Despite Parkland and despite popular outrage over the never-ending senseless killings, the Florida State legislature showed us last week that they are committed to standing by their only true constituency – the NRA.
NRA Republicans can outspend us, but thousands of students and parents are realizing this issue is a fight for our lives, and nothing can beat a campaign that puts those students and parents to work talking to voters.
This post gives a quick overview of what we’re up against in Florida as we consider what’s involved in winning our state back from NRA extremists.
First, let’s look at the Florida House of Representatives. The FL House has 120 seats. Republicans have 76 seats and Democrats have 41. Gun votes go along party lines these days, so we’re talking about unseating Republicans. There are 3 vacancies currently, which means there are special elections coming up in the next 6-9 weeks for HDs 39 and 114, as well as SD 31.
As of Feb 28th, all 76 Republican House members were up for re-election, but Democrats only have candidates in 44 of those races. 32 Rs have no opponent at all. Networking #NeverAgain students and families throughout rural Florida is absolutely crucial to finding and electing an #NoNRAMoney majority.
So we need 20 wins in the House. It’s a truism that three things count in politics: money, money and money. It costs money to communicate with voters and so campaign fundraising is the standard measure of a candidate’s strength.
The 44 Democrats challenging Republicans in 2018 (so far) have raised an average of $18K each, but only 13 of the 44 Democratic challengers have raised more than $15K each. The other 31 have less than $3K each (average). 9 of them have raised $0.
So a massive effort has to be mobilized to A) get the 13 high performers across the line, and some serious magic has be brought to win in at least 7 of the 23 races with marginal candidates who have raised less than $15K. Republicans have almost limitless money for ads, staff and mailers.
The 44 Republicans in FL who have challengers have raised an average of $98,599 each. So the Rs have 5x as much money where they have challengers. The NRA and other PACs will pour their own dollars into these races for Rs as well. (Even R’s without challengers average $78K a piece)
The Senate has 40 seats, of which Republicans hold 23, Democrats hold 15, and 2 are vacant. One of the vacant seats has a special election April 10th with a Democrat poised for victory. The other vacancy (SD 16) has been intentionally left vacant by Gov Rick Scott who has refused to set a special election date.
Only half the Senators are up for election – the even numbered districts. The Republicans are defending incumbents (or safe Republican seats) in 14 districts this year. Of these 14 races, seven appear to have Democratic challengers who have raised any money at all. Only one of these Democrats is on par with the Republican in fundraising (Dist 8). We need to win 5 of these races to take control of the Florida State Senate. So we have one race in good shape to support and at least four marginal candidates who need something bigger than big in order to win.
The one exception to the truism about money is when volunteers turn out to talk to voters for a candidate. That’s where we come in.
The #NeverAgain, #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, #TheResistance, #WomensMarch and #Indivisible movements comprise thousands of people who can turn this tide. People are on our side, but a big investment is needed to find them and encourage them to vote.
What if #NeverAgain students from throughout our region (or indeed, from all over the country) spent the summer working in each of these contested districts?
What if we start at home and concentrate on the I-4 corridor? Within this stretch between St Pete and Orlando we could completely flip the Senate. If we mobilize thousands of young people to absolutely flood these districts with volunteers we could potentially flip a dozen key seats in the House as well.
The blue wave we want in November is not going to happen by itself. Republicans have carved themselves seats they consider safe and it’s going to take literally millions of face to face and phone conversations with voters and donors in those districts to encourage them that it’s worth their time to get involved with the process again and vote.
What if we had a series of initial workshops in May and June for 200-400 students at a time across our region, training students in campaign skills like running phone banks, door to door canvassing, volunteer recruitment and fundraising?
Trainers are available who could lead these and have pledged to do this at no cost. Host committees could work out logistics for each event. Are there 1,000-2,000 student leaders in our region who would spend this summer working for the blue wave? Sign up here:
I spent the early 2000s fighting anti-gay ballot measures. We were up against the entire Republican Party at that time and we didn’t have majority support behind us. We lost more than 36 state votes over 10+ years, a devastating time for those of us fighting those battles and for the LGBT communities in those states.
But 15 years spent talking on neighbors’ doorsteps about marriage equality paid off in the end. When the Supreme Court acknowledged marriage equality in 2015, public opinion had dramatically and decisively come around in our favor as well.
There is a mountain of work between us and winning gun control in the FL legislature. But this task is just big, not impossible. PM me if you want to fund this or help organize. #NovemberStartsNow.