Election Losses Spark Conflict Among Florida Democrats

Election Losses Spark Conflict Among Florida Democrats

While congressional Democrats have downplayed party infighting, Democratic state lawmakers in Florida told Politico that significant Election Day losses have sparked divisions between the party’s moderates and progressives.

November’s election dealt a blow to Democrats in the Sunshine State, where Republicans flipped five seats in the state house and unseated Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D., Fla.) and Donna Shalala (D., Fla.). Democratic state lawmakers erupted over the results in a Nov. 4 phone call, Politico reported Wednesday. State officials who joined the call noted several problems within their party, including messaging—which highlights a growing chasm between centrist and leftist Democrats in the state.

Florida state senator Jason Pizzo (D.), one of the lawmakers on the call, expressed frustration with Republican messaging, which targeted Latino voters in Florida by focusing on left-wing Democrats’ embrace of socialism. 

“I am not a f—ing socialist,” Pizzo told Politico. “My life is a manifestation of the American Dream. I believe in free markets.” 

Former Florida state representative Sean Shaw (D.) said “everything went wrong” for Democrats this election. 

“We have turnout problems, messaging problems, coalitions problems, it’s up and down the board,” Shaw, who also ran a failed campaign for state attorney general in 2018, said. “It’s not one thing that went wrong. Everything went wrong.”

While leftist state lawmakers have called for “systematic change,” more moderate Democrats acknowledge Florida is a right-leaning state and said they must be “smart” if they want to win statewide offices in 2022. Only one Democrat, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, holds a statewide office. 

In Washington, congressional Democrats pointed fingers at one another in another chaotic post-election phone call on Nov. 5. On the call, Virginia congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D.) blamed leftist Democrats’ anti-police and socialist messaging for her near loss on Election Day. The “Squad,” a quartet of progressive House Democrats, has led the party’s march to the left since taking office in 2019.

But Democrats have largely dismissed the squabbles. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) said the party was just one “big family” in an interview addressing Democratic infighting on Sunday. Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said he did not know any Democratic candidates who backed left-wing efforts to defund the police. And last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) said she was not “aware” of any Democrats who campaigned on socialism. Both Omar and Ocasio-Cortez have backed efforts to defund police departments this year.

Lenze Morris, national press secretary for the Republican State Leadership Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon that socialist messaging led to Democrats’ demise this election despite record-breaking campaign spending.

“National Democrats and radical groups … spent millions to elect Democrats who ran on socialist agendas, and it resulted in a colossal failure for Democrats up-and-down the ballot,” Morris said. “It’s clear that socialism was a loser in this year’s elections, and Floridians sang that song the loudest.”

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