In last week’s midterm election in which the Democratic Party did surprisingly well throughout the United States, holding on to the Senate and leaving Republicans with what looks to be a bare majority in the House, Florida was a noticeable outlier. The expected Red Wave that fizzled out around the country drowned Florida, and took out some really stellar candidates in its undertow, especially in Hillsborough County where the county flipped from deep Blue in 2018 and 2020, to Bloody Red on Tuesday. WMNF listeners, like many Floridians, had questions, wondering, “what’s the matter with Florida?”
Susan Smith, a founder of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, and Marcus Klebe, State Committeeman, and representative to the Florida Democratic Party from Hillsborough County joined Shelley on MidPoint Wednesday to discuss the Democrats’ abysmal electoral failures and over-whelming losses in the Mid Term Elections in Florida. Ione Townsend, Chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, who was originally scheduled to appear on MidPoint as well, had to reschedule her appearance and will be appearing with WMNF’s Walter Smith on the Sunday Forum, this Sunday, November 20, 2022.
Where were all the Democrats?
The Democrats in Florida lost their registration advantage to Republicans for the first time, and it is undisputed that the Democrats failed to turn out Florida voters in this election. Marcus Klebe speculated that the influence of “national trends” was underestimated by the Democrats in Florida, particularly since DeSantis turned the pandemic into a “recruiting” opportunity to attract Republican-leaning voters and remote workers to Florida with promises of no State income tax, beautiful weather, and “no masks.” Klebe argued however that in Hillsborough, the decrease in Democrats’ registrations is relative. It is not Democrats leaving the party, he asserted; it is that more Republicans moved into the area since Covid. Moreover, although turnout across Florida was low, in Hillsborough County “we had a turnout of 52.4% turnout. That’s actually if you go back to 2014 or 2016, that is historically above what has been Democratic turnout in Hillsborough in midterm elections,” according to Klebe. In fact, the turnout in Hillsborough is actually higher than the national average turnout around the U.S. which looks to be around 46% in this election.
Susan Smith was not persuaded that more could not have been done to turn out Florida Democrats in the midterms. She pointed out that the Progressive Caucus has already called for the resignation of Manny Diaz, the current Chair of the Florida Democratic Party [FDP]. Though Diaz is still hanging on to his job today, many believe it is only a matter of time before he is ousted given his poor performance in fundraising and getting out the vote for Florida Democrats in this election cycle. Smith praised the Voter Protection operation of the FDP as the only organized and functioning effort throughout the state in this election cycle that still managed to attract, train and utilize large numbers of volunteers in an election where Democrats suffered from “enthusiasm fatigue.”
WMNF’s listeners offered plenty of opinions on what went wrong for the Florida Democrats in the midterms too. There seemed to be a consensus that the Florida Democrats had lackluster candidates at the top of the ticket and no consistent messaging to attract voters to the polls. Listeners also noted that when the Democrats engaged with the community and had an enduring presence in their neighborhoods, voters were more likely to show up at the polls to vote for them.
Listen to the full show here: