of you to find a new vote structure that better reflects a more inclusive process on how we conduct our business. To that end, I will work with a Rules and Bylaws Chair who will help develop a plan and bring it to the committee for a vote within my first hundred days as chair. Many of you have already made interesting suggestions. For example, some have recommended a 435-member committee (there is no magic or requirement to have a 1,000+ member committee) with no less than two members per county, allocated using the equal proportion system used by Congress and the DNC, where each person has one vote. Considering the formula used by our highest legislative body and the DNC seems prudent and responsible. Others have suggested granting additional votes to DEC Chairs and elected officials, adding more state committeemen and women or, in keeping with the goals of our Municipal Victory Program, consider granting votes to local elected in cities and counties that meet a certain population threshold. One thing I know for sure, our diversity will generate a plethora of diverse ideas and suggestions. I can think of no reason why we should not be open to change.
We have within our capacity, the ability to leverage technology to ensure maximum participation and avoid proxy and building capacity/cost concerns that are associated with a larger committee. There will be no perfect plan. As President Obama frequently reminds us, perfection is the enemy of good. I am committed to exploring any and all proposals with anyone willing to work with me. The truth is, we need to resolve our structural issues so we can all focus on winning elections, together. In doing so, we will have encouraged greater participation and ensured people have a real stake in the work we do as a party. I am confident that, as people of goodwill, we are capable, in a spirit of cooperation and party unity, to work together and put this issue behind us.
Ultimately, our deliberative process must be governed by two fundamental guiding principles- how do our actions improve people’s lives and how can we help elect more Democrats. A more inclusive and diverse membership will further these principles by creating a house united not a house divided.
Another issue of importance to me is further ensuring that the FDP is free from discrimination, any and all forms of harassment or a hostile work environment. As such, I will establish formal training and procedures for the handling of discrimination or harassment complaints that are prompt, thorough, impartial, and free from any form of retaliation or reprisal. The hiring of a Human Resources Director would serve to assist me in these efforts.
Today, and in years to come, the eyes of the world are on us.
Let’s move with all deliberate speed to turn Florida Blue. Let’s show the world that we are proud to be a part of this vibrant party. That is the future you must help me build, the legacy we must leave for future generations.
I ask you to join me in this vision.