Florida Democrats call for reform as they look toward next election

The satisfying feeling State Rep. Anna Eskamani had while celebrating her successful re-election bid wore off quickly, the moment she was told that Miami-Dade returns were lackluster for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and other down-ballot Democrats hoping to take seats from Republicans.

Not only did Biden lose Florida, but two members of Congress were beaten. Democrats lost seats in the State House while ballot amendments they hoped would juice enthusiasm passed. 

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By 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, Eskamani tweeted that, "We need a whole new direction," as a party and that she agreed with calls for the resignations of party chair Terrie Rizzo and executive director Juan Penalosa.

"Having to see these numbers come in, along with the whole state of Florida is incredibly disappointing," Eskamani said Wednesday. "But further reaffirms concerns that many Democrats have had for a very long time, but have been ignored."

Eskamani says the Democrats need to focus on a statewide ground game that not only registers voters but communicates with them face-to-face on issues like wages, cost of living and healthcare.

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"You can't buy that," said Eskamani. "You really have to build that. And it takes time to build."

Democratic chair Terrie Rizzo sent a statement saying Florida losses sting deep, and that Democrats need to do a deep-dive to address data and turnout issues, and where the party goes from here. 

Hillsborough Democratic chair Lone Townsend agrees that it's time to change who is in leadership roles, and also the party's strategy, both in its messaging and how it registers new voters.

"Our vote-by-mail advantage got drowned out by early vote and Election Day voting, so we have to change some things," Townsend said.

In 2022, there will be races for senate and governor, and the party wants to be ready this time, lest they face stinging defeats as they did in 2020, 2018 and 2016.