Chair Manny Diaz and Florida Democrats held trainings, caucus meetings, and organizing sessions in a rally-like atmosphere on the second day of Leadership Blue Weekend in July 2022. Credit: Photos provided by Florida Democratic Party.
Calls for Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz to step down are growing following one of the worst performances by the party ever in last week’s midterm election.
Next week the Democratic County Chairs Association (DCCA) – a statewide caucus chartered by the party – will meet virtually to discuss Diaz’ status.
“I am hearing from chairs all over the state that are requesting a meeting and they think he needs to go,” DCCA Chair Ione Townsend told the Phoenix on Tuesday. “Some of the caucuses have already taken a position. Some of our chairs have written to Manny and said, ‘you need to go,’ but some of them don’t feel as comfortable being the only one writing him…so they’re asking for an organizational position. So we will be holding that meeting next week.”
The unhappiness stems from yet another disappointing election for the state party. Democrats lost in every statewide contest on the ballot, and Republicans gained even more seats in the Florida Legislature, gaining a “supermajority” status in both the House and Senate. And there was a negative down ballot effect as well. For example, county commissions in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties flipped from blue to red.
The Florida Phoenix reached out to the party to see if Diaz was available for comment. A spokesperson for the party sent a statement that had earlier been sent to party leaders last week following the election.
Diaz said in that statement: “I joined you in this mission to reverse the trends of the past 10-20 years. I am still committed to that end and refuse to give up when the going gets tough. That is not in my nature. I will continue to fight alongside you for the next two years and beyond.”
Meanwhile, on funding issues, the Florida Democratic Party on Election Day sent out a release showing that spending from outside groups and PACs were substantially reduced compared to 2018. In that year, Florida Democrats received $58 million, compared to less than $2 million in 2022.
The first prominent Democrat to call for Diaz’s ouster was Thomas Kennedy a DNC member from Miami, who actually said Diaz should go days before the election and laid out a plan yesterday on what the party needs to do to “get its act together.”
On Monday, the People’s Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade also called on Diaz to resign.
“We believe there are many factors that led to Florida Democrats’ losses, but we cannot ignore the leadership of the Florida Democratic Party played a large role in our midterm election results,” the People’s Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade wrote in a statement yesterday. “As Democrats, we believe in justice and accountability, and must hold our own accountable, and must hold our own accountable for the sake of the Party.”
Other caucuses have weighed in as well.
“The results of this election are direct evidence of a vacuum in leadership that can not be allowed to continue,” wrote Carolina Ampudia, the chair of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida last Wednesday. “Lack of financial oversight, lack of messaging, lack of grassroots involvement in the conversation, and breaking of the state’s own rules have made it evidence of his gross incompetence.”
Diaz was elected to lead the Florida Democrats following their last electoral disappointment in 2020, when Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden by more than 3 percentage points. Although the Republicans had been gaining on the Democrats on party registration for years, they officially took the lead in the state under Diaz’ watch in late 2021.
Diaz acknowledged in September of 2021 that the Republican Party of Florida had “outhustled the Democrats and outworked the Democrats.”
The Florida Democratic Party has churned through a number of party chairs over the past decade. Diaz succeeded Terrie Rizzo, who opted not to run for reelection following her term after the 2020 election. She had led the party for nearly three years, taking over in 2017 from Stephen Bittel.
Bittel’s reign as head of the FDP lasted less than a year. He stepped down in the fall of 2017 after a report surfaced accusing him of sexually inappropriate comments and behavior toward a number of women.
No Democrat has publicly said that they would like to lead the Democratic Party if Diaz were to leave.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the last Democrat to be elected statewide back in 2018, criticized Diaz last week in an interview with CBS Miami, saying “Obviously, we have some issues with the structure of the Democratic Party,” though she later stated that she herself was not looking at succeeding Diaz.
But other high-profile Democrats could be in the mix: U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist, who lost the gubernatorial race.
Another name that has been floated is Carlos Guillermo Smith, who had represented parts of Orange County in the Florida House since 2016 before being defeated last Tuesday. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Townsend, who has chaired the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee for the past seven years, finished second to Diaz in the vote for party chair in 2020. She declined to say anything about the party chair other than that she will be hosting the DCCA meeting regarding his status next week.
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