For Democrats to win statewide and tight local races in Florida, they need to piece together a broad coalition of voters, and the LGBT community is a key element.
The Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus met in Fort Lauderdale over the weekend to decide which candidates to endorse in August’s primaries and strategize for what is shaping up to be a tough November general election.
Dozens of LGBT candidates, as well as allies running for office, vied for the group’s endorsement. From city commission candidates in Jacksonville to congressional incumbents, all pledged to support issues important to the community and touted their records.
Many candidates talked with SFGN to discuss why the LGBT vote is a linchpin for victory.
Ron DeSantis Targets LGBT Again
An unexpectedly tough race this year is in a formerly safe seat in the state legislature, held by Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is one of only three LGBT people serving in the state House and Senate. Gov. Ron DeSantis seized control of redistricting from legislators and personally redrew the map to silence Smith, one of the governor’s loudest critics. In 2020 his Orlando-area district went for President Joe Biden by nearly 60%. Now the split is 51%-49%, making Smith’s seat the second most vulnerable Democratic seat in the legislature. He said the key is helping people understand the issues.
“Making sure our community is organized and mobilized against these attacks is critical.”
Locally, a late addition to the ballot for Fort Lauderdale City Commission is Ken Keechl. He became the first openly gay mayor of Broward County in 2009. Despite having a successful law practice in Wilton Manors, he decided to run to make sure all voices are heard.
“I’m very concerned about our city. Three people are leaving the commission so I think someone with experience needs to step up, and that’s me.”
The map is also tougher for Democrats running for congress. A tough, 10-person primary is underway in FL-10 in Orlando. The caucus endorsed Maxwell Frost, who would become the youngest member of Congress. Afterward, he gave a speech that electrified the crowd, and told SFGN the endorsement can push him over the top.
“This campaign is about seeing the world through the eyes of the most vulnerable. Our governor and the state legislature are scapegoating the most vulnerable communities. Our queer brothers, sisters, and siblings are part of that as well.”
Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick gave the keynote speech. She discussed issues and interjected some Beyoncé lyrics and a little dancing. Afterward, she told SFGN that her favorite Beyoncé song reflects her commitment to the community.
“It’s ‘Break My Soul.’ When I wake up and we see there’s another threat or lies being perpetuated. I remind myself this is a test to see if we can get stronger. They don’t know our greatness and potential.”
For a list of all their endorsements, go to LGBTQDems.org.