Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said he won’t concentrate Florida Democratic Party efforts only in cities if he’s in charge.
A couple weeks after announcing his bid for state chair, Diaz unrolled a 67-county strategy that “focuses on reaching voters across the state” while monitoring “constantly changing demographics in counties and regions.”
“We must build a strong party infrastructure, fighting on important issues so we can define ourselves before our opponents do, and set the stage to win elections,” Diaz wrote in an email to party leaders.
“It is that simple.”
Diaz threw his hat in the ring for party chair following Democrats’ drubbing in Florida in the 2020 election. Even though Democrat Joe Biden won the White House, President Donald Trump won in Florida, one of just three states where he improved on his 2016 percentage of the vote. Democrats also lost two Miami-area Congressional races and seats in the Florida House and Senate.
Current state chair Terrie Rizzo won’t seek reelection.
Diaz suggested in his email the problems came because the party put too much of its focus on Democratic strongholds. Democrats need a year-round, statewide infrastructure moving forward.
“To facilitate this, we cannot confine our office operations to one location,” he wrote. “We must have a presence throughout Florida. In addition to offices in North and South Florida, I will open a Central Florida office as the first step in my vision of having regional organizational hubs throughout the state. In my plan, each region will be led by a team of high-performing organizers who are dedicated to supporting DECs in enhancing their capacity to build, fight and win.”
He also promised to improve the party’s network of voter data, both in terms of accuracy and efficiency in terms of targeting potential supporters.
Diaz also promised a stricter messaging discipline. That comes after many post-mortems have focused on the devastating impact Republicans painting Democrats as “socialists” appeared to have, especially in counties like Miami-Dade where a large immigrant community claims roots in Cuba or Latin American countries languishing under communist rule.
Notably, he promised a focus on candidate recruitment for down ballot races.
“Our successes and failures at the bottom of the ticket are just as important as those at the top of the ticket,” Diaz wrote. “Democratic officials in local offices are closest to the people, have the ability to make decisions felt by residents immediately, and can be some of our most visible champions.”
Democrats ran candidates this year in nearly every legislative district, but organizers of that effort complained they saw little cooperation — and in some cases pushback — to doing so. Janelle Christensen, the Democratic Environmental Caucus leader who spearheaded that independent effort, is now also running for state chair.
So is Alachua County Democratic Chair Cynthia Chestnut, who has promised grassroots organizing statewide. She’s also sounded many of the concerns about diversity outreach raised by Diaz in his letter. Nikki Barnes, who has served as a Democratic National Committee member, is also eyeing the job and Hillsborough County Democratic Party Chair Ione Townsend filed this week to run.
Diaz, though, has seen the most public showing of support from those officials who won elected office in the state, with lawmakers lining up behind the former Mayor.