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After the Elections, Florida Democrats Scramble for a Leader

November 26, 2018 - 6:00am
Andrew Gillum, Nikki Fried and Donna Shalala
Andrew Gillum, Nikki Fried and Donna Shalala

Democrats had a good Election Day in most of the nation but, despite some close statewide races, they stumbled again in Florida and now face a major power vacuum. 

With Gov. Rick Scott taking down U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Florida Democrats can’t point to a single elected official as the face of their party. 

That didn’t stop Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo from trying to single out incoming state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried last week. 

“Nikki will be champion for all Floridians, working to ensure Floridians have access to the medicine they need, protecting families by ensuring firearm background checks are upheld, working with our farmers to ensure Florida continues to have access to safe, American grown food and fighting for land and water regulations that protect our environment,” said Rizzo. “Democrats and Floridians need her voice in the Cabinet.”

Fried has plenty of strengths to be sure but she is a political novice who will be busy learning the ropes as she takes over a state department which employs thousands of Floridians. She’ll also be a top target for Republicans who control every other part of the state government. 

Outside of Fried, Florida Democrats had another win as they picked up two congressional seats in Miami Dade. Incoming U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., will garner far more attention than the average congressional freshman due to her serving as secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton back in the 1990s and from leading the University of Miami. But Shalala will turn 78 in February and will be more focused on her new task than serving as the statewide face of her party.

The rest of the delegation doesn’t look poised to fill in the gap. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., has a high profile but she is still tainted from her leadership of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the left hasn’t forgiven her for undermining U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’, I-Vt., presidential bid. Most of the other Democrats in the Florida House delegation--including U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., who has a higher profile due to his service as governor and holding two other statewide offices--are far more focused on Capitol Hill than the Sunshine State. 

As for the Democrats who lost statewide bids, Nelson looks headed into retirement but outgoing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum shows no sign of going to the political sidelines. After his close loss to incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis, Gillum could follow the playbook that Jeb Bush used after losing by the skin of his teeth to Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1994. Bush stayed engaged in politics and issues at the state and national levels. But he also grew far more active in communities across Florida, including helping launch the state’s first charter school. It paid off handsomely in 1998 as Bush faced no primary opposition and went out to rout Democrat Buddy MacKay. Of course, Chiles faced term limits in 1998--something DeSantis won’t have to worry about until 2026. 

Still, there’s a chance for Gillum to be the face of the party. But he’s going to have to work for it, especially if Fried is vying for the same role in the years to come. For the moment though, Florida Democrats are headed back to the drawing board--and this time they can’t rely on Nelson or former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., before him to be the face of the party. 


Fried stole the election by voter fraud! Demoncrats can't win an election honestly! She knows NOTHING of agriculture and will destroy our state department as such! When are those still voting left going to look at all the states that are controlled by these losers see what they've done to destroy everything they touch!

Lot of Bots and Trolls out there who fear Terri and Nancy and the truth and those pesky Dems. They've lied cheated stolen and bamboozled to get and maintain power. Their only fear is thrown into jail. We're coming .

The day after the election, my husband and i went down to the Supervisor of Elections and changed our voter registration from Democrat to Republican. We are both done with the party. The Dems have lost their way.

I won't even pretend to understand this. Dems haven't lost their way. We are plagued with chickenshit, tepid, Dems in Name Only. If you quit, in light of all the progress we have made, how can we hope to rebound with half-assed, fake Dems (like you!) leaving others to pick up the slack. BTW, do you switch Parties every two years? Loyalty, obviously, not your strong point... ?

Hopefully, Gillum, Murphy, and Fried will take over active leadership in the Democratic Party in Florida ... with David Jolly choosing to join them! Their first goal should be to take over the majority in the Florida Senate in the next election. Picking up just three seats will do it!

Donna Shalala is one I don't get. What is her connection to South Florida other than a figure head for U of Miami, she's from Cleveland for crying out loud. I guess they love their carpetbaggers down there. Miss Nikki should be interesting. I guess all the radical leftist gun grabbers think because she brought on that poor fool Fred Gutenberg to her transition team they will crack down on Floridians that want to protect themselves. Sorry but the Secretary of Ag. Doesn't write laws. She knows as much about agriculture as I do, nothing. Which leaves us with Andy Killum. He supposedly has a bright future in Florida , assuming he's not doing time in some Federal penitentiary. Bill Nelson was one thing but the state dodged a real bullet with this 2nd rate Bathhouse Barry Obama.

We moved here over a year ago, I am so glad to see Florida stay red. I really hope the democrats fade away. We can only encourage more to read the Constitution. I do believe the more individuals read, the better chances to preserve our country. PLUS Clean up the legal vote in Florida

Democrats are done in Florida. The state is trending more Republican as Midwesterners are moveing here in droves. Republicans wilk not implement Amendment 4 and the New Republican Florida Supreme Court will uphold everything they do. 2018 was the Only chance Democrats had to take back Florida and they blew it. Trump will win Florida by 5 points and the GOP will redraw the lines again giving them another supermajorty in the government again and the Florida Courts will uphold everything.Thanks to Trump Florida is the new Texas instead of what could of been California East.

Trump the Chump might ... MIGHT ... win Florida next time out (but I think that's doubtful). But, he's definitely lost Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania ... and those are the states that gave him his Electoral College win in 2016. And ... the worst thing that can happen to Florida is that it becomes 'Texas East'. But, if it does, no matter because simple demographics on the national level will be contributing to the Democratic Party's victory at the national level. Even this time out, the Democrats got nine million more total votes than did the Republicans, and picked up 40 seats in the U.S. House (including two in Florida), seven governorships, turned seven statehouses into Democratic majorities, and won hundreds more lower local elections than GOPs did.. Even in Florida, the Dems picked up two additional Florida Senate seats and the two extra U.S. House races they picked up gave the Dems a 14-13 split in the state's U.S. House delegation. The Democratic wave continues.

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