GOP DOMINATES IN FLORIDA

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Republicans pull an upset over the Dems with a win for Trump and down-ballot candidates.

A Broward County election department employee counts ballots at the Lauderhill Office Supervisor of Elections on Nov. 3.

DAVID SANTIAGO/MIAMI HERALD/TNS

BY DAPHNE TAYLOR
FLORIDA COURIER

In the past few weeks, President Barack Obama came to Miami twice. Kamala Harris campaigned in South Florida too.

But even though the Democratic Party pulled out all the “big guns,’’ the key battleground state of Florida eluded them on Election Day. It was an upset Tuesday when President Donald Trump won the Sunshine State in the presidential election, forcing the Democratic Party to reassess its courtship of Hispanic voters, who went with Trump, particularly in Democrat-rich Miami-Dade County.

It’s pause for examination by the Dems, for certain. Biden spent loads of money there, trying to turn out Black and Latino voters in record numbers.

It didn’t happen. On Tuesday from the top of the state in Jacksonville to the bottom of the state in Miami, the Biden camp took to polling sites in Black neighborhoods with free food and music to make sure voters were comfortable while waiting in line.

New direction sought

They made key Democrats available to the press as a lastditch effort. But for all their goodwill, Florida was not good to them. Trump won in 55 of the state’s 67 counties.

More than 11 million Floridians voted in the general election, with turnout early Wednesday estimated at 76.7 percent, according to the state’s Division of Elections website.

Florida Republicans dominated Tuesday’s elections from the top of the ballot on down. Some Florida Democrats were calling for a state party shakeup.

“I’m saying it now. We need a whole new direction for the @FlaDems,” state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, tweeted before 10 p.m. Tuesday. “We are losing too many incredible down ballot elected officials and candidates right now and it’s not ok. I know we have the potential to be better and do better. We do it everyday here in #HD47,’’ the News Service of Florida reported.

On Wednesday, there was pressure to oust Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo and party executive director Juan Peñalosa, the News Service of Florida reported.

‘A deep dive’

Rizzo issued a statement late Wednesday that thanked people who “gave their blood, sweat, and tears to help Democrats win.”

“While we are confident in the ultimate victory of Joe Biden, I know our Florida losses sting deep, for our party, the candidates, and the 5 million Florida Democrats looking to build on the progress we have made,’’ Rizzo said in a statement.

“Together with our state and national partners, we need to do a deep dive to address data and turnout issues that caused these losses, and where our party goes from here.’’

Lawyers at polls

Still, Florida made waves on Election Day up and down the state. While it’s not in the news for troublesome vote counts this time around, some problems emerged in Black precincts and, yes, some history was made too.

The Advancement Project, a multi-racial, non-profit civil rights organization, issued a statement on voter suppression after Tuesday’s election.

The statement reads in part: “It is clear that Florida voters, especially Black Floridians, were subjected to mis- and disinformation, blatant lies about Florida’s vote-by-mail system at the highest level of our nation, and long lines.’’

Despite a global health pandemic, voters cast a ballot in robust numbers both by mail and in person, said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project national office. She also said the group’s lawyers were at various sites to address any issues that arose.

No violence

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee said Election Day started with only minor problems, but indicated the National Guard was on standby just in case of any eruptions at polling sites. None was needed in the state.

Some Black Democratic Party leaders had been concerned over Trump’s threats to have poll watchers at polling places around the nation. Black leaders believed those watchers would be White supremacists or extremists or right-wing militia group members.

History makers

Meanwhile, Florida made news on other fronts on Election Day. In a history-making feat, Shevrin Jones became the first openly gay LGBTQ member to be elected to the Florida Senate. Jones, who is Black, became the first LGBTQ member in history to sit in Florida’s upper chamber.

In other history-making feats, African American attorney Harold Pryor became the first Black state attorney in Broward County. And in Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava became the first female mayor in the county’s history. She is the first White, non-Hispanic to hold that post in 24 years, stamping out a tradition of Cuban American Republicans assuming the role.

In other key races around the state, Congresswoman Val Demings was reelected to her U.S. House seat, and longtime Congressman Alcee Hastings handily won re-election despite suffering from cancer.

Pam Keith, a Black veteran, lost her bid for Congress to popular Republican and Trump supporter Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th congressional district.

On Republican turnout

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters, who also serves as a state senator from Sarasota, credited the Republican’s turnout machine, fundraising efforts by Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders and the president himself for Tuesday’s victory in Florida.

“We won because of our ground game and the fact that we ran circles around the Democrats. We had a well-oiled machine. We were literally pounding the pavement every day,” Gruters said in a phone interview Wednesday with News Service of Florida.

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