Judging by a procession of mayors who took the stage during a delegation breakfast on Wednesday, it’s clear where the party’s bench is.
“It is at the municipal level where we have not been gerrymandered,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine all spoke Wednesday morning, and all three appeared to be angling for higher office.
Few Florida Democrats elected to state or national positions have similar cachet. Democrats hold only about a third of the seats in the Legislature, 10 of the state’s 27 congressional seats and one statewide post.
At the same time, with Gov. Rick Scott and the three Republican Cabinet members leaving office due to term limits in 2018, Democrats could have a chance at some of the offices.
Buckhorn urged delegates to work in 2018 at “taking this state back.” And he trained his rhetorical fire on Scott in particular.
“We know what it’s like to elect a tea-party millionaire,” Buckhorn said. “We know what it’s like to give back $3 billion in rail money that could have provided thousands of jobs and a rail system from Orlando to Tampa. We know what it’s like to have a government that doesn’t know the difference between toxic green algae and guacamole. We know what it’s like to turn back hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid money that would serve thousands of us.”
Referring to a lobbyist for gun-rights groups, Buckhorn added: “We know what it’s like to have a government that pays more attention to Marion Hammer and less attention to Mother Teresa.”
Gillum’s speech hit Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The Tallahassee mayor noted that Putnam, a likely candidate for governor in 2018, said he will vote for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“I actually had a higher level of respect for him prior to that. …. Don’t get me started on Pam Bondi, and, God, the governor is out to lunch,” Gillum said.
Like the other mayors, Gillum expressed confidence that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, will win the White House in November with the help of Florida’s 29 electoral votes.
“When we put her in the White House — Florida, we’ve got our own cleanup to do, right at home,” he said.
Levine ticked off some of his accomplishments in Miami Beach, from addressing global warning to working on setting up a trolley system to approving a living wage, something expected to draw a lawsuit from the state. Those things “aren’t just Miami Beach, but they’re statewide issues,” Levine said.
He also laid out an early frame for how he might look to distinguish himself in a statewide run.
“I think today, across the country, people are looking for leaders that have the background of actually getting things done,” he said.
An address from perhaps the biggest name considering a run for statewide office will come Thursday, when delegates are set to hear from Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Graham. The daughter of former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham is actively considering a bid for governor in 2018.