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Florida Democratic Party

The Florida Democratic Party (FDP) is the state branch of the United States Democratic Party in the state of Florida, headquartered in Tallahassee.

Florida Democratic Party
ChairpersonTerrie Rizzo
Senate Minority LeaderAudrey Gibson
House Minority LeaderKionne McGhee
Founded1834; 185 years ago (1834)
Headquarters201 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Student wingFlorida College Democrats
Youth wingFlorida Young Democrats
Women's wingDemocratic Women’s Club of Florida
IdeologyModern liberalism
Social liberalism
Political positionCenter-left
National affiliationDemocratic Party
Colors          Azure, green
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House of Representatives
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Statewide Executive Offices
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U.S. Senate
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U.S. House of Representatives
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Official Website


Andrew Jackson was the first Territorial Governor of Florida in 1821.

The Florida Democratic Party has historically dominated Florida's state and local politics. Andrew Jackson, the first territorial governor of Florida in 1821, co-founded the Democratic Party. As Florida moved from territory to statehood status, the FDP emerged out of the locofocos.[1] John Milton led the party, and became governor of the state, during the Civil War era.[2]

There were no Republican governors from 1877 until 1967, when Claude R. Kirk, a Republican from Jacksonville, was sworn in as governor of Florida.

Florida politics was largely dominated by the Democrats until Richard Nixon's Southern strategy, which took advantage of white objections to the advances of the Civil Rights Movement which resulted in a regional political realignment for the South. After Nixon's victory in 1968, the state voted Democratic in only four Presidential elections: 1976 (Jimmy Carter), 1996 (Bill Clinton), 2008 and 2012 (Barack Obama). The presidential election in 2000 was decided by a margin of 537 votes out of approximately six million cast in the state, earning George W. Bush the presidency over Al Gore.

The Florida Senate was dominated by Democrats until 1992, when a majority of Republicans was elected. The Florida House of Representatives turned Republican after the November 1996 election. Since then, the number of Democrats in both chambers have continued to drop. The Florida Legislature became the first legislature in any of the states of the former Confederacy to come under complete Republican control when the Republicans gained control of the House and Senate in the 1996 election. However, in the 2006 election the Democrats actually gained seats in the State House, the first time this had occurred since the early 1980s.

In the 2006 election, the Democratic nominee for governor was U.S. Representative Jim Davis from Tampa, Florida. He lost the election to Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist.

The most Democratic region of the state is South Florida, which contains the large cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. The Tampa Bay region is also relatively Democratic, although it has become much more competitive in recent electoral cycles. Leon County, which contains the state capitol of Tallahassee and Florida State University, and Alachua County, home to the city of Gainesville and the University of Florida, are also strong Democratic areas. North Florida and the panhandle are also very Democratic on the local level, although those two regions are solid Republican strongholds in presidential elections.

Florida Democrats demanded, on March 13, 2008, a new primary vote, and state party officials had a proposal for recouping the 210 delegates the Sunshine State lost when it moved its primary ahead of the approved time frame.[3] After weeks of negotiations, the Florida Democratic Party said on March 17, 2008 that it would not hold a second primary in the state.[4]

The current chairwoman of the FDP is Terrie Rizzo, who succeeded Stephen Bittel on December 9, 2017.[5]


List of chairsEdit

  • Scott Maddox (2003-2005): Maddox, the former mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, served as FDP Chairman from 2003 to 2006, leaving the post to run for governor. The Associated Press noted that while Democrats suffered electoral defeats during his tenure, party activists recognized he had built up the party's infrastructure and volunteer base."[6]
  • Karen Thurman (2005-2010): Thurman, a former five-term member of Congress from Florida's 5th District, served from 2005 to 2010. She was elected Chairman of the FDP in 2005, succeeding Scott Maddox, who resigned in order to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. Thurman resigned on November 12, 2010, following the midterm elections.[7]
  • Rod Smith (2010-2013): In November 2010, Smith was elected chairman of the Florida Democratic Party (FDP), succeeding Karen Thurman who resigned on November 12, 2010 following the midterm elections.[8] Smith, a former Alachua County state prosecutor and state senator from the 14th district, became chair following his unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in 2010.[9] Smith's term expired in January 2013, when he was succeeded by Allison Tant.[10]
  • Allison Tant (2014-2016): In December 2013, former lobbyist, philanthropist, and Democratic fundraiser[11] Allison Tant announced she would seek the chairmanship of the FDP.[12] She was elected in January 2014, after a closely contested race against Hillsborough state committeeman Alan Clendenin.[10] After large national losses in 2014, Debbie Wasserman Schultz commissioned the Victory Task Force to "take a deep dive" to figure out what went wrong in 2014.[13] Similarly, Chair Tant created the state-level LEAD Task Force, to learn the lessons of the statewide Democratic defeat.[13]
  • Stephen Bittel (2016-2017): Bittel, who founded Terranova in 1980, is still an active Democrat in the state.[14] He was chosen primarily for his fundraising ability after the 2016 election, but many critics noted his ability to curry influence with his immense wealth.[15] In November 2017, he was accused of inappropriate office behavior, and subsequently left his role.
  • Terrie Rizzo (2017-Present): In December 2017, Rizzo was elected to replace Stephen Bittel, defeating Stacey Patel in an 830-291 vote.[16][17]


The State Executive Committee of the Florida Democratic Party is organized into six standing committees. Standing committees include: the Rules Committee, the Judicial Council, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Committee on Clubs, Organizations, and Caucuses, the Legislative Liaison Committee, and the Campaign Committee.[18]


The Florida Democratic Party has adopted a platform that covers a wide range of topics and issues under the following headings:[19]
  • Access to Healthcare
  • An Economy That Works for Everyone
  • Quality Education
  • Protecting our Environment
  • Immigration Reform
  • Preventing Gun Violence
  • Civil Rights
  • Government Accountability
  • Protecting Voting Rights
  • Women and Families

Current elected officialsEdit

The following is a list of Democratic statewide, federal, and legislative officeholders as of October 23, 2018:

Members of CongressEdit

U.S. SenateEdit

  • None

Both of Florida's U.S. Senate seats have been held by Republicans since 2019. Bill Nelson was the last Democrat to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate. First elected in 2000, Nelson lost his bid for a fourth term in 2018 to Republican governor Rick Scott.

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

Out of the 27 seats Florida is apportioned in the U.S. House of Representatives, 13 are held by Democrats:

Statewide officialsEdit

Democrats control one of the six elected statewide offices:

State legislative leadersEdit

State Senate & State HouseEdit

State SenateEdit

Democrats hold a 17-23 minority in the 40-member Florida Senate:

State HouseEdit

Democrats hold a 47-73 minority in the 120-seat Florida House of Representatives:

Mayoral officesEdit

Some of the state's major cities have Democratic mayors. As of 2019, Democrats control the mayor's offices in five of Florida's ten largest cities:

Former Florida governors and U.S. senatorsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Willis, Lee (31 August 2018). Southern Prohibition: Race, Reform, and Public Life in Middle Florida, 1821-1920. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820341415 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Weinfeld, Daniel R. (19 March 2012). The Jackson County War: Reconstruction and Resistance in Post–Civil War Florida. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 9780817317454 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "Florida Dems devise plan for new primary -". Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  4. ^ "No new primary for Florida Democrats -". Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  5. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ " Maddox to step down as Florida Democratic Party chair 3/16/05". Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  7. ^ "Karen Thurman retires as Florida Democratic chairwoman". tribunedigital-sunsentinel. Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  8. ^ "Florida Democratic Chair Karen Thurman's resignation letter". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  9. ^ "Local attorney Rod Smith elected to head state Democratic Party". Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  10. ^ a b "Allison Tant elected chairwoman of Florida Democratic Party". Tampa Bay Times. 2013-01-26. Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  11. ^ "Power Couples - Tallahassee Magazine - March-April 2012". Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  12. ^ "Former lobbyist Allison Tant joins race to lead Florida Democratic Party". Tampa Bay Times. 2012-12-09. Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  13. ^ a b Sun-Sentinel, South Florida. "Democrats seek fixes for voter disapproval". Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  14. ^ "Home - Terranova". Terranova.
  15. ^ "Wealthy Donor Redefines Pay-to-Play, Buys Himself Top Dem Position". observer. 2016-12-21. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  16. ^ "Our Leadership".
  17. ^ "Rizzo elected Florida Democratic Party chairman, replacing Bittel".
  18. ^ "The Charter & Bylaws of the Florida Democratic Party" (PDF). Florida Democratic Party Official Website. 2019-06-09. p. 15. Retrieved 26 August 2019 – via
  19. ^ "Values".

External linksEdit