Head of Florida Democrats resigns after disastrous midterms

Jan 9, 2023, 7:31 PM | Updated: Jan 10, 2023, 3:25 pm

Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz , center, answers questions from reporters during a press...

Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz , center, answers questions from reporters during a press conference on Aug/ 22, 2022 in Miami. Diaz resigned Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, after a disastrous midterm election in the onetime battleground state. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection by a whopping 20 points, and the GOP flipped two key counties, including the once-Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade. (Jose Iglesias/Miami Herald via AP)

(Jose Iglesias/Miami Herald via AP)

MIAMI (AP) — The head of the Florida Democratic Party has resigned after a disastrous midterm election in the onetime battleground state. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection by a whopping 20 points and the GOP flipped two key counties, including the once-Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade.

In announcing his resignation, Manny Diaz, chair of the Florida Democrats, sent a long letter Monday to the state’s executive committee members complaining about a lack of resources, a lack of volunteers to knock on doors and a failure to present unified messaging.

“Historical investments never arrived, and a broken, unsustainable system was exposed,” Diaz wrote. “Although we started our effort earlier than in prior cycles, it was still too late. We were not able to afford necessary staffing or opening the desired number of offices. Those we did open were too late for community buy-in.”

The state Democratic Party did not immediately comment on Diaz’s complaints.

The crushing loss for Democrats has left them wondering how the state slipped away in a relatively short amount of time after President Barack Obama carried Florida twice. While the “red wave” did not come in the midterms nationally, the GOP delivered great results in Florida, building DeSantis’ star power as a possible 2024 White House contender.

DeSantis, asked about Diaz’s resignation at a news conference in Bonita Springs on Tuesday, responded cheerfully, “There ain’t as many Democrats around as there used to be in the state of Florida, and we had something to do with that in November of 2022.”

The Democrats’ troubles last year were particularly pronounced in Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county and home to 1.5 million Latinos of voting age. In a county that Obama won a decade ago by 24 percentage points, DeSantis in November defeated his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, by more than 11.

Diaz, who served as chair of Florida Democrats for two years and is a former mayor of the city of Miami, said that volunteers “have become nearly extinct in Florida since Obama’s last campaign in 2012.”

“We have plenty of social media activists, not roll-up-your-sleeves volunteers. We communicate virtually, not personally,” he wrote.

The Florida Democratic Party has not received enough resources, Diaz said, adding that the national Democratic organization invested just 2% of the amount they contributed in 2018. He says national donors, even those based in Florida, don’t donate to the state party, and Republican statewide candidates outraised Democrats by more than $163 million.

The Democratic National Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Despite Democrats’ poor results, Diaz contests the notion that Florida is now a red state.

“We have a history of extremely close elections. Floridians overwhelmingly adopted constitutional amendments that reflect our values,” he said, naming medical marijuana, felon voting restoration and a higher minimum wage as some examples of issues that resonate with voters.

Diaz said he was surprised the state party had a “hands-off approach” to messaging, leaving it up to each candidate. The state has a large Cuban American population that remains fiercely skeptical of leftist governments.

Former President Donald Trump courted Latino voters in the state by undoing Obama’s Cuba engagement policy and sanctioning Latin-American socialist governments. He cast Democrats as leftists and anti-capitalists, contributing to the rightward shift.

Democrats in the state have struggled to defend themselves against the socialism label.

“No amount of hard work or resources can overcome a bad message, a message that fails to connect with people where they are,” Diaz wrote. “The point of messaging is to win votes. You do that by not prompting ideological polarization.”

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Head of Florida Democrats resigns after disastrous midterms