Why Are Democrats Helping Republicans Win in Florida?

Some Democratic Party officials in Florida have opted to endorse, fundraise, or refuse to challenge Republican incumbents

Update: The pressure worked!

Original story below.

On October 12, DNC member and Florida State Rep. Joseph Geller (D) was pushed by progressives in the Miami-Dade County Democrats to resign or rescind an endorsement for a non-party affiliated Miami Beach Commissioner candidate, Mark Samuelian, over the Democratic Party Candidate. In doing so, Geller allegedly violated the County Democratic Party’s loyalty bylaws. Samuelian was a former Republican before switching to non-affiliated to run for the same position unsuccessfully in 2014. He previously donated exclusively to conservative groups, one of which was a Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) affiliated Super PAC. This isn’t Geller’s first time crossing over to support Republicans. In November 2016, Geller joined three other Democrats to endorse Republican State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz for Miami-Dade Delegation Chair, despite Democrats having the majority of seats to elect one of their own.

This cross-over from Democrats to support Republicans is a longstanding tradition in Florida that undermines the ability of the Democratic Party to recoup their losses in the state. Republicans hold a trifecta in the state government, the governorship, and majorities in the state house and senate. They also hold 16 out of 27 congressional seats in the state, yet Democrats have helped Republican incumbents keep their seats over Democrat challengers.

Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo unseated Democrat incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL) in 2014, and won re-election in 2016. Instead of working to unseat Curbelo, several prominent Florida Democrats have outright supported him.

In August 2017, nine Democrats hosted a fundraiser for Curbelo, including Garcia’s former Campaign treasurer Roland Sanchez-Medina, former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter, and Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace. Four of the Democrats have supported Curbelo in past elections as well. The move was a snub to Curbelo’s Democratic Party challenger, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. In 2016, Curbelo issued a list of 20 notable South Florida Democrats who supported his re-election over his Democrat challenger.

In addition to Curbelo, former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has often refused to back Democrats challenging her Republican friends in South Florida. McClatchy DC reported in 2008, “As three Miami Democrats look to unseat three of her South Florida Republican colleagues, Wasserman Schultz is staying on the sidelines. So is Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Miami Democrat and loyal ally to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

In 2016, Democrat challenger Dr. Alina Valdes to Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart accused Wasserman Schultz of supporting the Republican over her effort to unseat him, saying:

“When I first started this race over a year and a half ago, I did not know that I would be maligned by the DNC chair. I naively thought that she would be happy to have a Democrat challenging a career Republican who doesn’t do much to help his district. What I have found out since then has been indeed eye-opening. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, from what I keep hearing, has blacklisted me so I do not get the support of organizations and unions in order to support her friend Mario Diaz-Balart.”

Florida has over 250,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, but that lead has deteriorated over the past few years. If the Democratic Party wants to make Florida a competitive swing state again, they need to start challenging Republicans in and out of office instead of pursuing their own self-serving interests.

Written by Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato is a freelance journalist based in Gainesville, Florida. His writing has been featured in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Denver Post, The Hill, Observer, Truth-Out, and several other publications. Follow him on Twitter @msainat1.

Michael is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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Why Are Democrats Helping Republicans Win in Florida?