It’s no secret that the 2022 elections were unexpectedly competitive nationwide in a year poised for a Republican wave. Across the country, voters elected Democrats to state trifectas in Minnesota and Michigan and won a Senate seat in Pennsylvania. This made 2022 a year when the incumbent party lost the fewest House seats in a midterm since President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
However, not everywhere was sunny for Democrats — especially the Sunshine State of Florida.
Despite strong performances nationwide, the Florida Democratic Party arguably experienced its worst result since 2002. For the first time since 1874, it controls zero of the seven statewide-elected positions. On the other hand, the Republican Party of Florida was pleased by the results, which led to the current Republican supermajority in the state legislature, and led many analysts to conclude “Florida is no longer a swing state.”
As a result, former FDP Chair Manny Díaz left the post in mid-January via a fiery letter. A leadership contest was opened on Feb. 25 that saw four candidates vying for the top job.
The party vote revealed trust in former Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried to lead the party. Fried beat opponents such as former state Sen. Annette Taddeo, Broward County Democratic Chair Rick Hoye and incumbent FDP progressive caucus leader Carolina Ampudia. The results were streamed via Facebook Live by Florida National News.
Fried’s election will determine which direction Florida Democrats will take in upcoming elections like the 2024 contest for president and a U.S. Senate seat.
Chairwoman Nicole “Nikki” Fried
As a late entrant into the race, Fried touted her “fighter” energy and elected experience as the only Democrat elected statewide in 2018.
Fried also ran an unsuccessful campaign last year, losing the Democratic gubernatorial primary to former Gov. Charlie Crist, who would later lose to Gov. Ron DeSantis in the general election.
In the time leading up to Saturday’s vote, the race for party delegates was becoming competitive between Taddeo and Fried, however, it was Fried who won a necessary majority with 52% of votes tallied.
Fried accepted her victory in a speech stating, “The divisiveness is over. We are one.”
As chair, Fried, in lockstep with her opponents, believes the party is long overdue for a substantial renovation to remain competitive. Fried proposed a “hard reset” that includes more of a community service role for the FDP at the local level, starting with voter registration and making the state competitive in time for 2024 while expanding outreach to Black, Latino and rural communities.
All are difficult issues to ameliorate for the FDP, which “has struggled for years with financial shortfalls, rampant infighting, lackluster voter registration efforts, and a floundering organizing program.”
However, Fried seems more than ready for the challenge, saying in her speech, “Today is day one … and we stand united as one.”
Even so, the Florida GOP took an aggressive approach to their opposing party with newly elected chair Christian Ziegler stating, “Until we get every Democrat out of the office and no Democrat considers running for office, we’re going to continue to step on the gas and move forward in Florida.”
As the 2024 election season approaches, the Florida GOP and the FDP will each have the opportunity to demonstrate the effect that their leadership and reform measures have had on the strengths of their candidates and campaigns.
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Featured Image: Picture of Florida Democratic Party office in Tallahassee. Unmodified photo by Michael R. used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/3KJGHcu)
Image 2: Then-Commissioner of Agriculture Nicole Fried attended the Summer BreakSpot event at St. Petersburg, FL on July 18, 2019. Unmodified photo by CityOfStPete (https://bit.ly/3m94M25)