Sarasota Democrats Host Demings, Gubernatorial Candidates

Todays News

Photo by Jacob Ogles: Val Demings with Sarasota County Democratic Party leaders JoAnne DeVries and Christine Jennings

A sold out crowd gathered Sunday night for the Kennedy-King Dinner, organized by the Sarasota County Democratic Party. There, the most prominent Democrats running for statewide office all made their pitch to party regulars to turn out votes in November.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, the leading Democrat running against Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, accepted the “Champion Award.” Christine Jennings, a former Sarasota County Democratic Party Chair, noted the congresswoman is only the second recipient of the award behind former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a difference from the Republican Party of Sarasota’s Statesman of the Year Award.

Demings happily accepted the award while encouraging Democratic voters to prepare for a hard campaign season. “Things are a little challenging now,” she said. “We’re trying to save the state. We’re trying to save the nation.”

Three major candidates for Governor all took their turn at the microphone as well.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican Governor now running his second campaign for Governor as a Democrat, said he’d be happy to stand his own record as Governor against sitting Gov. Ron DeSantis. “Val and I and my wonderful competitors, we are calling people all over the country asking for help,” he said. “Every time I talk to someone outside of Florida, I hear, ‘Oh my god, you are from Florida? How do you do that.'”

Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, said she’s been combating DeSantis from the Cabinet as Florida’s only Democrat holding statewide office. She argued her record of success winning in 2018 when all other Democrats on the statewide ballot lost makes her the best choice for standard-bearer in 2022. “I’ve been the only person standing in the way of the DeSantis autocracy in the state,” she said.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, said she would be the best person to push back against Republican messaging that Democrats are socialists. That will be especially important in South Florida, she said. Taddeo grew up in Colombia but fled terrorists there after her father was kidnapped from the family’s farm. She went on to run a business for 30 years. “Don’t hang the label of socialist on me,” she said.

The Monday evening event was the first major one for the county party since before the pandemic, and had 690 tickets sold. At the event, more was raised, including a $10,000 check from talk show host Jerry Springer and thousands more from other donors.

Photo by Jacob Ogles: Val Demings with Sarasota County Democratic Party leaders JoAnne DeVries and Christine Jennings

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