In North Central Florida, the Democrats have a candidate that defies the conventional norms and could very well be a look into the future of the how the party has to run to be successful in Florida.
Brandon Peters, a longtime attorney and Florida native, who also served as Director of Voter Protection for the Florida Democratic Party has a refreshing approach. And his approach is one which Democrats who are running in non-urban and non-safe seats really should pay attention to.
The Democrats have been for years trying to flip the State House seat that sits on the west side of Gainesville and traverses neighboring counties as well as the rural western side of Alachua. Losing the seat in 1992, the Democrats briefly regained it in 2000 with Perry McGriff’s victory but a GOP gerrymander in 2002, took the district into some very hostile territory – McGriff lost barely to future House Speaker Larry Creutel and despite some very close calls since, the Democrats have not won back the seat.
For years, Florida’s Democrats have become less attuned to local issues, and more defined by national trends. This has taken the party from a position of strength in rural and small town Florida to one of incredible weakness – Democrats can no longer compete in places where until two decades ago, the GOP was largely noncompetitive at the state legislative level, even while sweeping Presidential elections in those areas.
Brandon Peters has a unique approach that can help reconnect Democrats with voters who have been disaffected from the party.
- Rural voters views on environmental issues is not what many might think – local officials in some of Florida’s least populated counties have been aggressive in protecting public land. Yet, in these areas GOPers win by increasingly large margins partly because Democrats fail to directly address local issues, making elections a referendum on national policy and cultural issues.
- The efforts to plow toll roads through Levy County faces a strong local backlash. In the case of Levy, the Goethe Forest is potentially impacted by any Turnpike or Suncoast Parkway extension. Similarly, the idea of building a bypass around Chiefland similar to route around Starke. This is the case in several areas, but Democrats haven’t leveraged these issues. Particularly in North-Central Florida, potential toll highway building has been an issue since the late 1980’s.
- Highway building and a failure to protect public land impacts rural Floridians lifestyle in ways many don’t quite appreciate.
On the above issues, Peters is a breath of fresh air, in tune with his local community and the right kind of Democrat to be able to win votes both in urban portions of Alachua County and rural parts of Alachua, Gilchrist and Levy counties. Local concerns are at the heart of his appeal, in addition to his strong understanding of the state and its government. Running against GOP State Rep. Chuck Clemons, Peters is the right sort of candidate, one whose very much in sync with the traditional local values which Democrats won with in these sorts of districts in the 1980’s and 1990’s, while having a very modern outlook on the state and progressive reforms that could help the state government be more responsive to its citizens.
We will keep an eye on his race and hope the example he is setting is emulated by Democrats who are running in 2022, throughout the state.