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The Florida Roundup is a live, weekly call-in show with a distinct focus on the issues affecting Floridians. Each Friday at noon, listeners can engage in the conversation with journalists, newsmakers and other Floridians about change, policy and the future of our lives in the sunshine state.Join our hosts, veteran journalists from our partner public radio stations: WLRN’s Tom Hudson, broadcasting from Miami and WJCT’s Melissa Ross, broadcasting from Jacksonville.

GOP hopes to reach 'underserved communities' and Dems look to Senate battleground in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The RNC is opening field offices in Florida hoping to attract more minority voters while Democrats attack Rick Scott's 'Rescue America' plan.

Former President Donald Trump will return to familiar grounds Saturday night in Orlando. He will speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference , rallying the GOP ahead of this year’s midterm elections , with an eye to 2024.
At last year's event, Trump hinted he may run for re-election and continued to falsely claim he won the 2020 race.
Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the crowd Thursday. He criticized what he called "the scientific elite" and trumpeted his efforts to have Florida outlaw mask mandates and vaccine passports.

The CPAC event comes as the Republican National Committee is making a push to appeal to Florida minority voters, yet a spokesman refused to say if Joe Biden was legitimately elected president.

"What we said all along is that Joe Biden is president," said RNC Regional Communication Director Chris Walker, without saying if he believed Biden's election was lawfully elected. "He is the guy in the White House right now, and we are working very hard to ensure that there's a Republican House and Senate to counterbalance what he's doing in the White House."

We want to make sure that we're meeting people in their communities.
RNC Regional Dir. of Communications Chris Walker

Those efforts include opening field offices in strategic locations the party hopes to use to embed itself in communities. Walker described it as an investment "in strategic minority engagement." That includes its Black American Community Center that opened Friday in Jacksonville.

"We want to make sure that we're meeting people in their communities, helping them with things. We're part of the community here. So it's not just a political office," Walker said.

It is a multi million dollar effort by the RNC to expand efforts to engage with "communities that may have been underserved by the GOP in the past."

The efforts come as Gov. DeSantis has proposed his own congressional redistricting map in northeast Florida. The governor's map would redraw Florida's 5th Congressional District, which is currently considered a minority district represented by Democrat Al Lawson.

The Black voting population in the current district is 42 % . Analysts say the governor's suggested boundaries would drop that to 31 % .

Walker doesn't see the governor's map as a deterrent to appealing to Black Florida voters. "What we know is Republican values are what's really going to help Florida continue to grow. And we've seen that, particularly as it relates to Florida's standing with other states in terms of COVID and everything else."

With the balance of power in the House and Senate before voters this fall, Florida will be a battleground state – destined to see loads of money raised and spent by Republicans and Democrats in their efforts to swing voters.

We need to become more aggressive in reaching out, particularly to the Latino community.
DSCC Dir. of Communications David Bergstein

In September, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced its own multi million dollar field organizing effort. Florida is one of nine states targeted with the $30 million initiative.

"It was the earliest largest commitment to field organizing that the DSCC has ever made," said David Bergstein, director of communications. "We need to become more aggressive in reaching out, particularly to the Latino community in different parts of Florida."

Rep. Val Demings (D-10) is the Democratic frontrunner to take on Sen. Marco Rubio as he runs for his third term.

While not on the ballot this year, Republican Sen. Rick Scott will be heavily involved. He is the chairman of the Republican National Senatorial Committee.

In the role, Sen. Scott released his own campaign agenda called "Rescue America." It is an 11-point plan that calls for having school children say the Pledge of Allegiance, finishing building a wall along the Southern border, and "all Americans should pay some income tax."

"We believe that voters will hold every Senate candidate accountable for their plan," said Bergstein.

Walker of the RNC didn't endorse Scott's plan, leaving it up to lawmakers and voters. "We're not going to take an individual position on every bit of a plan, but the general position of lowering costs, creating jobs, supporting police and securing the border – that's what we're about."
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In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.
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