One of 29 Votes

In Tallahassee this week I had the great honor of casting one of Florida’s 29 Electoral College votes to re-elect Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Casting one of Florida's 29 electoral college votes

Casting one of Florida’s 29 electoral college votes

It was a simple procedure – almost mundane – as we signed our names to the ballots. But my thoughts were not mundane, and they echoed what others said that day.

“As I cast my vote for the president of the United States of America, I do so with memories of many Floridians waiting in long lines to cast their vote during early voting and on Election Day,” Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee said in his statement.

I too, thought with gratitude of the many thousands of committed voters who had made my electoral vote for Barack Obama possible.

Another elector, Florida Democratic Party Chair Rod Smith, said, “There is a certain solemnity to this occasion — an affirmation of the great traditions of our people. [One purpose of this ceremony is to] remind ourselves that there are people who have stood up, sat in and laid down their lives to make sure this continues.”

He is right that even this simple ceremony must not be taken for granted because it symbolizes the smooth transition of power that defines our democracy and that so many countries envy. The experience of casting an electoral vote is just one of many that I will treasure from the excitement of the 2012 election.

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!

The Gateway to Opportunity

Every morning when I drop my 13 year-old son at school, I am reminded of the value of a good public education. It is his future. Protecting our public education system is one of the things that drove me into Florida politics years ago. Many of us are appalled at the policies Governor Scott and Republicans in Tallahassee are pursuing — cuts in funding, teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and more.

These are the same kind of policies Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would pursue across the nation. According to them, education is the responsibility of each individual family, and each family should get whatever education they can afford for their kids. Once again, “you’re on your own.” If your family can’t afford much, that’s too bad. Romney and his supporters would abandon those millions of young Americans and their futures.

President Obama understands this is wrong and that a quality public education must be available to all students – not just the few who can afford it. He has said:

“You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have. Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. It was the gateway for Michelle. It was the gateway for most of you. And now more than ever, it is the gateway to a middle-class life.

“And now you have a choice — we can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don’t have the money. No company should have to look for workers overseas because they couldn’t find any with the right skills here at home. That’s not our future. That is not our future.”

Education is the foundation for a stronger economy and better jobs for Americans, and it is the gateway to opportunity for all. America can not afford to go back on education. That is why I believe we must re-elect the President and elect Democrats to Congress and our Florida Legislature if we hope to keep our economy and our middle class strong. (Note: This post also appeared last week on

Courage to Speak Out

With Sandra Fluke, reproductive rights activist, scheduled to be in the Sarasota area this Saturday, September 29 for a rally supporting Congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald (more details here), I wanted to share more of my impressions of this remarkable young lady, both here and on Sarasota Patch. When I saw Sandra Fluke speak at the Democratic National Convention, I was so proud to be a Democrat! This young woman stood up for what she believes, and even after ridicule and hateful slurs from the far right, she stood up again and delivered her message loud and clear to the world.  Here is some of what she said about “two profoundly different futures” that await women:

“[In one America], you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms. An America in which states humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds we don’t want and our doctors say we don’t need. An America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don’t. …it’s not the America we should be. It’s not who we are.

“We’ve also seen another future we could choose. First of all, we’d have the right to choose. It’s an America in which no one can charge us more than men for the exact same health insurance; in which no one can deny us affordable access to the cancer screenings that could save our lives; in which we decide when to start our families. An America in which our president, when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters—not his delegates or donors—and stands with all women.”

Among so many important issues, this election is about the right of women to decide their own futures, decide about their own bodies, and their right to health care when they need it. Watch the full video of her speech and you, too, will be moved – moved to choose the future “where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom, [not] one where that freedom doesn’t apply to our bodies and our voices.”


DNC Wrap-Up: A Vote for Life

One of the most inspiring moments for me at the Democratic National Convention – a moment that set the tone for the entire event — happened the very first morning. I mentioned it briefly in my first post from the DNC, but it made such an impression on me that I wanted to share more below (and on Sarasota Patch):

Rod Smith, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party stood up in front of the Florida delegation and told us that his 25-year-old son, Dillon, was recently diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that usually strikes children. He has undergone his first round of chemotherapy, and the family is optimistic.

The inspiration came when Rod described how the health care reform passed by President Obama may end up saving Dillon’s life. Continue reading

DNC Dispatch – Day Two

As we anticipate the President’s speech yet tonight, here are the highlights I took away from all of yesterday’s excitement:

Rita and Sister Simone Campbell

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (and daughter of the late, legendary Texas governor Ann Richards) gave an emotional speech.  We listened with tears in our eyes, as she had tears in hers: “President Obama understands women. He trusts women. And on every issue that matters to us, he has stood with women… We’ve come way too far to ever turn back. And we won’t.”

Elizabeth Warren, running for Senate in Massachusetts, also gave a rousing speech: “I believe in President Obama and his vision for the future. Not just for folks who call themselves Democrats — but for everyone who believes that when you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve a chance to succeed. For decades now, the dreams of millions of kids have moved further out of reach. Middle-class families have gotten hammered, while the rich and powerful have gotten richer and more powerful. This election truly is the fork in the road. It will decide who we are as a people and what kind of country we want to be.” Continue reading