by Stephen Gaskill
In just a short while, if all goes as we hope, Joe Biden will be the President-elect of the United States. It will be a major dose of good news in a year filled with anxiety and surprise.
“Anxiety and surprise” could be the motto for Florida Democrats. While we picked up some impressive wins in the 2018 election, we were still at sea when the blue wave washed over the rest of the country. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, we persisted.
Florida’s LGBTQ Democrats have been actively engaged in this election. The Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus is a critical part of the political infrastructure. Our 21 chapters from Miami to Pensacola have been organizing in local communities, phone banking for our endorsed candidates, raising money, and engaging with voters and candidates across the state. Many of our members are candidates on the ballot right now, and are the leading candidates in races for local offices and the State Legislature.
The Caucus has been active in Florida politics in our current iteration since 2004. Growing out of what was then called the Triangle Caucus, we rebranded as the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus. We spent a few years as the Florida LGBT Democratic Caucus until our membership voted last year to rebrand once again as the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus to better represent the breadth of our community.
Our mission is simple: to elect candidates who support the LGBTQ+ community, and who promote policies that advance equality. We’re fortunate to have champions in the Florida congressional delegation; the entire 13-member delegation fights for our community, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Ted Deutch, and Rep. Kathy Castor bend over backwards for us when we ask.
Our municipal champions are just as impressive, such as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who is a former president of our Broward County chapter, the Dolphin Democrats, and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who was elected with a huge assist from the Hillsborough County LGBTA Democratic Caucus.
And of course we are well represented by our members in Tallahassee, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Rep. Jennifer Webb, the first open lesbian in the Florida House. They’ll be joined in the next session by Rep.-elect Michele Rayner, the first Black open lesbian. Their colleague and our good friend Rep. Shevrin Jones will soon make history as Senator Jones, the first openly gay State Senator in Florida.
The Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus is all in this year for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Our LGBTQ Democratic Vote Center, located at 2365 Wilton Drive, is strategically located in the heart of South Florida’s LGBTQ community. We’ve conducted events there, hosted members of Congress and other elected officials, and provided hundreds of voters with materials and information about our candidates. That’s the grassroots work that our local chapters excel in, and that’s how we help our candidates get elected.
While each of our 21 chapters develops their own plans and strategies for GOTV (Get Out The Vote), the Caucus provides key connections to the Florida Democratic Party and the Coordinated Campaign. (The Coordinated Campaign is just that — an organizing structure to ensure campaigns from the national level on down are working in sync.) This cycle the Caucus is also running digital ads in support of several of our endorsed candidates. You’ve probably seen those on Facebook and Google.
And this cycle, for the first time, we’ve partnered in a larger and more visible way with other state and national LGBTQ groups. The Caucus, in conjunction with Equality Florida, SAVE and HRC, conducted a National Coming Out Days of Action Weekend for our endorsed candidates. Our members, many of whom are also members of those other organizations, phone banked and canvassed throughout the weekend to raise visibility, gain support, and turn out the vote.
We’re also very active when we’re not in election season. Twice a year the Caucus hosts a statewide conference that brings together LGBTQ activists, elected officials and candidates, key issue experts, and others to identify action steps to advance equality and elect Democrats. Our Winter Conference in March, just before the pandemic shut down the state, featured Dr. Jill Biden, Rep. Val Demings, and actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, who was a surrogate for Bernie Sanders. That conference was held in Orlando, to highlight our new Orange County chapter, the Rainbow Democrats.
The Dolphin Democrats in Broward hosted our 2020 Summer Conference in Fort Lauderdale, which became our first-ever virtual conference due to the pandemic. We broadcast out of the studios of Hotspots Media Group, our media sponsor, with a four-hour event featuring panel discussions and presentations, and speakers such as Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch; Mayors Dean Trantalis and Jane Castor; Florida Democratic Party chair Terrie Rizzo; Florida’s LGBTQ legislative candidates; our Democratic Congressional challengers; and our national keynote speaker, former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. The conference video is posted on our website and on our Facebook page.
The Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus is known around the state and in Washington as an effective, vocal and visible advocate for our community and our party. We hold our elected officials and candidates accountable for their votes and their words. We are a professionally-run organization with a stellar reputation for spending the time and putting in the work. We’re all volunteers, so our commitment is real. This year, our goal is to avoid anxiety and surprise on November 3.
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Stephen Gaskill is President of the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus. The Caucus has 21 local chapters from Miami to Pensacola. More information is available on www.lgbtqdems.org.