Florida Democrats incorrectly claim local program flipped seats blue

Nikki Fried touted wins for the Take Back Local program, but Democrats in each instance already held the seats.

Florida Democratic Party (FDP) Chair Nikki Fried says a program focused on local races helped flip seats in municipal contests across Florida. But in every race where the state party intervened with that program and won, a Democrat already held the seat before.

The Republican Party of Florida, meanwhile, boasted about a handful of important wins, including a clean sweep on the Clearwater City Council.

Fried unsurprisingly touted election wins on a call with reporters. During the call, she noted that four of the seven candidates supported by the party’s Take Back Local program prevailed.

“Some of them were flipping seats. Some was retention,” Fried said. “But we really put a lot of time, energy and effort into making sure that we were focusing on areas across our state, and we also had other major wins across our state.”

In each of the Take Back Local races where Democrats won, the office was already held by a Democrat.

FDP spokesman Eden Giagnorio later noted that Democrat Megan Zemaitis ousted Kenneth City Mayor Robert Howell, who has no party affiliation. That race, however, was not targeted by the state party’s Take Back Local program.

The Take Back Local effort indeed tallied victories.

In Ocoee, George Oliver fended off a better-funded conservative activist, and won back a District 4 seat he previously held. Giagnorio called that race a “flip,” but the Ocoee office won by Oliver is held now by Ages Hart, a registered Democrat. Hart notably was appointed to the job after Oliver resigned to make a failed bid for Mayor.

The city later rescheduled its election to fill the seat to coincide with the Presidential Primary, which party leaders characterized as an attempt to block Oliver’s election.

“For those of you who have not been following the City Commission in Ocoee, they basically threw everything they had against George,” said Orange County Democratic Party Chair Samuel Vilchez Santiago on the press call.

Additionally, Maria Rodriguez became the first Colombian American elected in Broward County history when she won a Pembroke Pines City Commission seat. And Andy Thomson won back a seat on the Boca Raton City Council with the state party’s help.

But the seat that Rodriguez won is occupied at the moment by Iris Siple, another Democrat. Thomson succeeds Monica Mayotte, also a Democrat.

The other victory for the party also came in Boca Raton, where City Council member Yvette Drucker defended a seat she already held.

“The lengths in which Nikki is spinning this electoral disaster is mind bending,” said Evan Power, Republican Party of Florida Chair and Fried’s GOP counterpart.

The Florida GOP touted a number of wins, including flips. That included a victory by Chloe Johnson for a Winter Garden City Commission seat over FDP-backed backed Karen McNeil; Ryan Cotton’s ouster of Democrat Mark Bunker from the Clearwater City Council; Richard DeNapoli flipping a seat on the Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Town Commission; and Tom Carney turning the Delray Beach Mayor’s Office red.

Republican Nadia Anderson also won a seat on the Apopka City Commission that was held by Democrat Diane Velazquez. The incumbent did not seek re-election, and Democrats did not field a candidate, an oversight only because Anderson changed parties immediately before the election.

Fried said there was still a “complete opportunity to work with Nadia,” but Power said Anderson was a “conservative.”

Technically, municipal offices in Florida are nonpartisan, and candidates can’t even advertise their party affiliation. That leaves it largely to party operations to inform voters of candidates’ party affiliation, which can happen in hotly contested races frequently.

The Florida Democratic Party never identified the elections in Apopka, Delray Beach or Lauderdale-by-the-Sea as priorities at the state level.


Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Dont Say FLA

    March 20, 2024 at 2:15 pm

    Florida’s Democrats are finally catching up with the G0P’s strategy. Just lie, deny lying, and accuse those accusing you of lying, saying they’re the liars. Yay!

  • Maura Hedrich

    March 20, 2024 at 2:24 pm

    You are correct that municipal races are suppose to be non-partisan races but Bruce Rector’s Clearwater Mayoral race was a nasty and dirty Republican race from day one. Commissioner Chris Latvala was the mastermind along with former Mayor Frank Hibbard. The first flier mailed to residents listed Republican Rep Anna Paula Luna as a supporter followed by 6 to 8 other Republicans backing Rector. He does not know the first thing about city issues nor do the other two new council members. That became quit evident in the candidate forums. Ryan Cotton is also the son-in-law of Councilmember David Allbritton. I wonder how that will work out with Florida’s Sunshine Law? To sum the Clearwater Municipal elections up is easy, the big business powerbrokers won and the residents lost. Residents lost their supporters of Kathleen Beckman and Mark Bunker.

  • Impeach Biden

    March 20, 2024 at 2:58 pm

    Nikki Fried is dishonest, mean spirited, and an obstructionist in Florida. She called her fellow kook friend, Rebekah Jones, a scientist. Rebekah is no scientist. She is probably on Only Fans now. Fried used her position as AG Comimisioner to attack DeSantis daily. It failed just like her political career when she couldn’t even defeat flip flopper Charlie Crist for the Demo nomination for Governor. She probably thinks she can revive her political career by running the Demo party of Florida. She is just not a likable person and won’t succeed in the end. She has that Florida Gator arrogance all over her. Like the football team she will crash.

    • It's Complicated

      March 20, 2024 at 3:13 pm

      I’ll always wonder if Fried would have received more votes against DeSantis than Crist did in the ’22 Gubernatorial Election. As it was, DeSantis set a margin of victory record in that race.

      • Impeach Biden

        March 20, 2024 at 4:18 pm

        DeSantis would have rolled that mean spirited beotch.

        • Dont Say FLA

          March 21, 2024 at 2:32 pm

          Can Rhonda roll themself off the couch without assistance?

          Their diet looks very clearly to be over and done.


          • MH/Duuuval

            March 21, 2024 at 3:04 pm

            Ozempic is my guess.

        • It's Complicated

          March 27, 2024 at 5:13 pm

          I have no doubt DeSantis would have trounced Fried, too, in 2022. My curiosity is more along the lines of, “Would it have been the same record-setting margin of victory?” like the Crist matchup. I suspect it would have been.

          Voters make interesting decisions in Primaries, particularly because primaries have 24-28% voter turnout, meaning an effective GOTV campaign can win the day. Great examples are found in 2018 Gubernatorial race. Gwen Graham came in second with 31.3% to Andrew Gillum’s 34.3% in a crowded Democratic Party Primary. If Graham had won that primary, she was more likely to beat DeSantis in the General. Likewise, if Adam Putnam had won the GOP Primary that year, he was more likely to defeat Gillum in the General. Essentially, the parties both elected the weaker of the two front-runners in the Primaries. Graham v Putnam would have been an interesting matchup, too.

Comments are closed.


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