Jeff Clemens launches "Flip Florida Blue" initiative with some 'tude

What is there to lose, really?

In what is likely in part a response to years of GOP ratfuckery, a South Florida state senator is calling on his fellow Democrats to do things differently — or have another crap year at the polls in 2018.

On Thursday, State Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth), who is both chair of the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the incoming Senate Minority Leader, announced that the DLCC is going to take a new tack in its efforts to get Democratic lawmakers elected despite forceful and well-monied GOP headwinds that have led to Dems "getting their asses kicked at the polls."

It's an effort called Flip Florida Blue, and it aims to topple Republican dominance in the legislature...well, the senate, anyway. That obviously seems like a pipe dream now, but Clemens breaks it down by election year. First, he said, the party needs to target the District 40 seat of disgraced Republican State Senate-bro Frank Artiles, a Miami area swing seat Democrats ought to be able to win.

Then, in 2018, comes the time to fight for a handful of swing seats — seven or eight or so — that, if won, would give Dems a majority in the senate. If that happens, and they don't lose any seats in 2020, they'll obviously have a greater role in redrawing the state's legislative and Congressional districts (though state law now bars any party from drawing maps in their favor, not that it didn't take a strident legal effort to get Republicans to draw fair ones last time around).

Of course, Florida Democrats had a rosy view of their prospects in regaining ground in the senate in 2016 — which clearly didn't pan out. But Clemens said that this election cycle, if Democrats do it right, fiercely challenging Republicans on things like education and environment (and the GOP hasn't done so hot on either) may help inspire voters to stop ignoring Dems. Especially, he noted, if they can show voters how Florida is in many ways been a petri dish for Trumpism.

“Florida’s legislature is an example of what not to do in America, where Trump-like policies have pervaded for decades," Clemens said in a media release. "It’s not enough, however, for us to simply be against Trump or Scott, or to email about apocalyptic deadlines. The damage caused by Republicans is easy to see in our schools, communities, and local economies. We need to do a better job of communicating about what’s happening and why people should support and vote for Democrats."

You may remember Clemens from when a committee hearing in which he participated made national headlines in 2015.

He's the guy who nearly made Clearwater Republican State Sen. Jack Latvala fall out of his chair when Clemens' questioning of a Department of Environmental Protection official turned into a skewering of Governor Rick Scott's apparent directing staff to never, ever, ever mention climate change.

The room roared when he commented that if they were to rename climate change "atmospheric reemployment," perhaps Scott would stop pretending it wasn't happening and do something about it.

Clemens said Democrats are so much better on public policy in a host of realms — environment, education, justice, equality — but somehow they are unable to adequately communicate that to voters who are cynical about both major parties. But he's optimistic.

“There are millions of people in Florida who think both parties suck, and we have to be clearer as to why we suck significantly less, and in fact, why voting for Democrats is a choice people can actually feel good about," Clemens said. "Public education, clean water, justice, equality, and the ability to climb that ladder to a great job are the hallmarks of a Democratic government. Compelling communications, unfortunately, have not been the hallmark of every Senate Democratic campaign. We’re working to change that.”

Scroll to read more Columns articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.