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Don’t Ask Democrats To Fall On a Sword In Race Aiming To Flip Flagler Seat Blue

| April 27, 2018

The three Democratic candidates for the 6th Congressional District that includes Flagler County, in Flagler Beach last Sunday. From left, John Upchurch, Nancy Soderberg and Stephen Sevigny. (© FlaglerLive)

The three Democratic candidates for the 6th Congressional District that includes Flagler County, in Flagler Beach last Sunday. From left, John Upchurch, Nancy Soderberg and Stephen Sevigny. (© FlaglerLive)

Last Sunday, Flagler County Democrats brought together the three Democratic candidates running for the congressional seat that includes the whole county: Stephen Sevigny, Nancy Soderberg and John Up church. The same day, The New York Times reported on the national Democratic Party meddling in local races and pressuring some candidates to bail out.

“In districts from Southern California to Little Rock, Ark., and upstate New York, the party has begun interceding to help the Democrats it sees as best equipped to battle Republicans in the fall,” the paper reported. The purpose: to best position what candidate the party deems most viable to slip red seats blue. The party wants to sacrifice primary in-fighting to benefit the end game. “The approach is laced with peril for a party divided over matters of ideology and political strategy, and increasingly dominated by activists who tend to resent what they see as meddling from Washington,” the Times reported.

Florida’s 6th Congressional District seems ripe for the national party’s strategy. The district has been a safe Republican seat. But GOP incumbent Ron DeSantis’s decision to run for governor makes it an open seat again that, while still predominantly Republican, could feel the effects of the “blue wave” that has flipped some 40 legislative seats since Donald Trump’s presidency. Among those: Florida’s 72nd District in Sarasota County, which has a 12,000-voter Republican advantage. It elected Democrat Margaret Good with a 52-45 margin in February.

Emily’s List and AmeriPAC, the political action committee closely tied to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, have aligned with Soderberg (AmeriPAC is her top contributor, Emily’s List is in the top 20), and Upchurch and Sevigny see her as the national party’s pick.

But neither has any intention of falling on a sword before the August primary. If anything, they see themselves as just as viable as Soderberg, their financial disadvantage made up by their closer connection to the district.

“There’s a lot of infighting now and there’s already some national pressure, doing stuff in this race,” Sevigny said. “That is the wrong thing to do. I know John socially, I’m certainly not a bomb-thrower, I’m a caring physician who wants to make a difference in America, and for the national party to come in and say oh, we don’t want this, we don’t want this, is insanity. We raised a lot of money from my district this quarter. You’re going to alienate a tremendous amount of people. Let the people decide.”

Sevigny sees the primary as playing a greater role than just vetting candidates. “The feeling that I get is that if we can start doing high-value, quality candidates, we can start to win elections again,” he said. The national party is “trying to put their finger on the scale,” he said, “but my feeling is that if you want to support the party that has lost 1,200 state and senate seats across America in the last 10 years and has lost two-thirds of the governorships and has lost the House, the Senate and the presidency, and let Donald Trump get elected, don’t support me, because that’s not my type of party.”

Soderberg, as the clear front-runner—at least among Democrats—has maintained the demeanor of a front-runner, speaking more indulgently about opponents than with any sense of insecurity about whatever the party is doing. “Every race is different. I’m running my own race,” she said, repeating words she used months ago when she’d be asked about RonDeSantis (before he opted for the race for governor).  “I got in a long time ago now, I’ve been working hard, it’s almost a year now that I’ve been doing this, I announced in July, but have been working this for a year because I felt that this was a seat that will help change the country, that’s why I’m in it, to try to put the country back on track.”

Soderberg refers to her opponents as “a couple of very decent people” who are “running for the right reasons,” while she herself isn’t taking anything for granted, other than that all three will work together by fall. She said she’d support the primary winner without qualifiers. “Absolutely, absolutely, and I’m sure the other candidates will as well,” she said. “Every one of us is better than any candidate on the Republican side hands down. They share my values. Absolutely. I’m sure we’ll be unified in the fall.”

Upchurch says that even as the party may be favoring Soderberg, “they believe we’re credible candidates,” he said, “so I’m not getting any pressure to get out of the race. I haven’t received one phone call to say get out of the race, or to feel me out to get out of the race.” And yet, he says paradoxically, “they’ve picked Soderberg as the person they want to win. It might discourage other people to run but it hasn’t discouraged me. I believe at the end of the day that people who live in the district will see through that and pick somebody that’s going to advocate for them.”

Local Democratic leaders—Mike Cocciola, who heads the Palm Coast Democratic Club, and Stephanie Capehart, who heads the county Democratic Party—welcome the contested primary. (There was one two years ago, drawing four candidates, though the outcome was never in doubt: DeSantis won it with nearly 60 percent of the vote, riding the Trump wave.)

 “We do have strong candidates and there is always that opportunity that vote will be split,” Cocchiola said, “but come August we will have the candidate. That’s what we’re shooting for, and I personally see primaries as strengthening our candidates. When they go into that primary in August, they’re strong. When they come out, they’re going to be tough, tough candidates. We like that. That’s what we’re shooting for. We actually like the fact that there are candidates that are fighting now. But we will rally. We will rally Flagler County around the candidate, the candidate that emerges in August.”

In the past the local Democratic Party discouraged primaries between Democrats. Not this time. “I like having a primary,” Capehart said. “We had some people come to us that were considering entering and we spoke with them and encouraged them. They ultimately made the decision not to run a primary on their own. But we’ve encouraged it. I agree wholeheartedly, it makes them stronger.” The problem locally remains finding enough candidates to run. There are no Democrats running for the County Commission, none running for Palm Coast City Council, only one running for school board. The primary challenge Capehart was referring to was to Adam Morley, the Democrat challenging Rep. Paul Renner, but that potential candidate eventually decided against it. That leaves the congressional primary as the Democrats’ strongest local showing—and the race they seem focused on most to flip a seat.

“Our strategy is, on the day the primary settles who is our candidate, we will rally every blue voter in this community,” Cocchiola said. “We will rally them around that candidate. There will be no splintering, there will be no ‘I don’t like what that person said three weeks ago,’ they will vote for the candidate, they’ll vote blue.”

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18 Responses for “Don’t Ask Democrats To Fall On a Sword In Race Aiming To Flip Flagler Seat Blue”

  1. Percy's mother says:

    To sum it up, and in other words, no one gets a fair chance . . . except the chosen one.

    Just like what happened to Bernie Sanders, and look what happened there.

    How about letting the people decide? OR, are we all deemed too dull-witted to know what’s best for us?

  2. r&r says:

    They have fallen already

  3. Chris A Pickett says:

    No thanks, I don’t need to pay state taxes, and that WILL happen in Florida if the Dems take over, that is all they know how to do, take your money and spend it stupidly. Just look at NY, Ca, Ma, Or, Vt, NJ, etc…..enough said.

  4. Steve says:

    The only blue wave you will see is the blue wave goodbye when they lose again. they will never have control in this town.

  5. smarterthanmost says:

    Not true Chris, only the people of Florida can make that decision.

  6. Dave says:

    It really makes no difference because Florida will finally be a blue state, we are fired up and we are organized, and we have the young people with us! Make way for us, we are, Earth Fearing, Gun toting, Liberals! and we are taking our state back again!

  7. Bc. says:

    Just like Hillary was going to be president today lol.

  8. Sherry says:

    As a Democrat myself, I would love to see the party leadership step up and actually LEAD! It seems to me that that they know what they are “against”. . . which is trump, and his cowardly henchmen in Congress. That’s OK, as far as it goes. BUT. . . other than all the fund raising. . . I don’t have a clear idea of what “NEW” passionate new ideas Democratic party stands “FOR”.

    We do not seem to have any future, inspirational vision. Our party is not seizing on the huge void left by the complete corruption of the Republican party. Are the Democrats too cowardly to take a stand on the current issues facing our country and our planet:

    1. Climate Change- Educating future generations and creating millions of “high paying” jobs by embracing the urgent need to move away from fossil fuel energy and creating the clean energy of the future!

    2. Transportation- Educating future generations and creating millions of “high paying” jobs by creating a truly MODERN,safe, fast, efficient “NATIONAL PUBIC” transportation system from coast to coast! Which will also lead to a cleaner natural environment.

    3. Cyber Security- Educating future generations and creating millions of “high paying” jobs by creating a SECURE “internationaL” advanced technology network that will bring billions of people into the 21st century. . . boosting commerce and hopefully a brighter chance for equality and peace for us all.

    These three ideas are just off the top of my head. Where is the courage and creativity for the BIG IDEAS from the Democratic, or even the Republican leadership??

  9. capt says:

    Sherry you are right on target. I feel that the long lifers residing in Congress make it extremely difficult to change and lead accordingly. Maybe term limits is the answer to save our party and actually the other party as well as there has to be some kind of balance. Right now both parities are in shambles.

  10. Pogo says:


    The Democratic party IS leading the way on everything you cited and suggested. And has since FDR.

    The current state of affairs is the result of the Republican party being a beard for the oil companies, defense contractors, big pharma – the consolidated banking, insurance, and investments entities referred to as finance – and the conglomerated international companies private and publicly traded that they exist as. The wealthy have waged total war against the rest of us – and won.

    The wealthy don’t consider the cost of anything. They just buy it – starting and ending with “public” opinion and consent. If abortions, e.g., are outlawed, the wealthy will still have safe access as they always have. Discrete and well paid providers will perform a D&C and document it as anything but a pregnancy termination. Only the poor will have no safe access. The same applies to education, housing, employment, etc.

    One of the worst accomplishments of the aforementioned pricks is their popularizing of term limits. Champions of the rest of us are relatively rare to begin with. Servants of the wealthy are born to them or conveniently available for purchase everywhere.

    The only hope I see is coming from women and young people in the streets. I would like to live long enough to see it.

    Vote the Republican party out. Make America good again.

  11. Sherry says:

    I’m right there with you, POGO, when it comes to the horrific failures of the FOX vombies in the Republican party. Somehow they, with the help of the religious right, have taken our “Moral Compass” and thrown it away completely. We seem to now live in a country where actual “FACTS” don’t matter any more. The horrific people in our white house lie through their teeth every day, but their cowardly supporters just look the other way.

    Those in our white house cheat on their spouses, pay off hookers, illegally dump the elderly on rent control out into the streets so they can add to their billions, hypocritically use “immigrant” labor to clean their toilets. . . while deporting hard working refugees who have been here for many years. All this happening under the noses of Congressional Republicans who are not much better.

    We DO need to vote the Republicans out at every level! All I’m saying is that the Democrats are not stepping up as much as they should be, and could be. Where are the passionate, “ETHICAL”, “LEADERS” of the future! The Blue Wave is certainly not as powerful as it could be!

  12. capt says:

    @ Pogo, so you are fine with Congress members staying in office what basically is forever unless some unknown issue they lose reelection. As a Democrat I do have an issue with the present term limits or LACK of. . No new ideas no new leadership in Congress is just unsettling I’m just happy a President after 4 years has to run for reelection, I say Congress should also.

  13. knightwatch says:

    Hey Republicans, remember when…
    * You accused Democrats of ignoring the federal deficit.
    * You were the party of family values.
    * You were for “transparency” in government.
    * You accused the Clintons of influence peddling for personal gain.
    * You accused Obama of acting like a “king” with his executive orders.
    * You accused Obama of playing too much golf.
    * You complained about the cost of security for the Obama children.
    * You complained about the cost of the Obama’s vacations.
    * You said Obama had “no strategy” for Syria.
    * You fretted about the security lapses with Hillary’s email server.
    * You hated it when Obama said he’d meet with North Korea.

    And there are more…many more examples of Republican hypocrisy. I’d like some of you to argue back.

  14. Sherry says:

    Message to leaders of the Democratic party:

    Because I am a financial contributor, I have received surveys from the national committee asking what we should focus on going forward. Not one of the agenda items listed had any bold new ideas for the future! The list was all about protecting the underprivileged, the rights of women to control their own bodies, protecting Social Security, etc. Certainly that is all well and good!

    BUT, there was NOTHING about the ENVIRONMENT, or Space Exploration, or Cyber Security. . . or anything about the challenges of the “21st Century”! I had to write “Climate Change” in!

    We need a Democratic platform that is BOLD, INSPIRATIONAL, FUTURE ORIENTED. . . a platform that is NEW and different than a mere replay of the Democratic agenda of the past 50 years!

    The morally bankrupt, money corrupt Republicans have left you a HUGE VOID, and you are not stepping up and doing anything with it!

    Maybe the handwriting is on the wall for “term limits” because we need FRESH ideas and energy! While the current horrific, blundering administration points out the need for a “depth” of political experience, maybe those in Congress need a term limit of something like “3” terms. . . in order to get rid of the complete complacency.

    Hoping and praying for a “BLUE WAVE” with FRESH, INSPIRATIONAL ideas! Let’s take our country back and, as POGO says, “Make America GOOD Again”!

    PS Great Comment Knightwatch!

  15. knightwatch says:

    Sherry…we will have our message and it will include climate change. As President Obama stated, it is an existential threat.

    I know our messaging is slow to come, but the party is busy lining up some new, great and forward-thinking leaders. You will see the plan unfold this summer and the result in November.

  16. Pogo says:

    @Thank you Green party

    for bush and trump. When bolton’s oil well fires far surpass the greatest volcanic eruptions for altering weather and climate – well, that will be new and bold.

    And so it goes.

  17. YankeeExPat says:


    Don’t be beholden to either party that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the lowly voter.

  18. Pogo says:

    @capt and Sherry

    The world’s largest mosquito says term limits are great:

    crooked ricky knows

    Need more proof of just how bad an idea term limits are?

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