Florida’s incoming House Democratic Leader, Fentrice Driskell, reflected this week on the challenges ahead for her caucus now that more Republicans will be in the Florida Legislature.
Following the 2022 election, the House and Senate chambers became GOP “supermajorities.”
“As the minority party, we are called to be the party of the loyal opposition,” says Driskell, who represents a portion of Hillsborough County. “We are called to be the conscience of that chamber. And to remind our colleagues across the aisle about the difference between campaigning and governing, and while though it may have been campaigning that got them there, once you’re in that chamber, you have to consider the interests of all Floridians.”
Driskell, who is beginning her third term in the House, was elected by her colleagues to lead the Democratic caucus back in May, making history as the first Black woman to take that role. She says that the Democratic House caucus has the “awesome responsibility” to speak up for vulnerable communities and individuals on critical issues that they care about, such as housing affordability and property insurance rates. The Florida Phoenix spoke to Driskell earlier this week.
“We’ve existed in the minority for a very long time and we know how to be the party of loyal opposition very well, but now there’s something in addition that we must do, which is we have to claw and fight our way out of this supermajority, or ‘superminority’ maybe I should say,” Driskell says. “We have to make sure that we stay laser focused, so that we demonstrate our relevancy and just remind people why it’s okay to be a Democrat in Florida.”
While a much-hyped “red wave” failed to materialize across the country on Tuesday, there was a veritable ‘red tsunami’ in Florida politics, and Democratic turnout was substantially lower than Republican, according to data compiled by Democratic data consultant Matthew Isbell. Driskell says that it’s now imperative for Democrats to make the case to voters “why it’s a good thing to be a Democrat.”
“We are focused on helping lift people out of poverty,” Driskell says. “We are focused on kids getting a different pathway to education. We are here. We have always been here. And we have got a find a way to break free from the way that our opponents have framed us, which is out of touch. I feel like we are anything but.”