In Florida, Democrats Hope Abortion Will Revive Their Fortunes

On the Miami River recently, a parade of gleaming white pleasure boats cruised through the city. Half-naked revelers basked on their decks, swaying to Taylor Swift anthems and waving bottles of champagne as they floated by.

A few yards away, in the windowless conference room of an aging Hyatt hotel, a group of Florida Democrats was far more sober. The state may be known for careless hedonism and family pleasures, but Democrats will be spending the summer working on a very serious and nearly desperate plan to rescue the Florida Democratic Party.

Nikki Fried, the last Democrat elected to statewide office in Florida — over half a decade ago, as agriculture commissioner — dug her heels into the carpeted floor. “It’s going to be women that are going to get us out of this,” Ms. Fried, now Florida’s Democratic Party chair, told a roomful of statehouse candidates, all of them women.

From left, Sarah Henry, a state House candidate; Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson; the chief executive of Ruth’s List, Christina Diamond; and Florida’s Democratic Party chair, Nikki Fried.

The Democrats had gathered in Miami to plot a comeback in Florida, where they have been largely ousted from power. Central to their efforts is building on anger over the state’s new six-week abortion ban, which is among the most extreme in the country and is opposed by a majority of Florida voters, who have consistently said in polls they wanted more access to reproductive care, not less.

In January, anger over Republican restrictions on abortion in the state led a Democrat, Tom Keen, to flip a state House seat in Orlando. Democrats aren’t pretending they can do the same thing with the state’s presidential vote, which is still likely to go to Donald Trump, but they believe championing reproductive freedom can help them regain a foothold in the statehouse in Tallahassee. They are eyeing a long-term strategy that begins with flipping at least five state House seats this November, unseating a Republican supermajority.

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