Nov 14, 2022 - Politics

Miami-Dade flips red: Midterm lessons for Republicans and Democrats

Illustration of a zoomed-in elephant walking on the beach.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Miami-Dade County swung red this election, making Gov. Ron DeSantis the first Republican gubernatorial candidate to win the county in two decades.

  • It's a sharp reversal from 2018, when DeSantis lost the state's most populous, majority-Hispanic county by roughly 20 points.

The intrigue: There were early signs that Republicans had turned the tide. Statewide, Republicans had roughly 292,500 more registered voters than Democrats.

  • Since the last gubernatorial election in 2018, the GOP has added more than 553,000 registered voters in Florida, per Bloomberg. Dems, meanwhile, lost about 114,000 registered voters from the end of 2021 to October, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Zoom in: More Miami-Dade Republicans voted early than Democrats, a big shift from 2018, according to the county elections department's unofficial data.

  • Plus: More registered Republicans than registered Democrats voted at precincts at Florida International University and Miami-Dade College's Kendall campus, suggesting that perhaps even young voters were leaning red.

We spoke with Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Robert Dempster and Armando Ibarra, president of the all-volunteer political group Miami Young Republicans, to better understand strategies on the ground that led Miami-Dade to flip.

What they're saying: Ibarra, 38, told Axios that the GOP's victory is partly due to organizing efforts like his group's.

  • The Miami Young Republicans — who Ibarra says work closely with the state Republican Party — phone bank, hold events and knock on doors to get out the vote.
  • Former President Trump's victory in 2016 inspired Ibarra's group, which he says has about 200 paying members, to try to turn Miami red. They started with smaller issues, like legalizing ride-sharing in the county, and worked up to presidential elections.

Their lessons: Ibarra's group tapped into issues that he says evoke strong feelings for some Latino voters, such as policing and the gender-neutral term Latinx.

  • "We were among the earliest that were criticizing and really mocking — making fun of — Latinx," he said.
  • Calls to "defund the police," Ibarra said, can be off-putting to Latinos who fled countries with high levels of violent crime.
  • And ultimately, "abortion is not the type of issue that drives [Latinos] out to vote," he said.

The other side: Dempster told Axios that Democrats have to do a better job registering voters, recruiting volunteers and maintaining a "consistent messaging strategy."

  • Dempster said Democrats had "some exceptional candidates this cycle," but that the party needs to convince voters that liberal candidates "are the ones who are fighting for the policies that will make their lives better."
  • "Tuesday's results are obviously disappointing, but the Miami-Dade Democratic Party is focused on the road ahead and the work required to win back the county," Dempster said in an emailed statement. "Work that we are confident that we can and will do."

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