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“Nobody’s coming to save us,” State Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa), the new House Democratic leader, said during a Saturday morning session held by black Democrats in Florida.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running in the Democratic primary for governor, said emphatically in an interview that Democrats would be cut off from domestic donors if her rival, Rep. charlie christ (D-Fla.) wins the primary. Crist – who served one term as governor while a Republican – narrowly lost to the then-governor. Rick Scott in 2014. Most polls show Crist beating Fried heading into the Aug. 23 primary.

“I think the cavalry will be there,” Fried said in an interview. “Let me paint this picture. They won’t be here with Charlie. It is without a doubt. They won’t be there if Charlie is the candidate. … They don’t think there’s a chance of a fight.

Joshua Karp, senior campaign adviser to Crist, responded that Fried “turns to fiction to distract from their failing campaign. The fact is, over 100 elected Florida leaders have backed Charlie because they know the polls prove he’s our best candidate to beat Ron DeSantis.

Still, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in Florida by nearly 200,000 after tracking them for years. Republicans control the Governor’s Mansion, the Florida House and Senate, and many local governments. Democrats face a sizable fundraising gap and President Joe Biden’s standing in the state is lackluster at best, especially as he lost Florida by 3 points to former President Donald Trump. ..

Various Democrats told the three-day “Leadership Blue” conference that they see openings that can be used to overcome Republican advantages. They see their best hope for a statewide win in Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who challenges the senator. Marco Rubio and has beaten it in fundraising in successive quarters, though it trails in most polls.

But party leaders also say voters are alarmed by the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down abortion rights and are upset by Republican resistance to the fight against gun violence. They argue that some Republicans were discouraged by the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that left several dead and made negative headlines in recent weeks as the Jan. 6 committee holds hearings that reveal damning details about Trump. and several Republicans, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

“It’s not about ‘okay, let’s just take our best shot,'” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz said in an interview. “It’s a real conviction to win.”

Diaz, however, claimed Florida would get help this fall as it seeks to deny DeSantis a second term and unseat Rubio. Diaz confirmed that the party recently received a $1 million contribution from former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, which is still a far cry from the tens of millions he poured into Florida to try to defeat Trump there. barely two years old.

“There’s no question we’ll have domestic money,” Diaz said.

Diaz mentioned — as he has in previous interviews — that DeSantis only won his first election against former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by just over 30,000 votes. He has drawn up a detailed plan to build voter awareness and register Democrats.

But DeSantis’ rise as a GOP superstar, fueled by his handling of the pandemic and his rejection of critical race theory to gender identity, has Democrats on the defensive.

That advantage will be on full display next weekend when Florida Republicans host a big fundraiser and meet at a fancy casino and hotel owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The event, which will include remarks from DeSantis, will also feature radio personality Mark Levin and conservative commentator Dave Rubin.

Julia Friedland, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, mocked the Democratic encounter.

“We’re glad the incompetent Democrats in Florida are taking some much-needed time to work on themselves,” Friedland said.

But Democrats say in addition to gun violence and abortion rights, they can hammer DeSantis on the state’s growing affordability crisis due to rising rents and a lack of affordable housing. . It was a theme repeated again and again by several Democrats at the Tampa event.

Adam Hattersley, the Democratic candidate running against Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis, said he’s sticking to “portfolio” issues in his race, including blaming Republicans for the current economic crisis. government property insurance.

Crist insisted that DeSantis’ focus on higher ambitions – the Republican governor is seen as one of the best candidates for 2024 – left him vulnerable as he exerted no energy on difficulties finances of Floridians. A Democratic consultant echoed that message, saying “this is a real painful moment in politics.”

Driskell made the same point, saying that for Democrats to beat DeSantis, they need to put the state’s problems at his feet — just like Republicans consistently slam Biden on inflation and gas prices.

“You don’t have to go into a thesis,” Driskell said. “Democrats like to try to explain things. If people ask you why it costs too much in rent, blame DeSantis. … We can play this game too.