Running as a Democrat in deep red Southwest Florida is a daunting task, but Anselm Weber, a San Carlos 24-year-old, is up for the challenge.
A candidate to succeed Rep. Ray Rodrigues in House District 76, he feels more voters simply need to hear a progressive message, and maybe they will be swayed.
“There’s working class people who think they are conservatives,” Weber said, “but when you talk about wages, or their rent situation, or the environment, you will find they have a lot more in common.”
A graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, Weber has been involved in politics professionally the bulk of his post-grad life. He volunteered for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and, until recently, worked for Tom Steyer’s NextGen America getting voters registered at his alma mater and nearby Florida SouthWestern State College.
Both campuses sit just outside the House district. The region is best known for coastal communities like Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach. Two Republicans are running including Sanibel City Councilman Jason Maughan and Bonita Springs businessman Adam Botana, whose family owns a boat club.
But Weber said on the mainland, plenty of working people have been hurt by GOP economic policies that favor corporations. He thinks now is the time to ask voters if they want leaders who oppose freezing rents during a pandemic or who refuse to hold agriculture interests responsible when a red tide outbreak threatens the water.
He sees room for a winning coalition in Southwest Florida.
“My message is appealing to Democrats who vote, but also plenty of no-party affiliates who are sick of the whole structure,” Weber said. “They want someone fighting for real change, and there is a lot of rigidity for the party system.”
The Democrat is also working with a political network of environmental and progressive groups seeking to run a candidate in every legislative district in Florida. The hope is that delivering an agenda in all parts of the state will lift Democrats overall.