Claude Kirk and the troubled decade for Florida Republicans

In 1966, Claude Kirk became Florida’s first post-Reconstruction Republican Governor while his party surged with increased seats in the legislature. Kirk’s flamboyance and ability the state’s racial backlash allowed him to break Democratic dominance of the state for the first time in a century. We discuss the Kirk legacy in this week’s edition of the Florida History Podcast presented by The Florida Squeeze.

Krik was also aided by the growing power of the left in Florida politics – based around Miami. The Democrats had ousted incumbent Governor Hayden Burns a conservative from Jacksonville who had strongly opposed Civil Rights in the primary and nominated Miami Mayor Robert King High. High, one of the most liberal officeholders in the state was openly supportive of Civil Rights and African-American Voting Rights. Democrats from outside Dade County defected en masse to Kirk who became Governor.

By Ben Stahl (1910-1987). State of Florida, Official Governors Portrait –, Public Domain,

But Kirk’s election may have set the GOP back for a decade. Infighting and personality clashes dominated the party who were in the late 1960’s on the precipice of taking over the state. Instead, an era of Democratic dominance was ushered in and unlike the previous eras when the Democrats controlled Florida politics, these Democrats tended to be more progressive and forward-looking.

Not until the Jeb Bush-driven party would change the trajectory of the GOP almost thirty years later by appealing to voters of all incomes and races, would the Republicans finally control Florida.

You can listen to the Florida History Podcast on Anchor (which hosts our show), SpotifyGoogleAppleRadio PublicBreakerOvercastCastro or Pocket Casts. Overcast, Castro, Spotify, Radio Public and Breaker have App Store apps for free which enable you to subscribe and listen on your iPhone if you do not use the Apple Podcast app. We release a new episode weekly.

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  1. […] posted by The Florida Squeeze on 2019-07-30 […]


  2. […] from the Northeast and Midwest. Eventually the GOP split into factions also, one led by colorful Governor Claude Kirk who led former-Democrats who were obsessed with race and other cultural issues the other were […]


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