Issue 32 | March 2023
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Fried Chosen as New Florida Democratic Party Leader
State Democratic Party leadership gathered outside Orlando last Saturday; and, in a close race, elected Nikki Fried as the new Party Chair. Fried, former Commissioner of Agriculture who sought the Party’s 2022 nomination for Governor, replaces Manny Diaz, who resigned shortly after the Florida Party’s poor showing in last year’s elections.

A late entry into a 4-way contest, Fried received her stiffest competition from former state senator Annette Taddeo. Taddeo reached out publicly to her opponent before the voting began and pledged to work together. The two then hugged. Fried eked out a victory with a reported 52% of the votes, and said to those present, that “regardless, if you voted for me or you voted for Annette, everybody has a seat at this table.”

Fried sees her challenge as rebuilding the Democratic Party “from the ground up” including winning back the Party’s lost edge in voter registration, expanding vote by mail, improving messaging, reforming the party’s “antiquated” weighted vote system and bylaws, and putting the Party on a firm financial footing.

Accomplishing these goals is critical, because, as Fried put it in the Chairs’ debate, “We know that the road to the presidency runs through the state of Florida. We know that Ron DeSantis’ blueprint for the state, he wants to take to Washington D.C. We are that stopgap. And so, we’ve got to make sure that we are using all of our voices and all of our community organizing.”
Ready to Help with the Rebuilding? Volunteer!!!
By Ellie Rubenstein, Volunteer Coordinator 
There are many famous quotes about the importance of people working together around a cause; “It takes a village,” “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” and “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” This is how we feel about the importance of our volunteers. We know we can’t make progress without you.

As we enter this non-election year, the Lee County Democrats are working hard in many areas preparing for 2024. Among our goals are: increasing Democratic voter turnout, enrolling and re-enrolling voters in vote by mail, candidate recruitment, fundraising, community outreach, data analysis, expanding communication, messaging through social media and much more.
We have opportunities for volunteers to share their interests and skills as often as they are able. If you have a passion, we can find a place for you to channel that energy. If you have a particular skill set, we can find a place for you to utilize your expertise. If you have been wanting to “do something” but aren’t sure what, we can help find a good fit for you.
Filling out a volunteer form is easy: Just go to our website at, click on the “Volunteer” link, send it in, and we will reach out to you.

It feels really good to be involved, making a difference. We hope you agree, because we know that this quote is also true: “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time, but they have the heart.”
GOTV* Updates

By Eileen McHenry
Our Mission - Enroll Democrats in Vote By Mail - focusing now on those who didn't vote in either the Primary or General 2022 Elections.

We’re working on many fronts to complete our mission and we’re looking for people to help. Keep reading to see what we’re doing and scroll on down to let us know how you can help.

Collateral Materials - Lee Ann Nesbitt and her son, a designer for UnderArmor, and Eileen McHenry, are working on creating and revising the following printed materials:
  • Stickers for our "Flip Florida Blue Postcards"
  • "Why Vote By Mail" brochures for lit drops (Span/Eng)
  • Poster for Cape Pride 
  • VBM promos the backs of ClipBoards carried by volunteers walking the crowd at Cape Pride (March 4)
We need volunteers to help with this.
Scripts - Jim Rosinus and Eileen McHenry have drafted our first Canvassing Script (script or in-person VBM outreach) in Minivan.
It is being revised and will eventually include scripts for phone calling, texting, post carding, etc.
If you are a messaging whiz and would like to help, we want you.
Training Materials – On March 3, Ellie Rubenstein, James Pirone and Eileen McHenry will hold a zoom to review existing training tapes/slides and determine what changes/additions are needed.
Sandra Coyle has stepped up to continue her trainings on using the New Voter Engagement Tool. We will be reviewing the existing training to make it even easier for use by our Neighborhood Coordinators and Pct. Leaders.
Field Test - Next week, Karen Solgaard and Marian Frane will test our new VBM Script in the field. They will be cutting their own turf (setting the addresses for door knocks) and using the new script in Minivan. Stand by for results. We hope to roll this out to everyone soon!
Social Event - A few volunteers mentioned they'd like to have a monthly social gathering/happy hour/coffee. If anyone would like to organize that, we could use your help. Watch for future announcements.
Cape Pride - March 4
We have had great response, with over 24 volunteers lined up, but we REALLY need the following:
  • Two STRONG people to help set up the tent and tables with Mike McHenry (approx. 10am Sat March 4).
  • FOUR YOUNG VOLUNTEERS to walk the crowd at Cape Pride and enroll people in VBM. (Crowds respond best to youthful volunteers!:) 
If you are interested in helping with anything above, please contact
Eileen McHenry Tel: 508-904-1272 E-mail
*(Get Out The Vote Field Team)
Why I'm a Democrat

Editor’s Note: This month, I interviewed Barbara “Bobbi” Brown to find out why she is a Democrat. Bobbi is the last of the five founding members of the Democratic Club at Shell Point which has expanded into the Democratic Club of Southwest Fort Myers, one of the largest and most active Democratic Clubs in Lee County. Here’s her story.
“I was born a Democrat!” Bobbi said. She came from a Democratic family--Southerners on her mother’s side, Bostonians on her father’s. Growing up in upstate NY, one of her earliest political memories was of Thomas Dewey’s campaign for Governor. Her older sister participated in a campaign parade dressed in an elephant suit, pushing a carriage with a Baby Dewey and a sign, “A Push for Dewey.” Bobbi wasn’t swayed!
Some years later, as editor of her high school newspaper, Bobbi was selected to do an interview with Eleanor Roosevelt. “She was always described as ‘too tall, too homely,” Bobbi said, “but she mesmerized me. She didn’t talk down to me. She was brilliant. She didn’t resemble what people said about her at all. I didn’t see anything but beauty. She expressed the values she lived by. She believed in people as her husband had—in the middle class. She was the most astounding woman I had ever met--such empathy. I was getting close to 18 when I’d be able to vote. And I knew this is where I belong!!! I knew I’d vote Democratic.”
“The best programs ever implemented have been done by the Democrats. Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare—the platform of Democrats was so focused on ordinary Americans who did what they thought was right, served and loved their country.” By contrast, Bobbi said, she “never saw that in Republicans. They never put forth good ideas.” For example, she noted, Republicans were never able to come up with an alternative to Obamacare.
Married to a career chaplain in the military, she moved around a lot. She became involved in Democratic politics in Fayetteville, NC, while the family was at Fort Bragg. She joined with John Kerry and Jane Fonda to protest the Vietnam War on the steps of the Capitol. She marched for Equal Rights for Women, who were treated as marginal citizens. She celebrated when the Roe v Wade decision was handed down, and has been a long-time supporter of Planned Parenthood.
Moving to Lee County came as a shock. “There was nothing—a desert where Dems are concerned.” Then, in a Great Books Discussion Group, she found four others who shared her values and were also Democrats. They obtained permission to meet at Shell Point, and, by word of mouth, soon drew 60 people and organized the Democratic Club at Shell Point which she served as Vice-President.
A firm believer in door-knocking, she worked hard for Barack Obama. Canvassing in Dunbar and the Heights, she found people pleased that she had taken time to visit with them and she was able to register new voters.
Looking back on her work as a Democrat, Bobbi summarized, “when you participate in things and see what comes of it you feel so enriched.”
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Lee County School Update

By Sharon McGill
 The new Proximity Plan, the alternative to school choice, was approved by the Lee County Board and implemented in February for elementary grades to start with the 2023/2024 school year. Middle and high school will be phased in over several years. School choice has been a big issue for the district over many years. It had grown into something that was affecting transportation in a big way. It is projected that the Proximity Plan will help alleviate some of those issues by cutting down on some bus routes and making the transportation system more effective for all students in the District. With a continuing shortage of bus drivers this is desperately needed. It also creates a more neighborhood centered focus.

The District continues to deal with the destruction of Hurricane Ian throughout the schools. A major focus is the ongoing discussion about the fate of the Fort Myers Beach Elementary School. Perfect circumstances would have the school rebuilt with no issues, since at some point the District should get reimbursed from FEMA for at least a portion of rebuilding costs. It should be noted it has taken years to be reimbursed for some Hurricane Irma losses. The real issues are the operating costs. School capacity is over 200 students and in 20 years it has not achieved that number. Additionally, over the five years prior to Ian, enrollment was only about 75 students and declining. The District was spending more than double per student here than the average for the District. Losses were over one million dollars per year. The District is in discussion with FMB officials regarding an Inter Local Agreement (ILA) that would set an attendance goal for the school to achieve.  To reopen the school to accommodate a smaller population would be approximately ten million dollars.

The other major concern of the Board is the updating of all District policies, including, but not limited to, all curriculum and media materials policies. Much of this has to do with new Florida laws. The curriculum and media materials policies, and even more so, the procedures and processes that are used to implement them are a major concern as outside special interest groups are lobbying the District.

More detailed information is available on the LCSD website about these topics.
Want to Support Quality Public Education?
By Maddie Stewart
Quality Schools for the Future of Lee County is a non-partisan organization dedicated to supporting quality public schools for all students in Lee County.

We believe that public education is the cornerstone of our democracy and should be free from outside political influence.

We believe that parents, teachers, administrators, and schools boards working together without partisan obstruction will make the best educational decisions for students.

Our focus March through June is to support the teachers, library media specialists and other curriculum professionals who are currently drafting and who will then implement a new Book/Media Policy for the school district as required by HB 1467, passed by the State Legislature in March 2022.

Educational professionals, with ideas from parents and community members, should make the final decisions, not those with a political agenda.

We hope you will join us in this effort to support the best education for all our students in Lee County.  There are many ways to get involved. To Learn How: Contact Maddie Stewart -
Published monthly by the Lee County Democratic Party
Editor: Melissa Butler
If you have comments, questions, ideas about features you'd like to see, or would like to volunteer to help, contact us at
The Democratic Party of Lee County is an all-volunteer organization. We do not receive any funding from the Florida Democratic Party nor the national Democratic Party.
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