Florida Democrats tap former Miami mayor to resurrect shell-shocked party


Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, a prominent Cuban from Miami, had a bubbly entry into the race in late November. | Brynn Anderson / AP Photo

Manny Diaz defeated two other candidates for the presidency.

By Gary FINEOUT

TALLAHASSEE – Hoping for Manny Diaz on Saturday, the Florida Democrats entrusted the former Miami Mayor to resuscitate the party’s fate after a disastrous electoral cycle that saw President Donald Trump win the state and the Democrats the seats in Congress and the legislature lost.

Diaz defeated two other candidates for presidency during the Florida Democratic Party’s annual meeting, which was held due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our Democratic Party in Florida is at a crossroads,” Diaz said shortly before the vote. “As Democrats across the country make profits, we continue to lose ground. We keep losing elections. “

Diaz, a prominent Miami Cuban, got off to a sparkling start to the race in late November, bringing a handful of well-known staff along with recommendations from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent $ 100 million in Florida during the 2020 and election cycle South Florida billionaire Jorge Pérez. Since then, he has been supported by dozens of democratic politicians in the state, including Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the party’s only national incumbent.

His immediate job is to rebuild the party and raise funds for the crucial 2022 election that will see Governor Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco RubioBoth Republicans are expected to vote in the election. Trump’s solid victory in Florida has sparked speculation that the nation’s third largest state may no longer be America’s biggest battlefield, potentially making it difficult to convince deeply pocketed donors to write checks.

Diaz has already outlined many of the steps he’s planning. In a memo to Democratic Party officials in December, Diaz called for the party’s operations to expand, including setting up offices in central Florida, stepping up efforts on email voting and voter registration, and improving data operations, all of which require a cash inflow . Several Democratic candidates and activists complained that the internal polls were inaccurate and showed several races closer than they actually were.

“To accomplish these things and to build a significant amount of the infrastructure that is required to implement the ideas above, we are going to need significant resources,” Diaz said in his memo last month. “I will spend my time using my statewide and statewide relationships to build trust among donors and get them to embrace what we want to achieve here in Florida.”

Another key battle looming over the party is the next round of restructuring, which may see Florida gain another congressional seat.

Diaz’s selection followed a deep and loud reckoning among Democrats about what went wrong in the 2020 election as the party’s moderate and progressive factions pointing fingers at each other. Republican successes were based on record turnouts and a Democratic implosion in Miami-Dade County, one of the bluest parts of the state. Terrie Rizzo, leader of the Florida Democratic Party, said she would not seek another term.

Just a day before the chairman’s vote on Saturday, three more candidates dropped out to support Cynthia Chestnut. The former state representative and current leader of the Alachua County Democratic Party was the only black woman in the three-way competition. During her brief remarks, she said it was time for the party to step into the 21st century and reflect the diversity of Florida’s electorate.

“I tell you as a Florida daughter and an African American woman that our time has come to serve in the leadership of the Florida Democratic Party,” she said before the vote.

The Chestnut association was also intended to strengthen the opposition to Diaz, who more liberal Democrats see as insufficiently loyal to the party because he has donated money to Republicans in the past.

The maneuver in the last ditch failed: Diaz won the majority of the party’s votes in the first round of the election.

Fried pleaded for party unity during the conference.

“We cannot afford to fight each other,” she said.

Diaz, 66, immigrated to Florida from Cuba and became known during the 2000 drama about Elián González, a Cuban boy who was holding onto a raft off the coast of Florida.

The Clinton administration’s decision to repatriate González enraged Cuban Americans. Diaz was there when federal marshals took the child at gunpoint. Diaz left the party in protest, but was elected mayor of Miami the following year and served until 2009. He later returned to the party and spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Diaz was recognized as such a political asset for President Barack’s re-election campaign Obama viewed that he was mentioned in an ad.

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