Florida's Role At DNC Small, But Party Looks To Flip State Races In 2018

Jul 29, 2016

Florida has a big role to play in the upcoming Presidential election, and beyond. And while the state’s televised primetime presence during the Democratic National Convention may have been limited, the state is still expected to keep its role as a national player.

Florida’s presence on the big stage during the Democratic National Convention was more muted this year. That’s partly due to the resignation of state Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC Chair. But the state had some televised representation. Wednesday, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum stepped up to the mic:

“Hello my fellow Democrats. And hello my fellow Floridians. If you needed a reminder, Florida is in the house," he said to cheers.

Gillum is viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. He’s also an early supporter of Hilary Clinton with sights set beyond Tallahassee. Earlier this year, he considered running for Congress in a newly redrawn District Five, only to pull back making way for former state Senator Al Lawson to challenge Corrine Brown. Gillum made the most of his time on the DNC stage, throwing shade at Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"You know what ya’ll?" He said, "The world can seem scary enough without so-called leaders leading with fear for political gain.”

Also standing in the spotlight was Tallahassee’s own Star Swain, whose impromptu version of the National Anthem at the Lincoln Memorial went viral. Democrats later invited her to their convention, and she got a standing ovation from the DNC crowd.

But most of the Florida action took place behind the scenes. During delegation breakfasts, Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine addressed the crowd. All are seen as potential gubernatorial candidates in 2018, and Graham alluded to that race in her address.

“We have the opportunity to elect a new legislature this year," she said. "In two years, we’ll have the opportunity to take back the Governor’s mansion, but we’ll have to fight to do it.”

And state Senator-elect Lauren Book, daughter of Florida lobbyist Ron Book, pushed support for Clinton.

"Perhaps, it’s because 2020 makes the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and you want a woman who has spent her entire career fighting for women, children and families in the white house. Not a Trumpster, who uses sexism, disrespect and disregard for women and their worth," she told state delegates.

“Florida's critical to Hillary, but there are many options, other ways she could become president without winning Florida. Ohio and Pennsylvania are going to be critical for her, as well. But for Donald Trump, it's an absolute must-win. If we loses Florida, he cannot win the presidency," Florida delegation deputy whip Pamsay McLauchlan of Pinellas told member station WUSF in Tampa.

So while Florida may not have been center stage at the Democratic National Convention, its influence in the race to the White House cannot be ignored.