MidPoint: “Don’t Count Florida Out!” says House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell

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FL Democratic House Minority Leader Rep.Fentrice Driskell

On February 7, 2024,  newly elected Democrat Florida House Rep. Tom Keen from District 35 in the Orlando suburbs, and Florida House Democratic Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell from Tampa, joined MidPoint to urge Florida voters to get registered, get ready, and get out in the community to talk about the important issues going into the November election. Rep. Keen, who was elected in a special election last month and took office on January 16, 2024, said that the key to his upset win, flipping a Republican district from Red to Blue, was his clear focus on the local issues that Floridians care most about which are the property insurance crisis, abortion and reproductive rights, and affordable housing shortages. His Republican opponent, a former conservative member of the Osceola County School Board, ran on a more national platform of “stopping the woke mob” and supporting former President Trump’s MAGA agenda.

Rep. Tom Keen, District 35 (Dem)

Local Issues Win Votes

After-election analysis of the votes revealed that Rep. Keen won his seat as a Democrat even though more registered Republicans turned out to vote than Democrats. Rep. Keen and Leader Driskell both saw this as a signal that No Party Affiliated voters (NPA’s) and some Republicans were persuaded by the Democrats’ and Rep. Keen’s more Florida-focused issue-oriented campaign. Although he was outspent by Republicans two to one in advertising dollars, Rep. Keen gave much of the credit for his win to the assistance he received from Leader Driskell and Congressman Maxwell Frost whose District overlaps Rep. Keen’s, and to the army of volunteers and paid door-knockers who simply outworked his opponent’s campaign.

Following Rep. Keen, Leader Fentrice Driskell joined in the conversation after observing the Florida Supreme Court argument on the abortion ballot initiative that occurred that morning. She said she couldn’t predict how the court would rule on whether the ballot language was fatally vague, as Florida’s Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody’s legal representative argued, but she hoped the justices “didn’t think Floridians were so stupid” that they couldn’t understand the plain meaning of the question on the ballot. “We want the Supreme Court justices knowing, understanding, and thinking that this language is clear, which it is,” she said.

“Don’t Count Florida Out!”

Asked whether Florida would likely be abandoned by the National Democratic Party’s resources and support in November after the Republican wave in 2022 revealed Florida to be a more Red than Purple state, Leader Driskell responded that she was in touch with the national party and felt confident that they would support Florida Democrats and assist their GOTV efforts for President Biden in the next election. She urged everyone to volunteer and support Democrats and emphasized “Don’t count Florida out!”

Listen to the show here, or on the WMNF app, or as a WMNF MidPoint podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

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