Why Black voters could be the 'sleeping giant' in Florida’s gubernatorial race

Why Black voters could be the 'sleeping giant' in Florida’s gubernatorial race

If polls are any indication, far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has reason to be optimistic in the Sunshine State’s 2022 gubernatorial race. Polls released earlier this year found that in a hypothetical race against former Republican turned Democrat Charlie Crist — the Democratic primary frontrunner — DeSantis leads by 8% (Mason-Dixon) or 6% (USA Today/Suffolk). But journalist Anthony Man, in an article published by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on May 16, poses the question: could African-American voters’ frustration with DeSantis awaken a “sleeping giant” in the Sunshine State’s 2022 gubernatorial race?

Conservative strategist Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Never Trumper and former Republican who absolutely despises the MAGA movement, has described Florida as a state where Democrats “struggle.” And MSNBC’s Joy Reid, a liberal/progressive pundit who lived in Florida in the past, has lamented that she now considers Florida a red state rather than a swing state.

One of the bombshells of the 2020 presidential election was the fact that President Joe Biden won Georgia and Arizona but lost Florida, where DeSantis campaigned for former President Donald Trump. In addition to having a Republican governor, Florida has two Republican U.S. senators: Sen. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for reelection.

When DeSantis defeated former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial election, it was a narrow victory: DeSantis won by less than 1%. But polls have been showing DeSantis to be in a more comfortable position in this race.

Man, however, reports that DeSantis’ unpopularity among Black voters could be a liability for him. Some of the Democrats quoted in his article — including Florida State Sen. Shevrin Jones, Florida State Sen. Rosalind Osgood and State Sen. Bobby Powel — believe that DeSantis’ policies have been bad for Black Floridians.

Jones told the Sun-Sentinel, “The governor and the Republicans in the state of Florida have awakened a sleeping giant with Black people in the state. For the past two years, Black people in the state of Florida have been walked on.”

Jones argued that Democrats are going need a really aggressive Black voter outreach in the gubernatorial race — and he recommends a lot of in-person campaigning.

“We have to go back to the streets to get Black voters,” Jones told the Sun-Sentinel. “We’ve gotten so comfortable with social media that it has.… made quite a few people lazy when it comes to organizing, because people believe that they can organize from the computer. We have to take us outside of this small box.”

Man, in his article, noted that DeSantis has given Black Floridians a lot to be frustrated about — from voter suppression to restrictions on protesting. But Jones stressed that Democrats need to do more than give Black voters reasons to vote against DeSantis; they also need to show them why their policies are better.

Jones told the Sun-Sentinel, “They’re seeing it on their timelines, they’re seeing it on their newsfeeds, they’re seeing it on their TVs. Now that we have their attention, give me something to vote for. You can campaign on Ron DeSantis. Or you can campaign on what you’re going to do for people.”

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