OUR POSITION: Democrats should be ashamed they cannot offer candidates in so many races for a seat in the Florida House and Senate.
Florida is falling into an autocracy. And Democrats have to shoulder much of the blame.
As Florida becomes a solid red state, as opposed to “purple” prior to the Ron DeSantis victory, Republican office holders find themselves on more solid ground than ever. And they have a huge treasure chest of funding to fall back on — especially in congressional races and key state races.
All indications are Democrats are too often throwing up their hands instead of spending money and time challenging strong Republican candidates.
The lack of opposition cheats voters of opportunities to hear the issues debated in public. And it cheats every citizen of making sure their best interests are served by someone who has to earn a seat at the table, not have it given to them.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Democrats failed to offer a candidate in 15 of the 40 races for a seat in the state Senate. And, no Democrat filed to contest 41 of the 120 openings for the state House of Representatives.
Look no further than Sarasota and Charlotte counties for examples.
There are no Democrat opponents this November for James Buchanan, Republican state representative in District 74; Michael Grant, Republican state rep for District 75; or Spencer Roach, Republican state rep for District 76.
The lack of candidates in local races is disappointing too — even those that are nonpartisan. Not one Charlotte County race for School Board, County Commission or the Punta Gorda Airport Authority will be decided in November. The winner of seats that need to be filled will emerge from the August primaries.
We asked Teresa Jenkins, chair of the Charlotte County Democratic Party, if the problem is money or a general feeling of futility in an area where Republicans are a solid majority.
“We are disappointed too,” she said of the lack of candidates.
“We have candidates when we’re going against the real radical right opponents, like Greg Steube,” Jenkins said of Andrea Kale, a North Port Democrat who is taking on Steube. “But, especially in Charlotte County, there are not a lot of issues or people unhappy with how things are going.
“And,” she added, “you have to look at our demographics. We have a lot of retirees who came here to enjoy (the good life) and they like their recreation.” She said it is more difficult to find older people who want the hassle and the work it takes to campaign.
Jenkins said, however, there are closet Democrats who run for office as Republicans.
“That’s the sad part,” she said. “They believe they have to have an R by their name to get elected.”
The Democrat chair said running for office during the contentious feuding between parties can be scary.
“There are death threats,” she said. “I have even had them. But candidates, Democrats and those perceived to be RINOs, have even had threats made against their families.”
We don’t doubt that much, perhaps all, of Jenkins’ charges and excuses are on target. Running for office — both for Republicans and Democrats — takes courage and a thick skin. Stories about national candidates for office being threatened are becoming more and more common as the chasm between left and right grows wider and deeper.
Republicans, in Florida at least, have tapped into a groundswell of uneasiness with the Democrat agenda. They’ve found a champion in Gov. Ron DeSantis who shows no fear in speaking his mind. Couple all that with the generosity of supporters and it’s a difficult challenge for Democrats to overcome.
Still, we’re disappointed to see so many uncontested seats, especially in the state House and Senate where more and more laws and rules are being passed that restrict the power of local governments and impact our lives.