Florida Democrats step up effort to run candidates in every congressional, legislative district

Democrat Donkey Under American Flag
But that means finding candidates in dozens of districts before the qualification deadline.

The Florida Democratic Party (FDP) has announced a recruitment effort to field candidates for every state and federal legislative office in Florida. Up until now, any attempt to run a full slate on candidates had been championed by grassroots activists.

Billboard campaigns seeking candidates to run just rolled out in Polk, Madison, Miami-Dade and Seminole counties, where the state party is making a targeted candidate recruitment. “You’re already a leader. Run for office,” the large signs read.

“There are 27 uncontested House seats with no Democrat running and it is up to us to change that,” said Nikki Fried, Florida Democratic Party Chair, when speaking about state races.

“We are already competing in more races compared to 2022 but it is our goal to field candidates in every seat across the state and give Republicans a run for their money. As we get closer to qualifying deadlines, candidate recruitment is a top priority.”

There’s arguable more seats with no candidate than the state party is acknowledging. Regardless, the state party’s involvement stands in sharp contrast to four years ago, when an effort to run long shot Democrats in every legislative district was greeted with resistance in Tallahassee.

Many of the activists involved in the 2020 effort have worked to recruit candidates this year, and welcomed news of the state party’s embrace of the concept.

“It’s awesome they are doing it,” said Margie Stein, a Collier County activist who has recruited candidates in red districts for months. “Four years ago, we were getting a lot of pushback from local (Democratic Executive Committees) and existing candidates. I think Nikki clearly has a different attitude about it.”

The billboard campaign drew immediate derision, however, from counterparts in Florida’s now-dominant political party.

“I could think of a bigger waste of money…oh wait I can’t,” posted Evan Power, Republican Party of Florida Chair.

The goal of the campaign is field Democratic candidates in all the state’s 28 congressional districts, 20 Florida Senate districts and 120 Florida House districts on the ballot this election cycle.

At the moment, there is a long way to go.

Right now, there are no Democrats filed in three federal races in Florida, including in Florida’s 2nd, 3rd and 12th Congressional Districts. Many other districts have Democrats who opened elections accounts but still haven’t reported enough funds raised to cover a $10,044 qualifying fee due next week. The Florida Democratic Party said it’s recruiting candidates in Florida’s 2nd, 5th and 12th Congressional Districts.

There are four Florida Senate districts with no Democrats filed, including Senate Districts 1, 23, 29 and 39. In SD 1, there is no incumbent and former Sen. Don Gaetz may be elected without opposition.

There are also 38 Florida House races as of mid-day April 17 with no Democrat filed. Those include House Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 20, 24, 25, 26, 34, 45, 48, 49, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 85, 86, 87, 88, 110, 112, 113, 114, 116 and 118.

The legislative qualifying deadline is June 14. There are about 11 races the Florida Democratic Party did not list as races without a candidate, but the current list includes quite a few districts considered battlegrounds just last cycle.

Republican Rep. Carolina Amesty in House District 45, for example, remains unopposed despite representing a district carried in 2020 by Democratic President Joe Biden by nearly 6 percentage points. GOP Rep. Michael Caruso represents a district that split even in 2020.

But Stein said even if districts that lean deep red, Democratic candidates have a role to play.

“Think of this like a ball game,” she said. “You need the requisite number of players, and if you don’t have the players you just can’t win.”

Fergie Reid, founder of 90 for 90, said the philosophy of running a full slate helped Democrats over several election cycles back the Virginia General Assembly after years of Republican control, and to even pick up some surprise seats along the way.

“You have to compete,” he said. “Florida is a gigantic state. You can’t expect to have any type of electoral success if you don’t compete everywhere.”

The effort to field a candidate in 2020 resulted in Democrats qualifying in all but one House district, though Democrats ultimately suffered a net loss in seats that year.

Still, Reid notes that Democrats were at least competitive statewide in the Presidential Election, forcing Republican Donald Trump to spend money defending Florida while losing more contested battleground states. Biden’s campaign has signaled that Florida can be competitive again this year.

Stein said there was no real effort to field candidates in every district in 2022. Whether coincidentally or consequentially, Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio won re-election by landslide margins.

Democrats want to make sure to at least stake a claim in every district this cycle.

“We all know someone who should run for office, and if there has ever been a time to step up and lead, it’s now,” said Danielle Hawk, FDP Candidates and Campaigns Manager.

“We hope this campaign is the sign that leaders in our communities need to see to make the decision to run, and the Florida Democratic Party is here to help. We’re launching this campaign to ensure that every seat has someone who is committed to fighting for Florida.”

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].


  • tom palmer

    April 17, 2024 at 9:39 pm

    If the Democrats in Florida had their act together, they would have launched their campaign a year ago. You not only have to field candidates, you have to field candidates who can appeal to voters in their district, raise campaign contributions and build a network of supporters. You don’t do that a month before qualifying.

    • Margie Stein

      April 18, 2024 at 2:30 pm

      True. However if you feel as you do then work outside the Florida Dem party… as we are doing to locate and field the best quality candidates you can find and then help them set up and run a basic campaign so we can get Dems out to vote.

  • It's Complicated

    April 19, 2024 at 9:28 am

    Fried ignores the fact that only three of Florida’s Congressional Districts are really in play for both parties , and all three are currently held by Republicans. For those *swing districts, campaign money will largely determine who wins. One would think she would target those three winnable districts and FLOOD the money into what is achievable. The three swing districts are:
    FL-27, held by Maria Elvira Salazar (R) which is is EVEN
    FL-28, held by Carlos Gimenez (R), which is R+2
    FL-15, held by Laurel Lee (R), which is R+4
    EVERY other congressional seat in Florida is D or R @ +5, and nine are double digit for the party, well outside the margin of error, and generally out of reach for the other party except on rare occasions.

    Currently in Florida’s Congressional Delegation, no Democrat holds a R+ seat, and no Republican holds a D+ seat.

    *Cook Partisan Voting Index

    • rick whitaker

      April 19, 2024 at 7:09 pm

      IT’S COMPLICATED, just call nikki up and tell her you know everything, and she knows nothing, maybe she will hire you. you make everything so simple, even complicated things, and then you complicate simple things. it seems you are a monday morning know it all. you make your jewels of knowledge known, after the fact. how convenient.

Comments are closed.


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