In The Quest To Re-engage Voters, Florida Democrats Have A Long Road Ahead - WUSF Public Media | Tampa NPR, Local News Coverage

In The Quest To Re-engage Voters, Florida Democrats Have A Long Road Ahead

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, tweeted that Florida Democrats "need a whole new direction." News Service of Florida

On this week’s Florida Matters, we look at the state of Florida’s Democratic Party, post election.

Hoping to add to their majority in Congress, Democrats ended up losing seats, including two in Florida. The party also lost ground in Florida’s House and Senate.

To understand what went wrong, host Bradley George spoke with State Representative Anna Eskamani of Orlando and Politico reporter Sabrina Rodriguez.

Eskamani, an Orlando native, was first elected to fill the District 47 seat in Orange County in 2018 and was re-elected this year. On election night, she tweeted that the Florida Democratic Party needed a shake up after early losses that night.

Rodriguez agreed. She said President Trump steered many of Florida’s Latino voters away from voting for president-elect Joe Biden by painting him as a socialist.

Democrats did little to counter Trump’s rhetoric.

“You could talk to a white farmer in Iowa and they would tell you that Biden was a socialist,” Rodriguez said. “But it didn’t have nearly as much resonance as it did in South Florida and in parts of Florida. We’re talking about big Latino populations that have fled socialist regimes, that are very intimately aware of what it looks like.”

Eskamani said she made sure her campaign reached out to that community in her district.

“We were very intentional early on in doing Spanish speaking outreach. So we had volunteers that spoke Spanish, that would build relationships on the campaign trail in that community,” Eskamani said.

“We also embarked on Spanish language commercials, phone banks and text message campaigns. And I have to tell you, the most robust text bank we had was in Spanish, and I think it was because no one was talking to our Spanish speaking community except us. We actually got response rates of people asking questions about voting, wanting to know where to go, what the deadlines were.”

The biggest takeaway as state Democrats move forward is the party can’t afford similar losses in the 2022 election cycle, Rodriguez said. She predicts Florida will likely become less of a reliable swing state in the years to come.

“The reality is that 2020 can’t happen again to Democrats, or else we’d be talking about almost no Democrats in the Florida Legislature,” she said.

You can hear the full conversation above.

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