Florida Democratic Party leaders got off to a bare-knuckle start at their bi-annual convention in Orlando with Chair Terrie Rizzo declaring Gov. Ron DeSantis and others as part of an “axis of corruption” connected to President Donald Trump.
Rizzo and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried opened the conference of 1,500 Democrats at Walt Disney World by seeking to define the values of Democrats and Republicans, with the latter’s function to support and enable Trump.
Rizzo ripped Florida’s Republican U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for supporting Trump, and for a variety of other offenses ranging from being soft on and hypocritical about racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and xenophobic hatred, to voter suppression.
“Together, all of them have acted as an axis of corruption,” said Rizzo.
At a statewide political convention heading into the 2020 presidential primary season that lacks any significant presence – and no actual presence – of Democratic presidential candidates, the Democrats had one candidate they all focused on: Trump.
Speaker after speaker — Rizzo, Fried, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell — pounded Trump as someone with a record of corruption, dishonesty, and inhumanity, and the Florida Republican leaders as not only enablers but as joining in the dishonesty.
“In the 2020 election, we take back our country from a President who lies to us, a President who thumbs his nose at the rule of law, a President who demonizes and seeks to tear us down, and to tear down the freedom of the press,” Fried said. “A President who wants to gut our health care system and eliminate a woman’s right to choose, a President who puts children into cages. A President who wields foreign policy for his own personal and political gains.”
This is a Florida Democratic Party convention conspicuously lacking in Democratic presidential candidates. And thus far this fall, Florida has been a major swing state of 12 million voters conspicuously lacking in Democratic presidential campaigning.
But Rizzo and party Executive Director Juan Peñalosa insisted those absences have had no effect on energizing the party’s base or on current voter registration and grassroots organizing drives.
Peñalosa said the party’s focus right now is “creating the electorate we want” through major voter registration drives, volunteer base recruitment, and through a $1 million voter protection program to challenge, now, any efforts that could thwart Democratic voter turnout in the 2020 elections, and to establish volunteer election and voter legal teams to do so throughout the state.
He and Rizzo said those programs are far exceeding 2015 trend marks, and are running ahead of Republican efforts the past several months.
“I think we’re going to win by putting our heads down and doing the work. This is a big, messy, wonderfully diverse state. It’s very difficult to grasp your hands around,” Peñalosa said. “What we have done in the past is start too late. We have had money too late. We have invested too late. We haven’t built the electorate in advance of the election. We’re going back to what we did in ’11 and ’12.”
They insisted they have no concerns about the current lack of attention Democratic presidential candidates are giving Florida, saying the excitement is high regardless.
“We are seeing an upsurge in volunteerism. We are seeing an increase in excitement. Would it be more if Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden were here every day? Probably. But we’re doing our job now, just like we would be if they were here,” Peñalosa said.