Ione Townsend has been reelected as chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party without opposition.
Townsend has led the Hillsborough County Democratic Party since 2016, and was automatically reelected Wednesday night at the party’s election meeting.
“Rome was not built in a day, and a county’s political party was not built in a day,” she said in accepting the position.
The Florida Democratic Party requires party chapters to reorganize every presidential election year, calling for elections of leadership members.
Townsend outlined her goals for the Hillsborough County Democratic Party in the coming two years — increasing voter turnout by five points, raising $1 million, increasing the number of precinct captains and improve outreach in minority communities.
Vanessa Lester, former vice chair of operations, was elected state committeewoman and Marcus Klebe was elected state committeeman. Ella Coffee was elected vice chair of operations and Russ Conn was reelected as vice chair of outreach.
Townsend’s stringent plans for the county’s party have proved successful, and the former nurse practitioner is teasing the idea of running for chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
Following Wednesday’s party elections, Townsend will move forward in discussions with her team on whether she plans to run for the state chair position, bringing her one step closer to a final decision.
The statewide position is up for election in January. Outgoing FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo, who has held the seat since 2017, is stepping down following Democrats’ poor performance in November, although she will retain her role leading the Palm Beach County Democratic Party after securing that vote Tuesday night.
Under Townsend’s leadership, the local Democrats saw a shift in party control of the county, especially in the 2018 and 2020 elections. Townsend oversaw the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners move from a 5-2 Republican majority to a 5-2 Democratic take-over in just three election cycles.
The former nurse practitioner credits her strategic reorientation of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party to focus on reaching voters outside of Tampa, where only 28% of party members reside, she said.
The county party, recognizing that 64% of all Democratic voters reside in the unincorporated parts of Hillsborough County, were also successful in turning the county’s Tax Collector Office and Temple Terrace City Council blue. In 2018, this approach flipped Florida House District 59 blue with former Rep. Adam Hattersley taking the seat, which Democrats held onto this year with newly elected Rep. Andrew Learned.
Townsend is proud of her efforts in Hillsborough, saying the local party has moved from a club-like organization to a small business, raking in almost $750,000 in donations in the last two years.
Townsend, if she chooses to run, will be up against former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who has courted widespread support in his bid to take over the FDP. She will also face Cynthia Moore Chestnut, who leads the Alachua County Democratic Party, and Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida Chair Janelle Christensen. Nikki Barnes, who’s served as a Democratic National Committee member, is also eyeing the job.