The inability of the Democratic Party to find attractive candidates, attune to local issues in critical swing districts has been something that has made state legislative seats less competitive, and ultimately led to the erosion of the democratic process in this state. Two-party competition is critical for democracy, and time and again, despite the best of intentions, the Democratic Party fails in the most critical contests to give voters a proper choice.
In several places though, we see 2022 as different, beginning in North Central Florida where Democrats have a star running in a State House primary, for District 22. Brandon Peters, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to face incumbent GOPer Chuck Clemons in November, 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.
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.
In addition to Florida’s Democrats becoming less attuned to local issues, and more defined by national trends, we have seen an erosion with natural constituencies outside urban areas. 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.
Peters is stressing environmental issues as it impacts the local populations in Levy and Gilchrist counties. Rural and small town residing Floridians care deeply about preservation of natural lands, clean water, growth management clean air and the sorts of localized conservation issues, Democrats once stressed in this state. Peters is pointing the party toward a much more robust future in how he talks to residents about these issues.
We strongly back his candidacy in the August 23 Democratic Primary in District 22.