Issue 40 | November 2023
When I agreed to run for Chair, I stated that my goal was to act as a change agent, moving the party into being a sustainable, scalable organization. To achieve the mission of the Democratic Party of Lee County required the implementation of best practices in all activities and that the organization move into an efficient, lean model to best utilize both financial and volunteer resources. To be taken seriously, the Democratic Party of Lee County must be responsibly managed as a serious organization. In addition, stability of leadership and adherence to the approved bylaws is essential.

As Cindy and I searched for a candidate to run for US Representative Florida District 19, we left no possibility untouched. We reached out to all who had ever considered running, as well as many who had not. It is essential that the current Congressman, an election denying mouthpiece for the most extreme faction of the Republican party be challenged. During my various interviews of candidates and community leaders, I was asked time and again that as a former legislator myself, why was I not running?

After much consideration and consultation with community leaders and stakeholders across the district, which includes portions of Lee and Collier counties, I have decided to run for US Representative Florida Congressional District 19.

The bylaws which we adopted by acclimation in April of 2022 clearly state that should the Chair decide to run for elected office, the Chair shall take a temporary leave and the Vice Chair shall immediately become the Interim Chair. An interim Vice Chair shall then be elected at the next regular meeting.

In consultation with the other officers of the Democratic Executive Committee, it was decided that to prevent division within the party and to keep the momentum we have built for the 2024 election cycle unbroken, we will follow the exact words of the bylaws.

I am taking a leave from my duties as Chair and Vice Chair Jim Rosinus will immediately move to Interim Chair. There will be an election for Interim Vice Chair to be held at the next regular meeting on January 22, 2024.

I can only move forward as a candidate for US Congress because we have implemented the framework that will insulate candidates, volunteers, and voters from the disruption that a complete change in leadership at this sensitive moment in the election cycle would produce. I have been honored by the faith the members of the Democratic Executive Committee have placed in my leadership and know that Jim will continue to receive that same support in my temporary absence. Jim Rosinus is an outstanding leader and, with the support of our Treasurer, Viri Ryan, will continue to lead our party in the successful direction we have been moving.

Special thanks to Jim Rosinus for stepping forward as Interim Chair during my leave. Also special recognition to Viridiana Ryan Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair, Dave Waks Data Director, Melissa Butler Editor of The Informed Democrat, Ellie Rubenstein Volunteer Coordinator, Jan Sommer Graphic Design, Karyn Edison Communications, Eileen McHenry VBM, and Mike McHenry Voter Protection. There are so many volunteers, donors, and club and caucus members who generously share the load. Thank you to all.

Many thanks to all that you are doing and will do going forward to support our values, our candidates, and our democracy. Please look for my website
Support the
Lee County
Democratic Party
Lerner Announces Congressional Bid
Kari Lerner announces leave from her role as Chair of the Democratic Party of Lee County to take on Byron Donalds, for Florida Congressional District 19.

Kari grew up in Lee County, graduating from Caloosa Middle School, Cypress Lake High School (go Panthers!), and Edison Community College. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, graduating Summa cum Laude from SNHU. Kari worked as an educator before being elected NH State Representative to serve the 4th reddest district in NH, and has been a Realtor licensed in Florida, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire for many years.

Kari has a documented record of service that proves she will actually do the job for YOU.

The announcement date of her candidacy is November 1st, with an official launch event to be scheduled in mid-January.

Please visit regularly for updates on the campaign, to sign up to volunteer, and to make your donation.
State Democratic Party Convention
By Madison Fitzpatrick
“Take back Florida”
What does that phrase mean to you? What does it mean to fellow Democrats? How do we achieve it? These were the questions in the minds of every speaker and delegate at the 2023 Democratic State Convention this past weekend. There were a myriad of speeches and panels from caucuses and committees, and while I was not able to attend all of these, some main points stood out. At the heart of the convention were the ideas of togetherness, inclusivity, and hope.

Each meeting I went to showcased these ideas in their own way. But more than this, each group discussed their own plans for taking back Florida. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee Meeting, for example, discussed how to properly represent every demographic in every county in Florida. Democrats want to make sure everyone is represented, and everyone has a seat at the table. The Florida Democratic Diversity and Inclusion Committee wants to hear from you. How can our party help to make sure all members of your community are represented? Please contact them with any questions, comments, or suggestions.

The LGBTQ+ Caucus Meeting discussed the importance of LGBTQ+ representation in elected positions and in the public eye. Representation matters, and current members of our legislature do not seem to care. This community, along with many, if not all, minority communities, is under attack. They are under threat of violence and/or erasure. It is time we stand together and stand up for those who are under attack by our Republican lawmakers.
The Progressive Caucus Meeting session featured Aramis Ayala, the former state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, who discussed the dangers of being silenced by the government and how to address this issue head-on. Ayala discussed the removal of her successor, Monique Worrell, from her elected position by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. This, Ayala points out, is the danger of the direction Florida politics is heading. Who is DeSantis to remove someone from a position that the people elected her to? Who is he to undermine democracy? The people spoke, and he silenced them.

There is one way to take back Florida. Reelect those who are standing up, who are speaking out, and who are showing up. Practice and preach inclusivity, promote diversity, elect those who will truly represent the voice of the people, and make sure they stay in office. Keep the messages of togetherness, inclusivity, and hope. All of this boils down to one simple action: vote. Vote in every election you can, vote for the people who will serve you and your community the way you deserve to be served, and vote with your conscience and with your heart. Florida is a state of the people. It is time our politics start reflecting that. Help us take back Florida and vote!
Election For Interim Vice Chair

by Jim Rosinus
As discussed in the lead article "Message from the County Chair" above, Kari Lerner is taking a leave of absence to run for the U.S. House seat currently occupied by Byron Donalds. Accordingly, I have assumed the role of Interim Chair. We will elect an Interim Vice Chair at the next General Membership Meeting, January 22, 2024.

I am requesting anyone interested in the position to please notify me before January 10, 2024. The official meeting notice will go out January 12, 2024.
  • Eligible candidates must be current elected members of the DEC (i.e., Precinct Committee Persons)
  • It is NOT necessary, in this instance, for a candidate to be the opposite gender of the Interim Chair
  • Nominations from the floor will be accepted at the January Membership Meeting
  • The winner will be the candidate receiving a plurality of votes from those Members present and voting
  • The term of office will be either:
  • the date of certification of the general election for U.S.House seat FL19, (if Kari loses) or,
  • the date of the DEC reorganization meeting in December 2024 (if Kari wins), whichever is sooner
If you are interested, you should know that the duties of the vice chair are extremely flexible. From the bylaws:


2.1  Duties:

2.1.1 Should the DEC Chair not be able to perform any of the duties specified in Section 1 of this Article II, the Vice-Chair shall perform the duties of the DEC Chair in place of the DEC Chair and shall serve as acting DEC Chair in the event of a vacancy.

2.1.2 The Vice-Chair shall perform such other duties as shall be delegated to the Vice-Chair by the DEC Chair.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jim Rosinus is the Interim Chair of Lee DEC
Lee County Schools
Stopping the Push to a Narrow Political/Religious Agenda

By Madelon Stewart

Public education, students, teachers and books are under attack as never before in Lee County and across the State. New laws passed in the last legislative session and now being implemented make teaching and learning more difficult. The laws confuse and frighten teachers who fear losing their licenses if they make a misstep; and, they deny students the right to fully and freely access all the educational materials in the library/media centers.

The latest foray in the politicization of Lee County Schools happened during Public Comment at the October 17, 2023 School Board meeting. A man named Edward Dras who is very active in The Florida Citizens Alliance (FLCA) announced that he was the chair of the newly formed Education Advisory Committee for the Lee County Republican Committee which he said has a membership of 278 residents. He wanted the School Board to know that the committee was comprised of experienced educators such as himself, and that they were in the process of making appointments to meet with senior staff and school board members. Their stated purpose—to become "advisors" to school leaders—to provide ideas and insights. The school board attorney did comment that political parties were not allowed, by law, to talk about candidates at a School Board meeting. Community members and parents do have the "right" to meet with leaders in the district and share their perspective.

The Purple Group does this. However, unlike, (check out the website to see advice they offer!!!) which is well-funded state-wide and nationally and constantly lobbies in Tallahassee, The Purple Group is a Lee County Group with no outside funding source; it is non-partisan and has no religious affiliation.
Become better informed about what’s happening with our schools. Members of The Purple Group attend school board meetings. You can too! Sign up at LeeSchools.Net to receive meeting alerts and view agenda. Watch the School Board Meetings on the district you tube channel in real time or whenever you chose.

Don’t stay silent on the sidelines. It’s time to call or write your representatives on the school board to find out what they think about this. Remember school board elections are still nonpartisan—BUT—in November 2024 we will be asked if we want a constitutional amendment to require school board elections to be partisan. How does increased partisanship improve education? Learn more about the implications of this. THEN please will VOTE NO.

Madelon Stewart is part of the leadership team of The Purple Group. You can learn more about The Purple Group by contacting her at
The Forgotten 4,748 Votes

By Wally Hedman 
Born in 1950, I am a Yellow Dog Democrat and have been actively involved in South Lee County Politics along with my wife, Carol, for the past 20 years. I am in construction, so I have helped to build the Assisted Living Facilities in the county and am very aware of them and the jewels they hold. The way that we, as Americans, treat “the elderly” is unworthy of us. We stand on their shoulders.

As a political activist over the last few cycles, I have started to bring my attention to focused groups of voters and this year it is the Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs). In Lee County alone there are 4,748 beds (voters) in ALFs. On the Florida Department of Elder Affairs website, you can search by county for all the ALFs currently licensed.

There is a plan which I’d be happy to share with you if you reach out and contact me at For the past month I have taken teams of 4 to 6 volunteers into the ALFs. I arranged with the Activities Director of the ALF for around 2 hours. In that time, we can interact with 30 to 40 Residents. We verify their Voter Registration, complete Change of Address forms if needed, sign them up for Vote-By-Mail, and then explain the Petitions to them, both the Reproductive Rights petition and the Clean Waters petition. We have a 90% signature rate during our events. All volunteers who go once sign up for more events. It is such an engaging experience, and the residents are so grateful for not being forgotten. They still want to vote. They still care.

At our first event a volunteer signed up a blind man who had never voted in his life. Now it was important to him and we were there to help and guide him. Every facility we have gone to has immediately signed us up to come back. I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the Activities Directors, “Again, thank you to you and your team in your volunteer effort to keep our seniors actively on the voting rolls.”

Ed. note: In addition to Wally’s effort, Eileen McHenry is doing similar work in Cape Coral. If you are interested in helping her, contact her at
Support the Lee County Democratic Party
The Cost of Republican Rule in Florida
By Melissa Butler
Did you ever hear the old saying “you’re cutting your nose off to spite your face”? It means acting stubbornly, or stupidly, or rashly, or out of anger, or just plain meanness in such a way that you end up only hurting yourself.

That’s what electing Republicans does to Floridians. Floridians have put Republicans in power and then, under Republican rule, Floridians continually lose out on billions of federal dollars that would improve their lives-- lowering their electric bills, reducing gun violence, helping their schools, or improving their access to health care.

A few weeks ago, Ron DeSantis used his line-item veto to cut $5 million in start-up funds that would have unlocked some $350+ million in federal money that lower and middle income consumers could use to make their homes more energy efficient.

In March 2023, Florida was one of only 6 states that did not apply for up to $15 million to fight gun violence.

Florida was slow or late in applying for funds through the American Rescue Plan. Back in 2021, The Tampa Bay Times reported that Governor DeSantis “snubbed $820 million in federal food aid.” The US Department of Education practically had to beg Florida’s Education Commissioner to apply for some $7 billion, warning in a letter that Florida’s “delay raises significant concerns because of the unnecessary uncertainty it is creating for school districts across the State and because it is hindering their ability to confidently plan for how to use these funds to address the needs of students.”

For a decade, the Florida legislature has blocked Medicaid expansion in connection with the Affordable Care Act. With the Covid public health emergency coverage ending, 1.7 million Floridians lost Medicaid health coverage.

It’s time to send the Republicans packing so that Floridians get the benefits to which they are entitled.

Melissa Butler is the Editor of The Informed Democrat
Why I Am a Democrat

By Sandra McClinton
My upbringing in Alabama led me to become a Democrat and my pride in the Democrats’ accomplishments has made me a proud lifetime Democrat.
I grew up poor in Alabama. Alabama has a long history of being a cesspool of racism from the march in Selma to the blocking of the University of Alabama against students of color attending there. My relatives were racists except for my grandfather and mother.

We grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the main employment was spinning and weaving in cotton mills. Early on, we had no electricity or running water. One time we had to carry pails of water from a spring up to a mountain top where we lived. We lived in shacks, one had newspapers stuffed in the cracks in the walls to keep out the cold. Once we lived in a grocery store turned into an apartment. We called it a shotgun house because you could shoot a bullet straight through it. It had a big picture window in front which showcased the produce. As kids, we liked that apartment, because we could roller skate on its concrete floor, straight out to the sidewalk. When I started high school, my family was finally able to have a decent home at a federally funded housing project.

One of my role models was my grandfather. He refused to attend the local church, because he said most of the deacons were in the Klan. I do remember him sitting in his rocking chair reading his big-print Bible. I learned to oppose racism from him.
My other role model was my strong mother who struggled to give us as good a life as she could. She made my sister and myself cute little dresses out of the printed material on flour sacks. She encouraged us to love reading and get a good education. I made good grades, but we didn’t know how I was going to afford to go to college.

The National Defense Education Act was passed in 1958 in response to Soviet acceleration of the space race with the launch of the satellite Sputnik. The law provided student loans and bolstered education in the areas of science and mathematics. Fortunately, I was able to get a National Defense student loan to be able to attend college.

The accomplishments of the Democratic Party have been numerous and major. Here is a list of the most important ones to me: 9th Amendment, Apollo 11, Social Security, Medicare, NATO, Medicaid, Securities and Exchange Act Law, Rural Electrification Act, Peace Corps, National School Lunch Act, Voting Rights Act, Head Start Program, Civil Rights Act, Marshall Plan European Recovery Act, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

These principles from my youth and my appreciation of government helping people, made me a fighter for justice and gave me the passion to help the downtrodden. This is why I am a proud Democrat.

Sandra McClinton is the President of the Democratic Women's Club of Lee County, past Chair of the Democratic Party of Lee County and a past VP of the Democratic Women's Club of Florida.
Club/Caucus of the Month
Democratic Club of Southwest Fort Myers
By Jim Goodale
Welcome, welcome! As we happily welcome cool weather and our club snow birds back to Fort Myers, we are gearing up for the big push to Get Out the Vote for the 2024 primary and general elections. We are facing the eternal challenge of encouraging our members to volunteer their time and resources. With this in mind, we set up our October club meeting to be “All about You.”
We asked, “How We’re Doing as a Club?” Several days before our meeting, we sent the questions below in an email to all club members and other interested parties. We asked them to give some thought to each question.
1.  How well does our Club provide sufficient information about Local, State & National Elections re when and who? What more can we do?
2.  How can our Club be more effective at getting out the vote & electing Democrats?
3.  What motivates you to be active in our Club? What can we do to increase our membership and attendance? In what ways can the Club meet your needs more effectively?
4.  How can you help get out the vote and elect Democrats through volunteer activities?
Small Group Discussions. After attending to routine club business items, we devoted the remainder of the meeting to discussions about member views of our Club. Each group focused on the questions above. The discussions were lively and constructive!
Key take-aways included having specific information on candidates, including talking points contrasting Democrats and Republicans, plus having on-going VBM events and targeting NPAs as well as Democrats. Other proposals were adding information about our club to postcards that our members send and having nametags as well as coffee and donuts at our monthly meetings.
Club Liaisons. To strengthen communication and teamwork in our large club, we have added another communication link between our members and the board. Each residence at Shell Point and Cypress Cove has a person who spearheads club projects and welcomes new residents who may be interested in our club. An excellent example of the crucial role that liaisons can play: Judy Burget, liaison for Lucina Court at Shell Point, put VBM information in the mailboxes of residents who were registered Democrats. Some confirmed their VBM status via email, and others dropped by in person. Judy also invited residents to her apartment for information and to get to know one another.
Jim Goodale is the President of the Democratic Club of SW Fort Myers
Inactive Voters Removed

By Karyn Edison
Clearing the roles of inactive voters is something all Supervisors of Elections (SOE) execute on schedule: those who may have died, moved, or just have not voted in recent years. Having months to go before the election, allows us a bit of time to re-register anyone inactivated in error. The reduction in Republican voters keeps us from being too paranoid about it.  In the meantime, the FDDC (Florida Data Director Council) is working on a statewide effort to track down the thousands of voters who were inactivated to help identify the inactive voters, still alive, and able to vote. Because they may not know they were removed from the rolls, we want to encourage them to re-register in preparation for the coming election year.

During the midterm elections, too many voters arrived at the polls and waited in long hot lines to cast their ballots only to find out when they asked for their ballot they were no longer registered. Don't let that happen to you! Check to be sure you are still registered at While you are visiting the site, update your voting option to receive your ballot by mail. Voting by mail is safe, convenient, and trackable. Receiving your ballot in advance allows you time to research your down-ballot options, too. Then, should you choose to vote at the polls, you can trade your VBM ballot for a day-of ballot. My husband and I both vote by mail. Join us!
Share the message - #DemocratsDeliver #DemocratsCare
Stay up to date all month long. Visit our website or connect with Lee County Democrats on FacebookTwitter and
Coming Soon
Lee County Website to Get a New Look

By Karyn Edison
A new look and user-friendly version of the website is in the works. There are 12+ Democratic Groups in Lee County. Some have web pages, some have social media pages/groups. All are listed on the Calendar of Events and updated in real-time to keep the calendar accurate. The Party plans to do even more!

In addition to providing information on special events, volunteer registration, receiving and targeting your donations, and catching up on local democratic news, the LeeCountyDems site will also serve as a landing and launching site to and from the Democratic Clubs, Caucus, and Committees.  Providing an accessible online presence in one place allows them to collaborate across platforms, and increase their visibility and membership.  It also allows you one stop shopping to see all the arms of Democratic action in the county. Visitors to the county website will be able to see the initiatives of each group and find out how to become involved more easily. The site's e-commerce ability easily receives donations to your favorite project and simple access to merchandise. There is still time for you to offer ideas to get what you need out of the site before the new site launches. When it becomes public, give yourself time to navigate its pages and watch it grow with more fresh and interesting content.
Keep Up with Democrats Between Issues

Thanks for reading The Informed Democrat. While you’re waiting for the new website, here’s how you can follow your favorite Lee County Democrats between issues:
Check out Lee County Democrats on our homepage:
Visit the websites and Facebook pages of our clubs and caucuses:
Lee County Democratic Black Caucus
The Democratic Women’s Club of Lee County
Lee County LGBTQA Democratic Caucus
Check out podcasts— Big Mouth Media offers news and progressive commentary about Florida politics. You can watch podcasts from Lee County Chair Kari Lerner and follow Democratic candidates including Howard Sapp and Chris Proia.
Also Lee Pitts Live often features interviews with County Democratic figures. You can find them on You Tube here.
Get Involved!
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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