North Florida Democrats ready to push for Clinton
By St. Clair Murraine
Now that Hillary Clinton has made history as the first female nominee to represent a major party in a presidential election, her backers are faced with making an aggressive effort to get the Democrat elected to the White House.
In part, their success will hinge on just how successful the Leon County Democratic Party could be in delivering her platform. Given what some of the people who represent the face of the party are saying the recent DNC convention has fueled them to fight back the Donald Trump-led Republican Party.
“You will find that this campaign is going to put on the full-court press,” said Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a staunch advocate for Clinton. “I’ve committed as a result of this convention and my support for this ticket to leave it all on the field. That means on election day we’ve got to wake up and say we gave everything we could.”
Gillum’s primary role as one of Clinton’s young surrogates is to recruit young and Black voters. He made an appearance at the convention in Philadelphia last week that was resoundingly accepted for the support he threw behind Clinton.
He called the Nov. 8 election one of the most pivotal in modern times, a sentiment that Allison Tant, chairwoman of the Leon County Democratic Party agreed with.
The work ahead in the next three months will include putting in place one of the largest field programs in North Florida, Tant said. She also added that a very compressive system of analytic data also will be used to break down specific information about voters to help make the right appeal to win them over.
“We are going to have a major outreach across the Panhandle in terms of making sure we reach voters,” she said. “When it comes to this election, a vote in North Florida is the same as a vote in South Florida. Yes; there are more voters in South Florida but in this election I think we have a really unique opportunity for Democrats to reach across North Florida.”
But doing so will have to take a very strategic plan that will make it clear to Black voters in North Florida that the Clinton campaign is spending money in their communities, said former state senator Al Lawson. Getting out the Black vote wouldn’t be as easy as it was when Barack Obama had a strong appeal in North Florida, he added.
“You can’t ride on what Obama did,” he said. “You have to show some of your resources going into the African American communities.”
Fighting back the challenge of the picture of gloom and doom that Trump presented at the RNC Convention two weeks ago also will be another challenge, Lawson said. He added that the Clinton campaign will have to prove that Trump will not be able to deliver on a lot of what he is promising.
“I’ve ran into quite a few Black people who are on his bandwagon,” Lawson said. “They say he is going to put resources (spend money) into the community, bring jobs. Even thought they think he is an idiot, you look up and he is still right there in the polls. A lot of people are jumping on this thing about Trump because he doesn’t go with the status quo; he just has to fit in, as a result it is he has maintained himself.”
National polls show that Clinton and Trump are in a close race across the country. In swing states like Florida, Trump holds a slight edge but Trump is not close in some key areas when it comes to women, Latino and Blacks.
Even so, Tant said she was surprised that Trump is carrying the Republican Party and getting support from higher ups in the party.
“It’s deplorable that he has gotten this far,” Tant said. “It’s frightening that the Republican Party is so in agreement with what he does. They have not stood up to him, like the monster that he is.”
However, both candidates are struggling in popularity polls. Experts say the unpopularity is unprecedented in a presidential race.
Clinton might have created a little separation with her nomination acceptance speech, which vastly contrasted that of Trump when he accepted his party’s nomination.
In her speech, Clinton focused on fighting terrorism and how to dismantle it, she also appealed to improve the economy and bring people together.
“I was blown away by the convention,” Tant said. “I don’t think they missed a single thing. I was touched from the beginning to the end. I believe we put forward a message of inclusion and understanding the consequences of this election and the need for leadership that will not be knee-jerk leadership.”
One other major accomplishment for the Democrats was being able to win over supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, after some grumbling early in the convention. Sanders is so popular that candidates running for other posts in Washington have called on him to campaign for them.
That was a perfect illustration of party unity that should go a long way in convincing voters who are on the fence. As for the ones in North Florida, Gillum said he will go all out to convince them after a high-energy week at the DNC convention.
His message that he plans to take to barber shops and over phone banks will be all about Clinton’s platform, he said.
“Just make them aware of the vision that Hillary Clinton and (running mate) Tim Kaine are offering and let them know it’s not enough to boo Donald Trump but decry his statements,” Gillum said. “We have to get out and vote. The only thing that matters is going to the ballot box.”