LBK Democratic Club Board members Francine Achbar and Laurie Kreindler recently spoke with former Florida legislator and Congressional candidate Margaret Good about her efforts to build Democratic strength in Southwest Florida.
When she looks back at the outcome of the 2020 election, former State Representative Margaret Good sees a disturbing pattern in Florida – a steady increase in Republican voter registrations threatening to outpace Democratic numbers.
Statewide, Republicans now claim nearly the same number of registered voters as Democrats. Democrats hold only a microscopic lead – and it’s shrinking fast. The problem
is that Republicans have done a better job registering voters. Since 2016, they have increased their registrations by 14% statewide, while Florida Democrats have grown their base by just 9%.
In the 2020 elections, Florida Democrats lost five seats in the state legislature and two seats in Congress. After successfully maintaining her seat in the Florida legislature in 2018, Good was defeated in her bid to replace seven-term Congressional incumbent Vern Buchanan.
As longtime Florida Democratic consultant Steve Schale is quoted as saying, “Without a full-frontal, professional, and accountable partisan effort to turn it around sometime before the end of this year, there will be more Republicans registered in Florida than Democrats — that has NEVER happened before.” (Source)
But Margaret Good has a plan to turn those numbers around.
She is Chairwoman of Build Local Power, a newly launched PAC that is the only independent Democratic organization in southwest Florida dedicated exclusively to voter registration, expanding on the local party’s efforts. Its goal is to register every possible Democrat in Sarasota and surrounding counties, which historically vote “red.”
While in major elections, Good says, the Democratic Party historically has focused on the big, high-profile areas such as the Miami and Orlando areas, there is real opportunity to pick up voters in less visible places.
“Florida used to look like a swing state,” she says, "but in 2020 it was not. If you look at the margins by which we are losing, it is clear that we as Democrats are not investing in every place we should. Democrats depend on South Florida and urban central Florida -- and then wish and pray for the rest.”
She notes that in 2019 Governor Ron DeSantis won by just 32,000 votes. By increasing our registrations, she is convinced, we could turn the tide.
The strategy for Build Local Power (BLP) is hyperlocal, on-the-ground community action. And hiring year-round paid staff who reflect the diversity of the people we aim to register. Rather than directing resources at communities only during key election periods, the plan is to “Build Local Power” that is sustainable year-round.
With evidence showing that large numbers of people moving to Florida are white and Republican, 54% of BLP’s registration targets people of color. Through door-to-door canvassing, BLP plans to ascertain community needs and work to help meet them. For example, if newly registered voters were to tell BLP Voter Registration Specialists that a bus line is needed in their community, BLP staff could work with the community to advocate for better transportation access.
“We need to turn up the volume. We want people on the street every single day helping to register potential Democratic voters. If you’re not working on the margins in red areas, you’re not going to win.”
Speaking of Presidential elections she says, “Democrats have always focused on the top of the ticket with a focus on urban core areas. In order to be competitive long-term, we need to think long term and judge our success by incremental wins.”
Good thinks it is essential for Democrats to wage campaigns for public office at all levels.
“With all these unfair policies against trans kids, local abortion bans, and attempts to control school curricula, we see a movement from the Right to create extremism in local government.
“But if we can flip just one County Commission seat or one school board seat, people will start to hear a different point of view. And if we can ‘Build Local Power’ by getting more Democrats into office at all levels, then we will have champions in local government who will stand up and act when they see injustice.”
Good and her team hope to raise $1.5K by October 2022 to pay for staff, canvassers, and literature. “At this point, nobody else has full-time paid staff on the ground in our area registering Democratic voters.” she says. “We have to build for long-term success.”
To learn more and support Build Local Power, please visit their website.