Brevard Democratic chair seeks to lead Florida party

Satellite Beach resident Stacey Patel has entered the race to become Florida Democratic Party chair.

Patel is chair the Brevard Democratic Executive Committee, a post she won last December, at the same time her husband, Sanjay Patel, was elected Democratic state committeeman from Brevard.

Stacey Patel and at least three other candidates will be seeking to fill the state Democratic leadership position that became open after Stephen Bittel, a Miami Beach businessman, stepped down as chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. Bittel’s resignation followed a Politico Florida report in which women accused Bittel of inappropriate conduct, including leering at female aides and consultants.

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Under Patel’s leadership, the Democratic Party has experienced somewhat of a resurgence in Brevard this year, as the party proactively campaigned for candidates in “nonpartisan” municipal elections. Three of its six candidates won in November.

The Brevard Democrats also recently fielded the largest county delegation to the Florida Democratic Party conference in Orlando, and won the party’s 2017 “Golden Gavel” award for knocking the most doors in “get out the vote” efforts of any Democratic county party organization in Florida this year.

Patel said she decided to run for the state chair after being called upon to do so by Democrats across Florida.

“The Democratic Party is our party. It’s the party of the people,” Patel said in announcing her candidacy. “I really believe we can win elections in Florida if we inspire our grass roots by giving them real power and purpose in our party.” 

Patel said her platform focuses on inspiring grass-roots Democrats to engage and invest in the political process to win elections. 

Among the other candidates for the state party chair position are Alma Gonzalez, a lawyer for Hillsborough County; Palm Beach County activist Terrie Rizzo; and Monica Russo, state president of the Service Employees International Union.

In a posting on Facebook, Patel wrote: “In less than five days, with no budget, no plan, no organization, but a whole lot of heart, we’ve come together to raise over $6,000 to support our campaign, and identify 250 monthly donors and 250 monthly volunteers who have pledged to give time and money to support the work of #OurParty upon our election. We’ve got plenty of work to do … on the road ahead, but I am forever grateful to every single soul who’s pouring their heart into making #OurParty possible.”

Patel is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz School of Public Policy. She has more than 20 years of experience in organizational transformation, social media fundraising, project management, small-business ownership, nonprofit leadership and performing arts administration. 

The election for Florida Democratic Party chair is scheduled for  Dec. 9 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando.

The 2018 election season will be closely watched in Florida, with a governor’s race with no incumbent, as Republican Gov. Rick Scott cannot seek re-election due to term limits. Additionally, U.S. Sen Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is up for re-election, with Scott as a potential challenger.

Check later today for updates.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report

Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY. 

Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 or [email protected]

Twitter: @bydaveberman

Facebook: /dave.berman.54


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