FDP Chair candidates’ responses to our three questions

THREE QUESTIONS RAISED BY TERESA JENKINS, CHARLOTTE COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR TO ALL 6 CANDIDATES. 3 RESPONDED TO DATE.
1.  How can Florida Democrats compete in the information wars, given the massive media machine the GOP has at its disposal? How should Democrats adapt?
2.  What actions will you take to draw more attention to and be supportive of local candidates and races?
3.  Florida Democrats underperformed expectations in the November presidential election. What do you believe went wrong and what actions do you believe are necessary to resolve the shortfalls of our Party this election cycle?

MANNY DIAZ RESPONDED:

1.  How can Florida Democrats compete in the information wars, given the massive media machine the GOP has at its disposal? How should Democrats adapt?
Florida Democrats need to build a decentralized messaging machine of elected officials, activists, and supporters distributing tailored messaging to the media markets, and segments of voters online, we are communicating in. We have historically operated a top-down, one-size-fits-all message operation. We have to get much more granular in order to compete with the GOP. For example, we need a different message for NPAs in Miami-Dade than NPAs in Charlotte County or NPAs in North Florida. We need different messaging for African American women in population-dense cities than that of White men in rural areas. Once we have that segmented messaging operation, we need to show up. So much of the GOP message has been framing us instead of us framing ourselves. When we don’t show up and fight back, pushing our message on our policies and winning the hearts and minds of voters or do so at the last minute, we are putting ourselves at a massive disadvantage. We also recruit, coordinate with and train powerful local messengers and empower them to communicate to voters in their areas.  

2.  What actions will you take to draw more attention to and be supportive of local candidates and races?
We absolutely need to continue building a bench of talent in the Florida Democratic Party. As a former Mayor, I know that step one is recruiting candidates to run at the local level and making sure they have the resources needed to win their races. Alongside Commissioner Ken Russell, I will continue to build the Florida Democratic Party’s Municipal Victory Program. We need to set growth goals for the number of local candidates recruited, funded, and elected and be intentional about identifying candidates who may already be doing the work of speaking out and up for their communities. We need candidates of the people who can speak to their concerns, but also to their dreams and aspirations. Part of our support should include training on every part of running campaigns and connecting them to local funders. FDP should be a resource to them and provide critical needs to help them run successful campaigns, like giving them access to good data and helping to facilitate the production and procurement of campaign needs and staff.

3.  Florida Democrats underperformed expectations in the November presidential election. What do you believe went wrong and what actions do you believe are necessary to resolve the shortfalls of our Party this election cycle?

There wasn’t one thing that went wrong, there were many. I’ve narrowed it down to three categories: organizational execution, messaging, and data. Additional detail on all the things I think are necessary can be found on my website at www.MannyDiazforChair.com/vision. But in short, we need to plan and execute better. It feels like we are doing 80% of our work in the last 20% of the election cycle. We need to front-load our programs so we are engaging with voters over 18-24 months every cycle, not the last 90 days of a cycle. This is going to require more, earlier fundraising. Ideally, the first money we raise every cycle must go to Field. We also need to realize that not every county underperformed. We need to learn from those DECs that overperformed and understand what they are doing right. We must also fix our data. We are making way too many assumptions and resource decisions on bad data. We need to do a major search for the most accurate analytics operatives and pollsters. Last, we must have bottom-up, locally-tailored messaging, not top-down messaging. This means leaning in on local issues with just as much weight as we do our evergreen Democratic issues. 

NIKKI BARNES RESPONDED:

  1. Florida Democrats are loosing in the information wars for 2 reasons: 1. We are not adequately competing where voters get their content/news on various social media platforms and 2. We’ve adopted this mantra that if we just ignore the lies the voters will catch on and it will go away. Both are losing strategies. We have to become meticulous in getting information out repetitively. Drilling into the electorate how they are being disadvantaged by the current power structure in Florida and paint a picture of what a state looks like with Democrats in charge and more importantly how that personally benefits them. We have to go on the offense and be ready to play defense when needed but no more staying quiet and thinking that’s the high road needed to win. It’s not. 
  2. I believe in order for us to win we have got to invest in local candidates and build a year round strategy focused on community issues and community engagement. If given the opportunity to serve you as Chair I intend to meet with each county and build a roadmap towards the 2022 ballot which includes specific local seat targeting and candidate recruitment. I’m prepared to invest in the seats we decide to target and invest in the DECs, Clubs, and Caucuses so they can begin organizing on the ground around these candidates this year. We’ve got to become strategic and maniacal about claiming seats locally, organizing locally, and building more Democratic and left leaning majorities locally. That’s how we build our bench and subsequently how we strengthen our party’s influence from the ground up. 
  3. I believe the Florida Democratic Party went wrong in 3 areas: 
    1. Voter Registration – We needed to register 300,000 new black voters and had the opportunity to do that in 2019 before COVID. The party delayed and pushed those efforts back to 2020 and because of the pandemic were not able to reach that goal. 
    2. PPP Loan – party leadership failed to follow the party’s bylaws and bring forth an amendment to the proposed budget that included the language for the loan. If the bylaws had been followed many of us who are involved in small business and serve on this committee would have told party leadership that our organization is a 527 and therefore not eligible. This mistake cost us dearly. 
    3. Investment in County Organization – there is always an abundance of money that comes into Florida for elections and although Democrats don’t see as much as the Republican Party, money truly is not an issue. The issue is how we invest the money. We haven’t adequately invested in county DECs, Clubs, and Caucuses to aid in local infrastructure building and voter engagement events. I truly believe that when we invest and focus on winning local we build the momentum to win at the top of ticket. As Chair this is my infrastructure strategy and I will invest majority our funds into local races. 

DR. JANELLE CHRISTENSEN RESPONDED:

Here is a link to my “Democratic Experience Resume”:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ffyF4MjqpJFEc22uOOHboIB5sXaOeutZkoa_TEdMq78/edit?usp=sharing


1.       How can Florida Democrats compete in the information wars, given the massive media machine the GOP has at its disposal? How should Democrats adapt? 

The Republican media machine is backed by wealthy special interests. The FDP has a lot of financial challenges which makes it difficult to compete in the same way… so we have to be smarter.

a.       Utilize the talent already working within the Democratic Party and begin training people within the DEC’s to design and run focus groups, analyze data and translate that into messaging. The same training for survey design, application, and analysis is also necessary. This allows our communities to be more agile in response to the attacks that are resonating locally. We can craft a better response. This will also allow us to go on the offensive with better messaging.      We already know we need to be using the “truth sandwich” in response to misleading attacks. Raising money from smaller, more frequent (monthly) donations can help fund these projects.

b.       We need to be smarter about how we get the message out to voters. I think we need to leverage bus benches and billboards more since more people are likely to see those. For example, “Are these buses able to get you to work on time? If you want to make it better, go to your county commissioners [local contact data]. “Worried about your water making you sick? Contact your State House Representative” [Contact Here]. This needs to be done year-round.

2.       What actions will you take to draw more attention to and be supportive of local candidates and races?

I started my work in politics volunteering on a local State House campaign in 2018 (Florida State House 78, Dr. Parisima Taeb campaign). It was then I identified several barriers that our own party (FDP) inadvertently put in place, keeping candidates from being as effective as they could have been. I believe that candidates, especially in historically red districts, ought to considered community organizers and be given access to data that candidates need to reach potential voters (VAN access). The cost can be prohibitive for grass roots campaigns.

Secondly, because we had fewer resources, we felt it was important to work with other like-minded candidates to get our message out. We started Florida Candidates for Science, which included Annisa Karim, Dr. Jennifer Boddicker, and Cindy Polo, Nikki Fried, and Senator Nelson. We started a website, scheduled a conference on the Harmful Algal Blooms in SWFL and began to boost each other on social media.

As President of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida, I worked hard to provide Democratic legislators with information about legislation that was bad for the environment. We tracked their voting records and helped to educate the public.

As of March 2020, I found that there were still Florida 33 state legislative seats that did not have a Democrat challenging the Republican candidates. I began recruiting candidates from the Democratic Environmental Caucus membership to fill those orphaned seats. I also reached out to the DEC chairs, when possible, to try to help them recruit candidates. I worked with a fundraiser from FutureNow to raise the filing fees for those candidates ($1744 each) because it was too late to collect petitions. I personally helped candidates fill out the paperwork. We ultimate raised an additional $3000 for 40 candidates (including those we did not recruit). We held weekly support trainings.

We created a Slack group where candidates could share resources and eventually raised money for people to prep candidates for debates and help with volunteer coordination.

This was all done on a part-time basis. For free. As chair, I would be able to dedicate all of my time to coordinating statewide support systems for candidates. I have already proven that is my highest priority and will follow-through.

3.  Florida Democrats underperformed expectations in the November presidential election. What do you believe went wrong and what actions do you believe are necessary to resolve the shortfalls of our Party this election cycle?

The Florida Democratic Party (FPD) needs to have a clear mission that unifies all of the projects and grounds every decision made. I would ensure that the grounding goal for FDP would be to “help Democratic candidate run successful and ethical campaigns”. Though FDP had a wonderful municipal election campaign and a good voter protection program, there was not a unifying mission.

If helping candidates run successful and ethical campaigns were the true goal, FDP would not be making some of the decisions it  made in the past four years; they would not be charging candidates for the data they need to win; they would be ensuring that there were contacts to help people fill out the confusing paperwork required to run for office; there would be staff dedicated to helping candidates file the challenging financial reports. They might have through more carefully about some of the problematic industries from which they took funds… which hurts candidates running grass roots campaigns. This means new leadership.

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