Preparing for 2020 elections, strengthening the Democratic Party, learning new technologies, making new friends, meeting old friends, and building partnerships were some of the highlights for 13 Charlotte County Democratic Executive Committee members who traveled to Orlando to attend the Leadership Blue Conference.
Five participants reflect on their experiences at Leadership Blue.
They are Lucy Garner, State Committeewoman; Patrick Hurley, Chair; Patti Jones, precinct captain; Teresa Jenkins, Vice Chair; and our youngest member, Melissa Leon Pons.
Whether a newbie or someone who’s participated in many Democratic conferences, “there was something for everyone,” said Lucy. For her, building and keeping personal relationships with people across Florida is important. “We are a large family. We try to meet people from around the state. We can talk face-to-face with party leaders. We are a big Blue tent, a big family.”
Lucy was impressed by the numbers of Democrats who participated from across Florida. About 2000 attended the 3-day weekend conference and training sessions. “Over a thousand people attended the gala dinner,” Lucy said. The gala dinner featured Democratic notables from across the nation such as Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, and Florida’s first Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture, Nikki Fried.
Patti Jones was enthralled by Hakeem’s address. “His speech was everything we should be working towards. He generated an amazing amount of enthusiasm and standing ovations!”
Tom Perez stressed party unity after the Democratic presidential candidate is nominated, Patti said. Patti especially liked the Ag Commissioner’s remarks. “Nikki Fried stated it the best: ‘We are here this weekend to reinvigorate ourselves to make sure that we are ready for 2020 because a path to the White House is all the way through Florida, and it starts right here in the grassroots of the Democratic Party.’ ”
Training sessions, work groups and meetings covering a wide range of topics were held from morning to night throughout the three-day conference. Teresa Jenkins said CCDEC members were interested in topics such as voter registration, recruiting active volunteers, voter outreach, and using digital media to build a grassroots brand. Because Republicans turn out to vote in greater percentages than Democrats, registering more Democrats is crucial, notes Teresa. “Mike Coleman, precinct development director for the Palm Beach Democratic Party, said Florida Democrats needed to register a half million voters before the 2020 election to turn the state Blue.” A major effort to register voters is being undertaken by former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, says Teresa. Gillum “has made a goal to register 1 million voters through a political action group named after his 2018 campaign slogan, ’Bring It Home’. Gillum has raised $800,000.”
Protecting voters’ rights is also a major concern, says Teresa. A new position in Florida Democratic Party was created Voter Protection Directory, filled by Brandon Peters. He predicts there will be recounts in the 2020 election. (See Warning to Florida Democrats: Presidential election recount is coming in 2020)
For Jane Merriam, Charlotte Dems Secretary, bringing home tools to schedule events and track participation helped make the trip to Orlando worthwhile. FDP wants local Dem groups to use Mobilize America to schedule events. Jane says, “The main reason the State (FDP) wants to use Mobilize America is so they can capture all of the volunteer activities, and hours participating to communicate and convince presidential candidates to come to Florida to campaign.” Jane is working to implement Mobilize America for CCDEC events.
Youngest Charlotte Dem member, Melissa Leon Pons, also attended Leadership Blue. She remarks, “Being surrounded by so many wise individuals who have experience with the political campaigning process provided me with a fresh perspective on everything I thought I knew and a renewed sense of hope for 2020.” (Read more of Melissa’s experiences A Glimpse into a Blue Future: Young Dem Attends Leadership Blue).
Pattie Jones summarizes her Leadership Blue experiences. “There were wonderful speakers and training sessions available throughout the conference. The overall message of the Leadership Blue: All Democrats need to get engaged as much as possible!”