Florida Democrats may need 'new direction' following party chair’s resignation

'We are not a monolith, the Democratic party,' Rep. Angie Nixon says
Posted at 6:46 PM, Jan 10, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The search is on for the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party. It comes after the current leader, Manny Diaz, abruptly resigned Monday.

The former mayor of Miami served in the spot for a year and oversaw a series of brutal defeats during the November midterms. This included Republicans sweeping the Florida Cabinet, keeping the governor's office and a U.S. Senate seat. The GOP also nabbed super majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature.

In a lengthy letter to members, Diaz attributed the party's failures to a lack of resources, volunteers and crummy messaging. Despite that, he said Florida is not a "red state" as Republicans have suggested. He ended by noting that it was time for a change.

"Maybe it is not always about trying to fix something that is broken," Diaz said. "Maybe it is about starting over and creating something better."

"One thing is clear. They have to go in a totally new direction," University of South Florida Professor Emerita Dr. Susan MacManus, an expert in Florida politics, said.

MacManus said the party's next leader will have quite the challenge. Not only will they need to boost fundraising and drastically improve the Democrats' ground game but also reach Florida's youth.

"Democrats cannot win without a substantial portion of the younger voters, who are increasingly turning their backs on both parties and registering as no party affiliation," she said.

The question is — who is best suited for the job? Names are already surfacing.

Some speculate former Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will make a run as the last Democrat to win statewide office in Florida. Online, Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow and former state Sen. Annette Taddeo have announced interest.

But — as progressives like state Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, point out, whoever takes over will need to appeal to the party's diverse members and fix fractures over what went wrong in 2022 and how to move forward.

"We are not a monolith, the Democratic party, and we need someone who realizes that," Nixon said. "We need someone who is going to bring us together, basically."

Republicans, meanwhile, continue to tout their perceived strength. That includes Gov. Ron DeSantis, who delivered a dig at Democrats on Tuesday morning.

"In terms of the resignation of the other party's chairman— there ain't many, as many Democrats around, as there used to be in the State of Florida," DeSantis said while speaking in Bonita Springs. "We had something to do with that in November 2022."

We contacted the Florida Democratic Party for comment on the chair's departure and next steps. As of Tuesday afternoon, we had yet to hear back. Party bylaws, however, require a meeting within 30 days to select a temporary chair until the executive committee meets to formally elect a successor.