The Florida Democratic Party’s House Victory division — responsible for recruiting, directing and fundraising for Democratic state House campaigns — has hired Steve Jackson to fill the new role of political director.
As first reported in the Tampa Bay Times, the move was announced by incoming Minority Leader-designate state Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa.
Jackson comes to the party by way of Obama for America — the president’s campaign apparatus known for mostly bypassing state Democratic parties on its way to victory in 2008 and 2012 — and later the campaign of Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, known as “JJR” to many insiders and observers of statehouse politics, was seen as a vulnerable incumbent in 2014, a midterm cycle that saw disastrous losses for House Dems.
With Jackson at the helm, Rodriguez beat the trend to hold on over Alex Diaz de la Portilla, brother of state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and member of a powerful Republican political dynasty in Miami.
Democratic state Reps. Karen Castor Dentel, Joe Saunders, Carl Zimmerman and Linda Stewart were among the swing-seat casualties.
Some liberal activists around the state were critical of the state party’s efforts in those races, which they said amounted to too little, too late.
Republican representatives won in about a dozen districts carried by former Gov. and 2014 Democratic nominee Charlie Crist, though down-ballot turnout almost always puts “D” candidates at a disadvantage in gubernatorial years.
Sources familiar with the party’s operations blamed faulty polling and stronger-than-usual political headwinds for the losses.
They are hoping the hiring of Jackson can help turn the tide in a 2016 cycle likely to yield moderate gains for minority-party legislators.
Read the text of Cruz’s announcement below:
After a nationwide search, I am excited to announce that House Victory has hired Steve Jackson to serve as our Political Director for House campaigns!
As your incoming Leader, I believe it is important for House Victory to have our own dedicated Political Director focused exclusively on electing more Democrats to the Florida House. In this role, Steve will travel the state recruiting candidates, developing relationships with our partners in our targeted areas, overseeing campaign staff in our targeted races, and working in-district with our current members to strengthen their campaigns.
Steve began his career as a field organizer for President Obama here in Florida in 2012, before going on to work as the Field & Data Director for the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee and to lead the successful reelection campaign of Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez as Campaign Manager in 2014. Since February of this year, Steve has served as the Data & Targeting Manager for America Votes in Florida. His deep knowledge of campaigning in Florida will be a great asset to House Victory as we develop our game plan for victory in 2016.
If you have any questions about the position or Steve, please give me a call at any time. I’m looking forward to Steve’s arrival in Tallahassee so I can introduce him to everyone!