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Incoming Democratic House Leaders Speak On Campaign Strategies

Rep. Ramon Alexander(left), D-Tallahassee, and Rep. Fentrice Driskell(right), D-Tampa during debates on bills in the Florida Legislature.
Steve Cannon
AP Photo
Rep. Ramon Alexander(left), D-Tallahassee, and Rep. Fentrice Driskell(right), D-Tampa during debates on bills in the Florida Legislature.

Florida Democrats are trying to rebound from a disappointing election cycle. The minority party in the legislature finds itself even more diminished after unexpected losses and currently holds only one statewide seat—with Nikki Fried serving as Agriculture Commissioner. Now, incoming Minority leaders Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) and Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) are looking to help their side rebound.

Alexander became the first North Florida Democrat to serve in House leadership in over 40 years. His new role begins next year. And he’s already making plans for how he will proceed to get those seats, and more, back under Democratic control. He says the first step is getting everyone on the same page.

"We look forward to rolling out a very disciplined program with truly sincere, genuine candidates that have the ability to connect organically in their community. You know you cannot teach what you do not know, and you cannot lead where you do not go," Alexander said. "I think people are sick and tired of the status quo where people just want to hold they position just for the sake of holding their position or a title."

Democrats have struggled in the last several election cycles with party organizing and getting their message out to voters. Alexander says Democrats will need to not only defend themselves from misinformation campaigns but get out ahead of them and tell their story.

"We’re going to go on offense. I’ve never seen a football team or a basketball team win a game if you never had the ball," Alexander said. "So we’re going to make sure that we define our own destiny, we’re going to work extremely hard and do every single thing possible to move our caucus forward."

Democrats would need to flip 19 seats to gain control of the House. Alexander believes many recent races have been close and believes his party has a chance to earn enough votes to flip some districts.

'The Governor of the state of Florida won the governor’s mansion and the governor’s office by .3%. The last four governors’ races have been decided by less than one percent of the vote," Alexander said. "And I know that we will be challenged with gerrymandering and how the lines are drawn. But we believe that we will be able to field strong candidates."

Alexander says he wants to take from what was learned in campaigns when Democrats were successful in Florida and apply it to future races. He’s looking to former President Barack Obama’s playbook. Obama won Florida twice—in 2008 and again in 2012.

"You know President Barack Obama won two times in the State of Florida. We’ve had other statewide candidates win statewide. We’ve won tough races in tough swing districts," Alexander said.

Nikki Fried is the only statewide elected Democrat. She is the Agriculture Commissioner. Alexander was a part of that winning team for Obama in 2012.

Alexander’s successor will be Driskell. She beat out a republican incumbent to earn her seat in the state House of Representatives:

"What I found in my district is that people were looking for a leader who could be visible in the community, provide great constituent services, but also demonstrate an ability to work across the aisle," Driskell said.

Driskell says those needs fit what she can bring to the table. She says a lot of what it takes to be a successful attorney can be applied to being a successful candidate.

"So in my day job I’m actually an attorney, I’m a business litigator. And that’s what litigators really do we represent our clients fiercely and ferociously, but at the end of the day, we have to be able to work with an opposing counsel to try to work out negotiations or whatever it is that can be the best deal for our client with whatever legal dispute," Driskell said.

Driskell who is currently the policy chair for the House Dems will continue using those litigating skills as she waits to become the leader in 2024.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.