5 questions for Ramon Alexander: How future Democratic leader will build bluer Florida House

His task is daunting: Republicans now lead Democrats in the House by an almost 2-to-1 margin.

James Call, Capital Bureau

Ramon Alexander plans to change the political map of the Sunshine State.

His fellow House Democrats elevated the third-term lawmaker, who represents Gadsden and part of Leon counties, to lead their caucus for the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions.

The job's top priority is to plan the Democrats' House campaigns for next year. A veteran community organizer, Alexander will recruit candidates, raise money and speak for House Democrats statewide.

After the campaign, Alexander will then lead the party in the House in policy debates and in legislative maneuvering against the Republican majority. They now outnumber Democrats in the House 78-42 — an almost 2-to-1 margin. 

Rep. Alexander in the headlines:

The most significant issue for Alexander will be redistricting, when state lawmakers redraw the political boundaries for congressional and legislative seats.

He ran the ground campaign for the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts constitutional amendments in 2010, an experience he said that will help safeguard Democrats’ interest when lawmakers redesign the state’s political map. 

“I’m fired up,” Alexander said, discussing his elevation to leader-designate. He'll follow the 2021-22 terms of current co-leaders Bobby DuBose of Fort Lauderdale and Evan Jenne of Dania Beach. 

“I’m excited to talk about why we vote for the things that we vote for and make very clear the contrast (with the other party).”  

Five Questions for House Democratic Leader-Designate Ramon Alexander

(Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.)

Q: House Democrats have not held more than 50 of the 120 House seats since 1998 and have spent eight of the past 20 years in super-minority status, holding fewer than one-third of the 120 seats.  How are you going to make a difference?

Alexander: Leadership matters. When I decided to run for the House of Representatives, people told me it was a waste of time to serve in a Legislature controlled by one party. But, if you are thorough, prepared, have integrity and are consistent, then you will be effective and make a difference. 

I believe that attitude will manifest through our entire caucus. We have extremely talented individuals, and we will move forward and be successful. 

Q: Can you describe your approach to leadership?

Alexander: I’m a pragmatic situational leader that has core fundamental values that I will not compromise. But it is important to be realistic and that allows you to establish relationships in the process, which provides you credibility and enables you to have an impact. 

Q: The Legislature is a numbers game — and you don’t have them. Republicans dominate except for districts in urban areas and along the Atlantic Coast. How do you increase Democratic numbers from North Florida, the interior and along the Gulf Coast? 

Alexander: By identifying individuals in those communities who are from those communities and share the values we have in regards to strong public schools, Medicaid expansion, criminal justice reform and strong home rule. 

We will go into those communities and explain to them the value added in the policies we believe in when, for example,  you look at an unemployment system ravaged by (previous GOP) Gov. (Rick) Scott, or the need for a strong public school system when more than 80% of our students are in public schools. 

Q: But you need money to have those conversations. As a party, you lack the funds to be competitive. 

Alexander:  We’re going to take some different approaches and steps in organizing and securing resources to get our message out.  

There are a lot of people, stakeholders, coalitions that are concerned about some of the policies that have been passed. We’re going to go directly to those people and ask them to be engaged, explain every dollar makes a difference. 

I’m a grassroots person. We are not going to write anyone off. President Barack Obama won Florida twice. The last three gubernatorial elections were decided by a point. It takes a 67-county strategy. It comes down to connecting with people and having a relationship. It is amazing what happens when people make that investment. 

Q: Your term as Leader comes when the Legislature will redraw congressional and legislative districts based on the 2020 census. What is your plan? 

Alexander: First, we are going to make sure our representatives are informed and know what you can and can not do. I helped run the Fair Districts campaigns and there are obligations and precedents set in the law. 

Then, I am taking it directly to the people of Florida, so they understand what is happening, and not getting caught up in the vernacular and terminology and all that. 

And finally, we have a responsibility to speak truth to power and do it in a responsible way. Gerrymandering is gerrymandering. We’re going to make sure that the process is transparent, the people are educated about the process, and we will be effective. 

... I make one promise. When we leave the (House) Democratic caucus, it will be in a better position than what we found it in. 

James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at jcall@tallahassee.com. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahassee

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