Florida Democrats plan for 2022 as GOP vote numbers soar


TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) – Florida has registered Republican voters outnumbered Democrats for the first time in recent history. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis goes on a re-election campaign fueled by a national profile and cash reserve unmatched by any Democratic challenger. And Republicans control virtually all of the state government.

When the Democrats met recently for their annual strategy conference, Annette Taddeo, a Democratic state senator running for governorship, said she had a clear sense of the troubles ahead for the party.

“Obviously this fight won’t be easy, but it’s about so much more than any of us, and as Florida Democrats we’ve lost so many times that donors and experts have given up on us,” said Taddeo. But she added, “I believe and I know that we can win if we form the coalition of voters necessary to win in a state where these decisions are made by 1% or less.”

With the upcoming election in 2022, Democrats face a myriad of disadvantages as they work to rebuild campaign networks and try to rekindle the excitement in their party. There is growing concern that big donors and the national wing of the Party may consider Florida GOP territory after years of painful losses.

“In the current state of American politics, and especially in a state with so many large television markets and metropolitan areas, you’re going to need more help,” said Democrat Evan Jenne. “It’s not as if Floridians can’t be influenced one way or another. We need more coordination with the federal party. “

The Democratic Governors Association is reluctant to accept claims that it ceded Florida to the Republicans. A spokesman said the group is building its parliamentary election infrastructure with investments in media and messaging. The Democratic National Committee is stepping up organizing efforts in the state.

“Florida is a competitive battlefield in 2022, and the DGA has made defeating DeSantis a priority. Because of this, we have already started investing in Florida and are working with our candidates to ensure we can face DeSantis next fall, ”said Marshall Cohen, political director, Governors Group.

Florida Republicans have had a string of victories, including Donald Trump’s two presidential campaigns, and have organized themselves aggressively at the local level, especially as DeSantis has grown in popularity due to its opposition to coronavirus bans and mandates.

“We haven’t dismantled any operations; on the contrary, we continued to build on it, ”said Helen Aguirre Ferré, Executive Director of the Republican Party. “Power comes from below. It doesn’t go from top to bottom, and that is still our great commitment. ”

Some have noted that given the party’s track record, Democratic donors may be reluctant to pour money into Florida – most recently in 2020 when Trump took over the state and Republicans added seats in the statehouse and Congress despite a $ 100 million infusion won the former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

DeSantis announced last month that for the first time in the state’s history, Republicans had gained a slight advantage over Democrats in the number of registered voters. For the past decade, the Republicans had slowly won over the Democrats, and DeSantis and the Republicans had pushed the registration hard.

The most up-to-date numbers from the state electoral authority show 5,118,357 registered Republicans and 5,114,039 Democrats. At the same time, the number of non-party voters has grown to 3.8 million. DeSantis won the office by about 32,000 votes in 2018 after key Trump support, in a year the Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than 250,000 registered voters.

Florida voters vote for the Republican Party over the Democratic Party because we value freedom and liberty and because we dislike Democratic government control. This milestone reflects years of hard work combined with the success of our conservative, common sense policies, ”DeSantis said in an email that announced voter registration numbers.

Still, Republican strategist Susie Wiles said it was important for the GOP to keep organizing and be optimistic about registering voters.

“You should never assume that this is a reliably red state because the state is so dynamic, so many new people move in and out, and it’s just a very diverse population base that is constantly changing,” said Wiles, who ran Trump’s campaigns in Florida. “I just don’t think we should ever quit as Republicans, and the good news is that we haven’t done it in the last decade.”

Steve Shell, a political strategist who helped Democrat Barack Obama win Florida twice in his White House races, said Democrats’ registration efforts have mainly focused on presidential races. However, Shell said the party could benefit from continued organizing, particularly in Hispanic communities in south Florida, which helped Trump win Florida last year by an even bigger lead than in 2016.

“Registration itself is an organizational tool,” he said. “When your party is out in parishes, especially parishes where we need to do better by building the kind of relationships in the parishes that you need to build in order to successfully register voters, this is going to have some kind of dual effect. ”

Florida Democratic Party leader Manny Diaz admitted that Democrats have not been as aggressive in registering voters in recent years, but added, “We have more people on the ground right now than ever before.” He denied also the idea that the national party is giving the state less priority, and he downplayed the shifting of registered voters as a record breaking “clam game” in which Democrats are labeled as inactive voters.

“The last time we had a nationwide organization here was during the Obama campaign in ’12, but then he was elected and again we tore down the tents and we haven’t maintained that type of organization for the past 10 years . “he said.” We won’t be overwhelmed by the other side this year, I promise you. “

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