Mindy Koch wins election by 1 vote to become Palm Beach County Democratic Party Chair

Mindy Koch ART
The change in party leadership comes after Palm Beach County Democrats suffered a historic drubbing.

A former teacher and two-time candidate for the Legislature was elected as Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s Chair by one vote — 160-159 — as the party struggles to turn the former Democratic stronghold back to blue.

Mindy Koch, who ran for Senate in 2016 and the House in 2018, will succeed Terrie Rizzo, who led county Democrats for 10 years. Koch said it’s undeniable that the party — faced with significant losses in the Midterms — needs to regroup.

Immediately, Koch said she’s going to be focused on making sure existing mail-in registered Democrats renew their voting-by-mail status as a new voting law requires starting next year. She also said that registering more voters is a focus, along with a listening tour to find out what candidates and potential candidates need from the party.

“You can’t keep doing the same thing because it’s boring,” she said.

Once a Democratic stronghold, Palm Beach County’s Democratic pols took an historic beating this past election. Not only did Gov. Ron DeSantis win more Palm Beach County votes than the Democrats’ gubernatorial nominee, Democratic candidates lost in Commission races and a state Representative race. U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Moskowitz and state Sen. Tina Polsky, both Democrats, also would have lost if not for Broward voters in their district pushing them to victory.

Koch noted that all but one of the party leaders were elected Thursday by one vote, with one of them winning by two votes, during a virtual party meeting.

“Definitely every vote counts,” she said.

Two of the candidates Koch supported won the club leadership position they sought. While Koch’s rival for the Chair position, Maria Cole, supported two candidates who won their positions. Cole is also a State Committeewoman for the Democratic Party. Koch has also served in the same role since 2000.

Others elected this week to the Palm Beach County Democratic Club leadership are Vice Chair Sean Rourk, Secretary Marvelous Washington, Treasurer Joel Schleifer, State Committeeman Junaid Akther.

Koch, a native of Westchester County, New York, has also lived in Nashville, Birmingham, Alabama and Pittsburgh. She had been a public school teacher for 41 years before retiring from Broward County schools in 2015. She’s taught English at both the middle school level and high school, as well as working in special education programs.

The mother of three children and grandmother to three more also has a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

She said she sees her new role as one where she’ll be talking a lot about what Democrats aim to do and what they have to offer.

“Teaching again,” she said. “What can I say?”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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