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From UFF: Post Election Report

posted Nov 27, 2012, 8:13 AM by Susan Marks

When we began analyzing the 2012 Elections, we heard nothing but dire predictions. We were up against an unbelievable funding disadvantage due to the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Citizens United. The Presidential election was not a shoe-in and pundits were positive that the Democratically controlled US Senate was doomed.

What a difference a day – and a lot of hard work - makes.

Although Florida Democrats were outspent four to one, we re-elected Bill Nelson to the U.S. Senate, picked up four congressional seats, and made historic gains in the Florida Legislature.

FEA’s goals were to strengthen the “fire-wall” in the Florida Senate, increase the Democratic margins in the Florida House, defeat Amendments 1,3, 5,  and 8 and retain the Florida Supreme Court  justices.

We succeeded.

One clear result from Tuesday’s election is the elimination of the Republican supermajority in the Florida Senate and House.  This means the Republicans no longer carry two-thirds of all votes. Picking up two seats in the Senate and five seats in the House bring the supermajority to an end:

2011 Florida House of Representatives

2013 Florida House of Representatives










2011 Florida Senate

2013 Florida Senate









In recent years, Republicans have been able to limit debate and pass controversial bills. This change may push more debate and deliberation about controversial bills. Further, many seats won by Republicans were won with much more narrow margins – a dynamic that may also give pause for those members to act in more moderate ways since each must run again in two years.

Republicans can still ramrod through any legislation sought but the consequences and costs for doing so may be higher. 

Why?  Due to redistricting, there is now a clear path to achieving a more balanced Florida House of Representatives. A least 12 seats currently held by Republicans could be won by Democrats in 2014.

Local referendums:

Locals had significant success and support for district school funding referendums:

·         Alachua  passed with 68% of the vote

·         Leon  passed with  76% of the vote

·         Miami  passed with 69% of the vote

·         Pinellas passed with 67% of the vote

·         Seminole  passed with 56% of the vote

·         Collier passed with 80% of the vote

·         Pasco  passed with 70% of the vote

Our track record:

  • FEA recommended 16 Congressional candidates in the General Election; 13 won their seats -- four were considered flip seats from Republican to Democrat.  The Florida Congressional Delegation went from an advantage of 19 Republicans/6 Democrats to 17 Republicans/10 Democrats (NOTE: Redistricting created 2 additional Congressional seats).  Florida Democrats accounted for about a fifth of all Democratic wins nationally.
  • FEA recommended 20 Florida Senate candidates in the General Election; 18 won their seats – two were considered flip seats from Republican to Democrat. The GOP spent millions in their unsuccessful attempt to defeat Maria Sachs, Joe Abruzzo, and Gwen Margolis.
  • FEA recommended 50 Florida House of Representative Candidates; 35 won their seats – four were considered flip seats from Republican to Democrat. In an amazing turn of events and pure determination, firefighter Mike Clelland is poised to defeat former incoming House Speaker Chris Dorworth.  The race heads for a recount this Sunday. Other surpise upsets include: FEA member Mark Danish who picked off Republican incumbent Shawn Harrison with the help of loyal and dogged support of his fellow Hillsborough CTA members, and Jose Javier Rodriguez’s defeat of former Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla
  • FEA formally opposed four of the 11 Constitutional Amendments – all four were defeated.

·         FEA recommended retention of all three Florida Supreme Court Judges –all three justices were retained despite being targeted by the right wing -- putting a stop to an unprecedented effort to hijack Florida’s highest court.

  • Despite Democrats being outspent, four incumbent Republican legislators were defeated.  Democrats have not seen a net gain in the state Senate since 1980. 

Our partners and the 2012 Ground Game:

Florida ran the strongest and largest ground game the state has ever seen.  Progressives dominated the I-4 Corridor winning every major state legislative race in Orlando and picking up nearly every one of the legislative and local races in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

·         Voter registration: Democrats surpassed Republicans in voter registration, and out-registered the GOP with Hispanics and women – surpassing the GOP in registration.

·         Democrats cut the historical Republican absentee ballot advantage in half.

·         Democrats dominated early voting, winning every day of in person early voting by substantial margins.

Through coordination with the Labor Community through the AFL-CIO and the progressive community through America Votes, we did what at times seemed impossible.  Of course, we don’t have all the data compiled at this time, but our America Votes partners shared these preliminary numbers:

America Votes partners outlined five goals for the 2012 Election cycle.  They met and exceeded those goals:


  1. Carry FL electoral votes for President Obama by boosting turnout amongst segments of the electorate that America Votes (AV) partners are trusted messengers.


AV partners knocked on 1,302,158 doors and had 288,335 conversations at the door.  In a race that Obama leads by about 50K votes, it’s clear AV’s effort made a difference.  Thanks to AFSCME, FNM, SEIU, Fair Share Alliance, Mi Familia Vota and NCLR for doing the bulk of this work.


  1. End conservative super-majority in the state Senate by targeting three competitive state Senate races and winning two.


We picked up two seats, SD 14 and SD 34.  While SD 14 was put away early, AV still knocked on 178,393 doors (see below for more). AV partners also knocked on 81,287 doors in SD 34 doing specific persuasion and GOTV for Sachs.  AV’s ECO sent 8 pieces of persuasion mail (more than 400K pieces total) and two pieces of GOTV mail.


  1. Execute a Hispanic persuasion program in Orlando and Osceola counties and under 50 years old Cuban persuasion program in south Florida to build long-term voting patterns in these important and growing constituencies.


AV partners blanketed the Hispanic community in Orlando and Osceola counties.  Partners worked together to avoid duplication and maximize resources.  NCLR and Mi Familia Vota alone hit 71,000 doors in Orlando and Osceola.  In HD 112 in South Florida, Florida New Majority executed a canvass and mail program that targeted 20,000 Cubans under 50 years of age, regardless of party registration, that helped pull Jose Javier Rodriguez across the finish line.


  1. Maximize turnout in Congressional districts that layer with targeted state Senate districts and strategically important areas for the presidential campaigns. 


Nearly half a million of AV’s 1.3 million knocks took place in targeted Congressional districts that we won– CD 9, CD 18, CD 22 and CD 26.


  1. Minimize down ballot vote drop-off by communicating to voters the importance of the entire ballot.


AV mailed (with funding from FEA, AFSCME, SEIU, Planned Parenthood, and BISC) 440,000 pieces of mail to urge voters to vote no on Amendments 3, 5  and 8.  Partners also carried tens of thousands of pieces of various No on Amendment literature and Yes to retain our judges.  We won all of these important down ballot votes.

Looking ahead:

We’ve had significant victories to celebrate … but there is no time to rest on our laurels! We have much to accomplish in the next few months.  On the national level, the ‘lame duck’ Congress must address the impending funding crisis or face billions in cuts to education and other programs. The 2013 Legislative Session is just around the corner with new faces, new leadership, and new dynamics to maneuver through.   The Legislature will meet on November 20 in Organizational Session to set the stage for the March 5 start of Session.  Interim Committee meetings begin on December 3 and run through February – so time is short.   And then there’s VAM…


But before too much time passes, we each need to take time to think about the wins and the losses and begin planning now for victory in 2014.