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Florida Dems sour on special session

Manny Diaz FDP Fl Politics.jpg
Florida Democratic Party
Manny Diaz, Chairman, Florida Democratic Party

Not everyone in Florida is on board with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ special session to tackle COVID-19 mandates this week.

“Look, nobody — no cop, no firefighter, no nurse, nobody — should be losing their jobs because of these jabs,” the governor said last month in announcing the session.

DeSantis called the special session to push back against federal vaccination requirements for health care facilities, and companies of more than 100 employees.

“It’s not just the Biden mandate; I mean, you have some major corporations that are basically enacting policies — maybe they just want to curry favor with him, I don’t know,” said DeSantis. “But they’re threatening to throw out people from work in the state of Florida.”

“I think it’s a total waste of money; I don’t know how they’re doing anything to make Floridians safer, to help our economy, to help us get back to normal. It’s just another political stunt," said Manny Diaz, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.

Diaz and other Democrats argue that the governor’s call is designed to further his White House ambitions, and that he should focus on other issues. The COVID bills, Diaz contends, could have been folded into the 2022 regular session, which begins in January.

“You’re talking about a month and a half away; there’s absolutely no rush to this,” Diaz said. “It’s transparent this is a personal political agenda on his part that has nothing to do with substance. He could have waited, and I’m sure the legislators probably would have preferred to wait until the regular session to do things like this.”

DeSantis announced last month his plans to seek a second term as governor next year, but Diaz believes the session is also gearing up for a possible run for the White House in 2024.

“Everything to me seems to indicate that he is, of course, I don’t know if he needs to get permission from his mentor and puppeteer Donald Trump — whether he himself has plans to run. So, who knows what’s going to happen?” Diaz said. “I speak to a lot of people around the country sort of regularly, and they’re all scared to death that our governor runs for president.”

From 1876 to 1992, Democrats controlled the Florida Senate. Prior to 1996, the House had been solid Democratic since the years immediately following the Civil War. Diaz believes they can get both chambers back, but cautions it will take time and “good, old-fashioned hard work.”

“We’re building up an infrastructure around the state, recruiting candidates, trying to get our message out, going out and meeting our voters,” said Diaz. “It’s not just the registration thing. It’s getting into the trenches, fighting with people on the ground on issues they care about and persuading them to register Democrats, to continue to be Democrats and to ultimately get out the vote.”

Historically, off-term elections have seen light turnout, and many believe that 2022 will be no different. That’s the challenge, says Diaz, to get soles to the polls — getting voters on their feet and to the ballot box. He believes voter confidence, trust and votes have to be earned.

“Regrettably our party, for the last couple of decades, has not done that,” concedes Diaz. “We take the off-year basically off, and then we resurface sometime — really in the middle — of the election year. And then people are just supposed to vote for us simply because they’re registered Democrats. I don’t believe in that; I believe you have to earn your vote each and every single day.”

It’s a matter of having better ideas than the GOP, says Diaz, pointing to Democratic successes on issues in recent elections.

“Last year, on the same ballot where Trump wins Florida, we passed a minimum wage law; prior to that we passed the felon voter registration law and we passed medical marijuana; we passed fair districts; and we passed some environment legislation, he said. “There’s a whole record of ... where essentially voters in Florida were voting on our issues, by over 60% by the way.”

Five Democrats are now seeking the party’s gubernatorial nomination, the two highest-profile being U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor; and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide-elected Democrat. Chairman Manny Diaz says both can go head-to-head with incumbent Ron DeSantis, but the key will be luring No Party Affiliation voters.

“I know in the 2020 cycle we lost that voter; and, for the first time that I can remember, went with Trump,” he said. “The governor’s race was decided by 30,000 votes in 2018, and the [U.S.] senate race that year was decided by 10,000 votes. So we’re still very much a purple state, a swing state.”

The FDP’s “Leadership Blue” conference is set for Dec. 3-5 in Orlando.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.