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Could David Jolly Change the Landscape of Florida’s Politics?

Frank Fear: It is only a matter of time before a statewide Independent candidate gets elected to a major statewide position in a large population state. Why? It’s the numbers.
David Jolly

The political dance in Florida has begun. The big question these days is who will run for governor in 2022. The odds are that Republican Ron DeSantis will seek re-election. DeSantis is also getting looks as a possible 2024 presidential candidate.

A variety of names are being bandied about on the Democrat side, including U.S. House Rep Val Demings and Nikki Fried. Demings has national name recognition largely because of her role in the impeachment hearings. Fried, who serves as Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, is the only Democrat who currently serves in a statewide elected office. She is an outspoken DeSantis critic, too.

A third (and intriguing) option is former governor, now a U.S. Representative, Charlie Crist. Crist, who went to Tallahassee as a Republican, won his House seat as a Democrat. 

A fourth possibility has emerged, too—an Independent option—in the person of former U.S. House Rep David Jolly. Jolly was elected to the U.S. House as a Republican but has since left the Party—a decision that he has spoken about expressively on national telecasts and in print. (Learn more about David Jolly here.)

It is only a matter of time before a statewide Independent candidate gets elected to a major statewide position in a large population state. Why? It’s the numbers.

An Independent running for statewide office rarely makes headline news but, this time, it is. Part of the reason is the candidate. Jolly’s decision to leave the Republican Party resonated with disaffected Florida Republicans. Florida’s Republican ranks thinned in the wake left by Trump, especially following the January 6 insurrection.

But there is more to it than that. Florida’s electorate is evolving because of in-migration, largely along the I-95 (Atlantic Coast) and I-75 (Gulf Coast) corridors. In-migration has had an impact on the composition of Florida’s electorate. The Sunshine State registers voters by party affiliation, which means data are available about the decisions voters make as they register. As of January 31, 2021, 72% of Florida’s registered voters are registered equally as Democrats and Republicans (36%/36%). The remaining 28% are registered as either No Party Preference or with a Minor Political Party.

While a sizable block of Florida voters is neither Democrat nor Republican, it would be a mistake to conclude that Jolly would automatically capture Florida’s Independent/Minor Party electorate. Those voters populate the political spectrum from Right to Left, and many are interested in specific issues (e.g., the environment, electoral reform) and/or have strongly held philosophies. Green Party members come to mind.

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But, all in all, 2022 appears to be an ideal set-up in Florida for a Independent candidate like David Jolly. I think he would appeal to a variety of Independent/Minor Party registrants, Republicans suffering from ‘Trump fatigue,’ and Democrats who seek an alternative to their party’s nominee.

And I am excited about the possibility of an Independent running for governor for another reason. Binary choices don’t fit the American scene today. Car choices abound. Food choices are endless. Media options expand all the time. But we, the voters, largely have A or B—an outcome that is reinforced constantly by the major parties and the media. America’s ‘politics industry’ is the reason.

And while a successful Independent run for state office is nothing new in some states (New England states, in particular) that possibility IS new to many other states. Data show that two large population states—California and Florida—are ripe for a political metamorphosis because the number of Independent voters continues to rise. Consider Florida. According to the state’s official tally, in just the past year, the number of No Party Pref/Minor Party registrants have increased by 20k, while the total number of Democrat/Republican registrants have declined by roughly 50k.

I believe it is only a matter of time before a statewide Independent candidate gets elected to a major statewide position in a large population state. Why? It’s the numbers. In its most recent national poll (Feb 3-18), Gallup reported that 41 percent of American voters said they were Independent. 32 percent declared Democrat, and 26 percent said Republican. Those are not new numbers either. It has been that way almost every time Gallup has polled Americans … for years.

There is every reason to believe that Florida will be the first populous state to follow what we’ve seen in New England states where Independents have a real shot at making successful runs in statewide elections. Florida is more likely than California because of political and organizational circumstances. While the number of No Party Pref/Minor Party affiliates continues to rise in California and the Republican Party has struggled recently, CA continues to be a Democratic stronghold. The situation is different in Florida. While the state has turned ‘Purple’ largely because of voting patterns in a number of major metropolitan areas, the Florida Democratic Party is hampered by financial issues (about $100k in the bank vs. almost $1 million in bills). Florida Independents, on the other hand, are well-organized. See, for example, Amendment 3 from the 2020 statewide election.

If you project to the future, I’ll bet we’ll see a political illustration of Wayne Gretzky’s famous words. Asked about why he was so successful as a hockey player, he remarked: “I don’t skate to where the puck is. I skate to where I think the puck will be.”

I believe that the political puck will swerve away from the two-party system and swerve toward Independent politics. If I am right, then that outcome will be a result of the only thing that really matters in a democracy—something that has gotten subverted, manipulated, and suppressed in recent decades (intentionally, I might add)—the peoples’ voice.

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I do not know if David Jolly will run for governor and, if he does, whether he will win. And should he run and win, I do not know what a Jolly Administration would look like. What I do know is this: America needs a political revolution of some type and form. I do not believe a revolution will begin at the national level, but it can conceivably happen locally and then spread—just as the $15 minimum wage has done. Florida—the butt of political jokes and sarcasm—could lead the way, and David Jolly could be the candidate.

Frank Fear

Frank Fear is a part-year Florida resident. You can listen to this article on his podcast channel.