Florida Democrats are moving forward with a new platform after a weekend of meetings in Orlando.
More than 1,000 Florida Democrats gathered over the weekend in an effort to secure party victories next fall. The Democratic Party suffered many losses to the Republican Party in the 2016 general election.
In Florida, Republicans won 29 electoral votes, 16 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, one U.S. Senate Seat and 103 seats in the Florida state legislature.
At the general session on Saturday the party passed a series of resolutions continuing to support initiatives like stronger gun laws, addressing the opioid epidemic and supporting immigrant rights.
Robert Mounts, state committeeman for the Alachua County Democratic Party, attended the convention. He said he felt compelled to come to the conference after the 2016 election.
“I’m here to help the Democratic Party basically get its act together and reform all of its policies and procedures so that we are unified and strong in 2018,” he said.
Mounts said both parties have become too dependent on big money. He wants the Democratic Party to start valuing smaller donations more in the next election cycle.
“I think that is very important for the Democratic Party to re-establish itself in the public mind as the party of the average person,” Mounts said.
Eric Higbie, a 19-year-old political science sophomore at the University of Florida, came to the convention as a volunteer and said that changing how the Democratic Party is viewed is a message of the convention.
“We are trying to pick and choose what we want our message to be to our voters,” said Higbie, the deputy finance director for the Florida College Democrats.
For Higbie, Democratic victories could mean continued access to healthcare. Higbie, who did not have access to health insurance for most of his life because of a pre-existing condition, values this continued access.
“My parents made me very conscious of that,” Higbie said. “I personally would like to see a medicare-for-all system.”
Without Democratic victories on the national level, Republicans could repeal the Affordable Care Act and enact a replacement plan without including coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. If it is passed, Higbie could become uninsured once again.
For now, he is trying to make a difference at the state level.
“We’re going to be fighting tooth and nail,” he said.
Marcie Stefan, 38, said she will be one of those Democrats helping with grassroots efforts.
“I’m going to be knocking on many doors, calling a lot of people, and recruiting new people,” Stefan said.
The mother of two says her involvement with politics took a more personal meaning when Hurricane Maria devastated her home island of Puerto Rico.
“There is a systematic problem that we need to change on the ground,” Stefan said. “Things are just not moving fast enough.”
Stefan came to the conference to gain a better understanding of direction for the Democrats.
“I hope to flip Florida blue,” she said.
According to an email the Republican National Committee released Saturday morning, the group does not think Florida’s voters will let that happen.
As the RNC’s statement reads, “…Democrats’ message of resist and obstruct won’t resonate with Florida voters who helped elect President Trump and his positive, conservative vision for America last November.”
Still, Florida Democrats have hope.
“I think people have been very supportive of me in my public service and at the end of the day, I think it’s going to turn out okay,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
After the conference, the Florida Democratic Party said its members feel energized and united ahead of the midterms next fall.
The Republican Party of Florida will hold its annual Statesman Dinner Thursday night. Vice President Mike Pence will be the headline speaker, but the event will be closed to press.