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Cynthia Moore Chestnut


Wes Hodge withdraws, backs Cynthia Moore Chestnut for Democrats’ chair

Democrats choices narrow to Chestnut, Manny Diaz, Ione Townsend.

The contest for leadership of the Florida Democratic Party narrowed again Friday afternoon when Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge withdrew from the field and endorsed Cynthia Moore Chestnut.

Hodge announced his withdrawal and endorsement early Friday afternoon, narrowing the candidate field to three: Chestnut, who is chair of the Alachua County Democratic Party; Manny Diaz, the former Miami Mayor; and Ione Townsend, the Hillsborough County Democratic Party chair.

Late Thursday Nikki Barnes withdrew from the race and endorsed Chestnut.

The election is Saturday, with a virtual meeting of the Florida Democratic Party starting at noon.

Like Barnes, Hodge cited the need for the party to reestablish relationships with Black Democrats.

“I think at this time we need a Black woman to lead our party and she’s the right person for the job,” Hodge said of Chestnut.

When Barnes withdrew and endorsed Chestnut, she echoed that sentiment.

““After seeing the results in Georgia it’s imperative that @FlaDems truly demonstrates that it’s prepared to trust black women. She is more than prepared to meet this moment. Join me in supporting her for Chair of the Florida Democratic Party.”

Chestnut has been chair of the Alachua party since 2014 and also is chair of the Democratic County Chairs Association of Florida.

Though there are now three candidates, down from a high of six at one point, the FDP rules allow for nominations from the floor on Saturday.

Democrats also will be electing a first vice chair, a treasurer and a secretary.

Incumbent First Vice Chair Judy Mount of Jackson County, is seeking reelection against three challengers from Volusia County, County Councilman Phillip Giorno, Evans Smith and Civil Rights activist Joyce Cusack.

Incumbent Secretary Casmore Shaw is seeking reelection against State Committee Member Valery Duhl of Volusia County.

Incumbent Treasurer Francine Garcia is seeking reelection against Kristina  Renteria of Seminole County.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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