Florida Democrats boot 2 county party chairs

The Florida Democratic Party on Sunday ousted two county party chairs, including the party chair of Miami-Dade County, in a contentious seven-hour meeting that follows a series of recent election defeats.

The 120-member party central committee voted to oust Miami-Dade Chair Robert Dempster and Franklin County Chair Carol Barfield on Sunday by significant margins, with Palm Beach County Chair Mindy Koch narrowly keeping her position.

Dempster’s ouster ends a months-long feud between him and state party Chair Nikki Fried, who suspended him last month after he refused her calls to resign. Fried and state Democrats accused Dempster of keeping outdated member lists, failing to make quorum at meetings and making improper endorsements.

Party leaders accused Koch of failing to cancel contracts not approved by state leadership and accused Barfield of missing a membership list and financial audits from 2022.

Fried described the votes as part of an effort to get Democrats “back on track” after crushing defeats in recent years.

“We need our local parties to register voters, recruit candidates and raise money to ensure that we’re competitive in 2024 and beyond,” Fried said in a statement. “Just like every other day, I will continue to work with all Florida Democrats to take back Florida and win elections in November.”

The Florida Democratic Party has struggled in recent years to fundraise and organize, with voter registration falling behind its GOP rivals.

Republicans hold super majorities in both houses of the state Legislature, and the current state government is the first not to have a Democrat in office in more than 125 years. The once-purple Florida has turned into a GOP stronghold, with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) winning a 19-point reelection in 2022.

In last week’s primary election, Republicans made major gains in local races after the state Democratic Party decided not to hold a presidential primary. That led to disastrous turnout for Democrats and was seen as contributing to the election of Republican mayors and other local offices in traditionally blue areas all over the state.

Early polling shows former President Trump with a significant lead over President Biden in the state in November, and it’s unclear how much the Biden campaign will invest, though the state party can still be influential for down-ballot races.

The Miami-Dade and Franklin parties must fill their now-vacant chair roles within 45 days.

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