Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.
Life in Florida is good, but quickly takes a dark turn in a new political group’s pitch.
Virtually everything that so many people like about living in the state, from relative safety and security to no state income tax, is under threat from what’s described as a “massive migration” of people moving to Florida from “states and cities that are unaffordable, unsafe and unfree.”
And without action, the website warns, the result is inevitable: “Increased violence and property crime rates, inflation, higher taxes, lower standards of living, mediocre or failing schools, infringements upon guaranteed freedoms and hostility to small business owners.”
SOSS: Save Our Sunshine State, a new political action committee founded by a far-right writer and activist from Palm Beach County, is one of multiple efforts across the political spectrum focused on registering people to vote — and keeping them so engaged that they’re motivated to turn out for the pivotal 2022 elections.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is running for re-election next year, a prerequisite for an expected candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. So too is U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whose re-election is essential to his party’s hopes of wresting control of the Senate from the Democrats.
And Florida statewide elections are often exceedingly close, sometimes decided by a difference of 1 percentage point or less. The 2018 contest for state agriculture commissioner, for example, was decided by 6,733 votes out of 8,059,135 votes cast or 50.04% to 49.96%.
And in 2020, former president Donald Trump finished 3.3 percentage points ahead of Joe Biden — a large enough margin that people in the political world called it a “Florida Landslide.”
Save Our Sunshine State is premised on using the supposed threat from newcomers to scare people into registering and voting.
Rich Logis, founder and executive director of the PAC, said the people coming to Florida could shift the balance toward disastrous liberal politicians and policies found in the states they left behind.
“I am sounding the alarm to emphasize this historical, irrefutable reality to all Floridians,” he said in a telephone interview. If people don’t take control of their own destinies, Logis said Florida is “on a trajectory to become another New York or California or Michigan.”
Logis said he has “has 70 years of demographic, economic and Census data that irrefutably proves that massive or moderate migration from a state or city has always resulted without exception — there is not a single exception — has always resulted in increased violence and property crime rates,” and assorted other ills.
Mitch Ceasar, who moved from New York to Broward in the early 1970s and ultimately served 20 years as county Democratic Party chairman, said the messaging from Save Our Sunshine State is both offensive and inaccurate.
“I saw all the code words,” Ceasar said. “It’s basically ‘we don’t want any people from the northeast or these mostly urban areas because they’re not going to think and vote the way we do.’ I found it a very thinly disguised appeal to people’s worst instincts.”
State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, who is spearheading People Power for Florida, a progressive voter registration and engagement effort, said the overall tone of Save Our Sunshine State’s pitch is troublesome. “The language is very problematic and grounded in a white supremacy type of perspective of the future of our state.”
Ceasar and Eskamani said Save Our Sunshine State’s demographic analysis is wrong. “That’s totally inaccurate,” Eskamani said, pointing to efforts by DeSantis. “The governor is doing everything he can to entice more conservatives to come to Florida.”
Ceasar said people moving today to Florida from a state with higher taxes, more government services, and greater regulation “aren’t looking to change the style of life [in Florida], they’re moving here because of it.”
Sean Foreman, a Barry University political scientist, said when people move to the state, conservatives are “getting reinforcements as much as they’re getting an infiltration of liberal voters.”
“It’s a big assumption to claim that you know how people are going to vote, and particularly that you know how they’re going to vote based on what state they move from,” Foreman said. “We’ve had mass migration from the Northeast and Midwest for the past few decades, and the Republicans are winning elections.”
No Democrat has won an election for Florida governor since 1994. Only one Democrat (Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried) has won a statewide election out of the last 12 contests. Republicans won 16 of the state’s 27 congressional seats. Republicans have a 24-16 majority in the Florida Senate and 78-42 in the state House of Representatives.
Logis, 44, the owner of a technology sales business, doesn’t exemplify the threat he’s talking about. He moved to Florida from New York in 2012.
And he isn’t by any means supporting liberal policies. He’s contributed to ultra-conservative sites The Federalist and The Daily Caller. On another site, the American Thinker, he’s penned pieces with headlines including: “Mass Shootings: Another Consequence of Democrat Majorities,” “Let’s Talk about Black Privilege,” “Democrat Cities: Fourth-World Scourges,” and “#MeToo: Then and Now, an Epic Farce.”
On Twitter, he’s described Democrats as “malignant cancerous cells that seek to overtake healthy cells.”
Logis was an early supporter of Americans for Trump Broward, a group of people who supported the former president in the overwhelmingly Democratic county.
Neither the Florida Democratic Party nor the Republican Party of Florida responded to inquiries about SOSS.
Scott Newmark, founder and president of Americans for Trump, described the PAC as “a valiant endeavor” by Logis.
“He’s taking it up because he sincerely believes that there is a political danger of losing the state of Florida to the Democrats based on the recent migration patterns,” Newmark said. Newmark said some people coming to Florida undoubtedly will bring the liberal views Logis is warning about. But not all. “There’s a multiplicity of factors why people are moving here.”
Logis said he’s looking for pockets of like-minded voters throughout Florida. “Wherever those pockets are” of people likely to share those concerns, “we’re going to go engage them.”
He and the PAC website describe the effort as nonpartisan. “Our PAC is a nonpartisan PAC, and we are going to remain committed to that nonpartisanship,” Logis said.
Ceasar said the “nonpartisan” label is a masquerade. Eskamani, who’s hoping to register new progressive voters, said Logis’ group has the right to organize potential voters for the causes in which he believes. But, she said, “Don’t say it’s nonpartisan when that’s clearly not the case.”
Logis said he’d use traditional campaign techniques, with outreach online, by phone and door-knocking. “Like a campaign, but not a candidate.”
The PAC is using familiar marketing techniques. People are encouraged to sign up online to receive a “report” detailing demographic trends.
The website invites people to “Receive our free report — backed by 20 years of data — outlining the real situation Floridians like you will face in the very near future if we don’t take action. Use the data in our free report to educate other concerned citizens in your community and encourage them to register to vote.”
There are donation buttons, encouraging people to help fund the effort. And the site tells people what they need to do to register, offering information similar to what’s on county elections office websites.
Logis said he soon hopes to raise $50,000 toward a high-six figure goal for the group. He said he won’t take a salary. The state Division of Elections received organizational paperwork in May.
In February, Eskamani announced her political organization would shift away from working for specific candidates. People Power for Florida, which is focused on registering and engaging voters, is much farther along than SOSS.
The Power Lunch – Florida Politics Newsletter
A lunch-hour look at what’s trending in Florida politics.
Two weeks ago, she announced the organization had hired nine staffers. A central role of the paid staff will be supporting volunteers — 131 so far — who will be working in the field. Jason Blank, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer whose practice includes election law, is part of the effort.
SOSS: Save Our Sunshine State is online at sossfl.com.
Florida law makes it harder for groups to register voters
Outside groups that want to sign up new voters are facing new challenges in Florida.
Restrictions in a new elections law (Senate Bill 90) that Republicans guided through the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law force so-called third-party voter registration groups to, essentially, try to scare voters out of using them.
It applies to groups on the political left, like People Power for Florida, those on the right, like SOSS: Save Our Sunshine State, as well as groups like the venerable League of Women Voters.
People registering votes must now be told that the volunteer signing them up might fail to turn in their registration paperwork and that they have an option of registering through the state website.
Many voting rights organizations, along with the League of Women Voters, are challenging the state law in court.
“We are experiencing a heavier burden to do the work,” said Cecile M. Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “That statement is harmful to our reputation and is in no way accurate.”
“We’ll continue to do our voter registration. It will be more cumbersome. It will take more time, and we’ll probably reach less people,” Scoon said. And some people will probably not want to do it based on that forced statement that we have to make.”
State Rep Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, organizer of People Power, said the new rules make it “very hard for new voters to get registered.”
“We do not have to specifically tell voters when we register them that we might turn in the form late and they can turn in the form online. This debilitates us,” she said.