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Florida Democrats Go All Out For Historically Republican Legislative Seats

Vote pins are stacked together
Vote buttons stack with red and blue colors

Voters and candidates are dealing with a pandemic, a polarizing president, the most social unrest since the late ‘60s, and a first-of-its-kind push for voting by mail.

This election cycle will be like no other in Florida history. It is the first time Democrats have fielded a full slate of candidates in almost every race for the legislature – even in places where history suggests Democrats have little or no chance of winning.

Amid so much upheaval, a Democratic political organizing group called 90-for-90 sees a unique opportunity. Director Fergie Reid Jr. is from California, but he’s following every legislative race in Florida. One of 90-for-90’s hopefuls is Angie Nixon, a union organizer and political consultant who unseated Jacksonville state Rep. Kim Daniels - a Democrat with Republican backing - in the primary. Nixon is one of 90-for-90's success stories.

“While she was running, she was pregnant,” Reid says of Nixon, “and as the election was coming up, not only was she getting closer to her due date, but she got Covid.”

Reid says 90-for-90’s goal is to flood the zone with candidates and create enthusiasm. Many of them don’t have to win, he says; just be competitive and force Republicans to devote extra resources. From his vantage point, Reid says Florida Democrats are not trying hard enough.

“Democrats lose Florida by microscopic margins,” says Reid. “10,000 for Nelson, 30,000 for Gillum, 60,000 each for Sink and Crist. A hundred and some-odd thousand for Hillary Clinton against Trump. That’s nothing in Florida.”

Reid makes relevance sound easy, and 90-for-90 has attracted lots of attention, including a long article in the latest edition of The Nation, a liberal magazine. But Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters – himself up for re-election and targeted by 90-for-90 – doesn’t sound worried.

“Listen, we’re going on the offensive,” Gruters says. “I think 2020 is going to be a phenomenal year for Republicans. We are very optimistic about our chances, and I am very happy to run, myself, on the coattails of the president of the United States.”

Gruters says he expects Republicans to strengthen their control over the state Capitol by adding as many as seven more seats – two in the Senate and five in the House.

Bring it on, says Reid, who sees Florida as much bluer than Republicans do.

“I see it as inherently blue,” Reid says. “The blues just don’t play hard. Democrats can win Florida if they just play harder.”

Time will tell. The first wave of mail-in ballots goes out to Florida voters in about four weeks.