Former Miami mayor Manny Diaz, who made a name for himself as a turnaround artist in his hometown, is campaigning for an even tougher job: leading the sinking Florida Democratic Party.
Diaz, who made calls on Friday to measure support, has the backing of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is ready to reopen his wallet for the party if Diaz is chairman, even after putting $ 100 million in a failed state Attempt to defeat President Donald Trump.
Local billionaire Jorge Pérez, who has good relations with former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, has also pledged his support.
“The idea for me is to rebuild the party from one district, one district at a time, from the bottom up and from the grassroots,” Diaz said in an interview. “I’m going to roll up my sleeves, lower my head and work my bum off.”
Diaz pledged to raise the money needed to hire top talent, improve the party’s data operations and turn it into a constant presence to register, engage and identify voters in communities across the state.
It is a job that others run away from. Florida Democrats have not been in power for more than two decades. They have lost four races in a row that culminated on November 3rd with Trump’s steam-rolling Democrat Joe Biden. Two incumbent Democrats were ousted by Congress that day, and the Down-ticket candidates were beaten.
So great were the losses that National Democratic leaders are not confident they can win the state in 2022 when Sen. Marco Rubio and Governor Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, are standing for re-election.
Other prominent Democrats – including former Senator Oscar Braynon and Senator Annette Taddeo – have stated that they are not interested in the position.
Current chairman Terrie Rizzo has been harshly criticized after election day, which some Democrats have labeled a “bloodbath”, but she has yet to say whether she would seek a new term. Rizzo’s term of office expires early next year.
Diaz, a candidate for the position as a member of the Democratic National Committee’s Finance Committee, said he knew he had to earn the job. And while money can’t solve the party’s problems, he intends to make fundraising a top job, starting with Bloomberg and Perez.
“Nobody is better suited to chair the Democratic Party in Florida than Manny Diaz,” Bloomberg told POLITICO in a written statement. “Manny ran the state’s largest city and knows exactly the counties and parishes where the Democrats have lost this cycle. He is an inclusive leader who will expand the map and help us bring Florida blue again. “
Bloomberg and other large donors are needed to make the party relevant again. The State Democrats had so much money this year that the party sought help from a government-sponsored small business program. The party eventually returned the roughly $ 800,000 it received as part of the paycheck protection program but was unable to undo the political damage inflicted on candidates persistently attacked for the loan.
Pérez said he was ready to help Diaz.
“Manny is the guy,” Pérez said in an interview. “Many dreamers do nothing and many people who do little things don’t dream. Manny, as I said, has the rare quality of combining them.”
66-year-old Diaz immigrated to Florida from Cuba and became famous in 2000 Drama about Elián González, a Cuban boy who clung to a raft off the coast of Florida. The Clinton administration’s repatriation of González enraged Cuban Americans. Diaz was there when Federal Marshals took González at gunpoint.
Diaz left the party in protest, but was elected mayor the following year and served until 2009. He returned to the party that spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Diaz was seen as such a political asset to Obama’s re-election campaign that he was mentioned in an advertisement.
Taddeo said she was thrilled with Diaz’s decision to seek the state-party top job.
“I am very concerned about the donor base and many of our national donors are ready to give up Florida,” said Taddeo. “If we don’t show them we’re making the necessary changes, that we’re bringing our s together, we won’t get the resources to compete.”
Diaz will help build a “black and brown coalition” that will help the Democrats regain power, she said.
However, Diaz’s selection could disappoint some Democrats who have spoken out in favor of naming a black person as the party leader.
Senator Shevrin Jones, a Miami Gardens Democrat and one of six black state senators, said he was open to Diaz to take the helm and said it would be “great” to have either a black or Hispanic leader.
“I am ready to work with anyone who will move the Democratic Party in the direction we need to go,” said Jones, who spoke to Diaz for 20 minutes on Sunday. “We can’t go in the direction we’re going.”
Leslie Wimes, a Democratic Party insider, said she was concerned that Trump had increased his voting power among black men and she believed the party needed a black woman to run it.
“While black women still got through for the party, we’re tired of being overlooked when it comes to leadership,” she said. “The chair has to be someone who is the most loyal base for Democrats: blacks.”