A Commitment to Civil Rights

The struggle for civil rights is not over, and I am thrilled to have lifelong civil rights leader and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C. as the featured speaker at the Sarasota County Democratic Party’s Kennedy-King dinner on February 24th.

While in Washington for the inauguration, I had the pleasure of meeting Congresswoman Holmes Norton at her Capitol office

While in Washington for the inauguration, I had the pleasure of meeting Congresswoman Holmes Norton at her Capitol office

Civil rights and equal opportunity for all has long been at the core of what it means to be a Democrat. But here we are in 2013, and we are still fighting for equal pay for women, fighting for our reproductive rights, for a fair shot for Americans of all races, and for the right of people to love whom they choose.

While we have made progress, there are those in Washington and in Tallahassee who would turn back the clock, take rights away, limit opportunities, and make it more difficult for some to succeed, or even be in control of their own lives. That’s why the struggle for civil rights continues.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has been on the front lines since the 1960s when she travelled to Mississippi and worked with civil rights stalwarts like Medgar Evers — and where she bore witness to the intensity of violence and Jim Crow repression in the South. Later, as the head of the New York City Human Rights Commission, she held the first hearings in the country on discrimination against women as a civil rights issue – something she has worked on for the many years since.

If you’ll be in the Sarasota area on February 24, I hope you’ll join us and Congresswoman Norton for  the Kennedy-King dinner. For more information call 941-330-9400 or email info@sarasotadems.org.

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Gearing Up for 2014

Sarasota DEC Election 2012Even though the 2012 elections are just behind us, I’m already looking toward 2014.  Earlier this month,  I was honored to be re-elected without opposition as Chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party at the Democratic Executive Committee of Sarasota County organizational meeting.

I am thrilled for this opportunity to work with a great team to lead the Party forward. We can be proud of our diversity and the huge turnout tonight. The Sarasota County Democratic Party is clearly stronger and more motivated than ever to defeat Rick Scott in 2014, elect Democrats, and grow our influence and effectiveness.

Other officers elected at the meeting included Ed Henne as Vice-Chair, Valerie Smith as Secretary, and Mark Klingel, CPA, as Treasurer. Keith Fitzgerald was elected State Committeeman, and JoAnne Devries was elected as State Committeewoman. I look forward to serving with them and working with all the members of the Sarasota County Democratic Party between now and Election Day 2014!

What an Election!

I’m just now starting to catch my breath, now two weeks after the election. Sarasota (and I) were certainly at the center of this national election, playing host to a diverse array of elected and former elected officials, guests,

Rita and Vice President Biden at a rally a week before Election Day.

events and activities. The last few weeks of the election alone brought visits from Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Governor Jack Markell of Delaware, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), former Florida governors Charlie Crist and Bob Graham and Vice President Joe Biden. This is in addition to the other elected officials who came through Sarasota County during the course of the election, including DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD),  Kasim Reed (Mayor of Atlanta) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).

In addition to the visits from elected officials, we also hosted a wide range of media professionals, activists and celebrities in Sarasota, including Cynthia Nixon, Anita Dunn, Sandra Fluke, Lucie Arnaz, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, Emily’s list founder Ellen Moran and current president Stephanie Schriock, and Nadine Smith of Equality Florida. And as you know, money talks in politics, which is why I served on four host committees for Senator Bill Nelson (FL), six host committees for FL-16 congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald and one for First Lady Michelle Obama.

Other election season highlights for me included serving as the Florida delegation whip at the Democratic National Convention, along with appearing on ABC 7’s Black Almanac, radio shows on La Nueva Radio, WSRQ and WSLR, and as a guest panelist several times on WEDU’s Florida This Week, including the regional Emmy Award-nominated presidential primary episode.

However, I’m most proud of working with the more than 1,800 volunteers who gave so much time and effort toward this election in Sarasota County. We worked in lock step with Organizing for America’s data-driven operation.  Almost all of our office and precinct captain phone banking was done via computer. We consistently logged over 6,000 phone calls per day over four weeks. And our aggressive Vote By Mail campaign paid off as we increased requested ballots by 28% and had an 89% return rate.

Though this election is done, the political activity won’t stop. I’ll be sure to update you in December, when I serve as one of Florida’s 29 electors in the Electoral College, and again in January, when I head to Washington for the inauguration, so please stay tuned. Until then, thanks for joining me for all the ups and downs of the 2012 election here in Florida!

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Cheers!