Dear Florida Democrats,
I am with you — since I was a child wondering why my enlisted father and working mother somehow needed government assistance to feed us, since I stood in the poor-kids’ line for lunch, since I worked my way through college and grad school with student debt I still owe.
I have knocked doors in the days before the Iowa caucus, been a delegate to the DNC, stood on fields at midnight to hear the gospel of hope and change, danced in the streets upon our candidates’ elections.
I am with you, because you have been with me.
And since I love you, I have to tell you the whole truth: our voters deserve better from us. And since I know you, I also know we are capable of so much more.
We can build a party people can believe in. We can be the party that represents economic, social, and environmental justice for all, but our message must be clear, and we must act in integrity with our words. At our state conference last month, we overwhelmingly passed resolutions supporting guaranteed healthcare as a human right, free public education from pre-K through college or trade school, a living wage and fair compensation for all, investments in environmental protection and renewable energy, restoration of voting rights to former felons, public financing of elections to eradicate the corrupting influence of big money in politics, and other policies that serve the people. Let us turn our resolutions into a people’s platform that we can clearly communicate to all Floridians, and that can guide the priorities and decision-making of our party, our candidates, and our elected officials.
It is not enough, however, to simply speak our values; we must live them. Sexual harassment in our own party, for example, diminishes and undermines our efforts to stand up for equal pay, equal rights, and equal access to healthcare for women. In a party that stands for justice for all, we cannot stand silent or be accomplices to the abuses of people with power and money. When we look away, or worse yet, facilitate the misconduct of the powerful, we create the conditions for systemic injustice and oppression. We must create space to speak truth to power.
We can give our party back to the people, and spread the power of the few to the many. We can give our grassroots the training, tools, technology, and transparency they need in order to understand and fully engage in our efforts — but we must also give them the power. Rules that have consolidated governing control of our party in the hands of a few must be surrendered to make way for true democracy. Those who feel real ownership of our party will also feel inspired to knock the doors and make the calls we will need to hold onto our seat in the Senate and take back the governor’s mansion. This Chair’s election, for example, will likely be decided by the weighted votes of a few party power brokers; the time has come for the people to have a genuine say in the leadership and direction of the Florida Democratic Party. We must also ensure our rules apply equally to all of us, and that they aren’t circumvented or ignored by, and for, those with power, money, or privilege.
We can adamantly refuse to compromise our values, and reclaim our party from special interests. Let us build a party funded by the people that is really for the people. Our fates should not be decided by billionaires in backrooms. It is time to follow in the footsteps of Obama and Sanders and get serious about building a small donor fundraising program that works for Florida. In Brevard County, where I now serve as Chair, our party’s fundraising has increased by 79% this year by increasing our number of contributions by over 500% in the first 3 quarters of 2017 compared to 2016. While change will not happen overnight, we can plan to transform our funding base intentionally and methodically, increasing our percentage of small donations significantly over time.
It’s also time to wrestle ourselves free of the massive overhead of consulting firms who profit from both parties and benefit financially whether we win or lose.
We can return to our roots & inspire our neighbors with our love for justice and for one another. We must start at the roots by focusing on seats up and down the ballot, and by rallying grassroots support in every race. In Brevard, against all odds, our party turned three “long-shot” races blue in a deep red county by knocking doors, making calls, and meeting our neighbors.
Those three races cost a combined total of about $6,000, and our efforts won us the Florida Democratic Party’s “Golden Gavel” for knocking the most doors of any county in the state . In Rockledge, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly 20%, we won by nearly 30% by increasing Democratic turnout from less than 10.5% in the last off-year municipal election to nearly 30% this year — and we elected Sammie Brown Martin, the first black woman ever to serve on the Rockledge City Council. In Cape Canaveral, where Democrats are outnumbered by nearly 40% by Republicans, Angela Raymond defeated a former Republican Councilman. In Malabar, a tiny town where Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans by 80%, Danny White won, too — by knocking the doors and meeting his neighbors.
It’s hard to inspire our neighbors, though, when we’re fighting against ourselves. We must heal the wounds of our past, and come together to win the elections that lie ahead.
This is our party. We’re all in this together. I do not know if we dare to do what is required, but if we want to change Florida and our country, we must start by changing ourselves.
About a week ago, I started receiving calls and messages from people here in Brevard and across the state asking me to run; at first, I just laughed. And then I got a call from a group of young people in South Florida who were at a bar together on a Friday night. And my heart broke wide open. My candidacy wasn’t birthed by bigwigs in backrooms, but at a bar in Broward where young people still dare to believe that the Democratic Party might be where hope lives for them and for all of us. It is their hope, and not the machinations of men who have held power for far too long, who will decide the fate of our party. And it is the job of our party to keep that hope alive.
So, I told them I’d run for Florida Democratic Party Chair if we’re all in this together. We set a goal of raising $2,500 for our campaign, and identifying 250 pledges of monthly donations and 250 volunteer pledges.
Last night, we reached all our goals.
So far, in 5 days, our movement has swelled to nearly 1,400 members on Facebook, 118 campaign donors who’ve given over $6,000, 255 pledged monthly contributors who will give over $41,000 per year upon our election, and 252 pledged monthly volunteers who will work nearly 30,000 hours per year — or the equivalent of about $450,000 a year in labor.
If we can pull off commitments of nearly half a million in 5 days without a plan, a budget, or any organization, imagine what we can do together when we, the people, have real power in our party again.
With the support and blessing of so many across the state, I announce my candidacy for Chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
Let’s build #OurParty together. Join the movement at ThisIsOurParty.com.
With love & solidarity,
Stacey Patel, a candidate for Chair of the Florida Democratic Party, is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz School of Public Policy and has over 20 years of diverse professional experience in organizational transformation, social media fundraising, project management, small business ownership, non-profit leadership, and performing arts administration. More information about her candidacy is available at ThisIsOurParty.com. The election for Chair of the Florida Democratic Party is scheduled during a meeting of party leaders which will be held at Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando at noon on Saturday, December 9.