Friday sees Sally Boynton Brown, the president of the Florida Democratic Party, in Jacksonville to address Democrats over lunch at the University of North Florida.
She will take questions from students and outline FDP plans for 2018.
And, in addition to the pizza being served, there may just be optimism in the air, with the local party fielding candidates and competing in races in which they didn’t have candidates in the 2016 cycle.
Though it is by no means certain that the Democrats will flip any of these Republican seats, the fact that they are fielding candidates should be heartening to those who have questioned strategy in previous cycles.
One Democrat to watch: Tracye Polson in House District 15, a seat that will be open as Rep. Jay Fant is running for Attorney General.
Polson started her campaign in September and ended the month with $51,000 banked.
Even though half of that is self-financed, Polson — who likely won’t face a primary challenge — will have a war chest at the ready for the general election. While there is only one Republican currently in the race — Wyman Duggan — he may face a primary opponent.
Party registration in the district is roughly an even split. If the Democratic Party is actually making a play in Northeast Florida, Polson may be a candidate to watch.
Polson isn’t the only Democrat making a play for an established GOP seat, but she’s the one with the best odds.
Local college instructor Tim Yost is challenging Rep. Clay Yarborough in House District 12 on Jacksonville’s Southside, but odds are longer for Yost. Yarborough is consistently fundraising ($53,000 banked) and Yost ($1,700 banked) is still finding traction.
As well, a hallmark of Yarborough’s candidacies, going back to his first run for Jacksonville City Council in 2007, has been an aggressive approach to field. In a deep red district, it will be hard for Yost to make his mark.
The Democrats even have a candidate making a play for U.S. Rep. John Rutherford‘s Congressional District 4 seat.
Monica DePaul, a Jacksonville woman who was Florida’s first transgender delegate to a major-party nominating convention, is making her bid for the Democratic nomination.
Odds are with DePaul right now; she is the only filed candidate.
Though Rutherford will be a tough out (the former Jacksonville Sheriff has never lost an election), DePaul could serve as an interesting standard bearer. The open question: will she be able to fundraise?
Outside of the immediate Jacksonville area, a candidate with no questions about fundraising: Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, who reports a $336,000 haul in her first quarter as a candidate in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
Soderberg is a frequent guest on cable news programs, with her foreign policy realism and depth generally the focus of her segments.
She currently resides in Crescent Beach, and is a fixture in the district, which runs from southern St. Johns County south to Volusia.
Time will tell on these campaigns and candidates, but after a 2016 cycle in which Democrats locally didn’t compete for most State House seats, the Public Defender Office, and the State Attorney’s Office, these candidates show that the party may have a pulse up and down the ballot in 2018.