State Rep. Gallop Franklin urges voters to get involved

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By Giselle Balido

April 8, 2024

Franklin shares his vision of what Democratic leaders must do to reach more Floridians and motivate them to go to the polls.

Gallop P. Franklin II, a member of the Florida House of Representatives for the 8th district—an area in the Panhandle that covers all of Gadsden County, as well as central Leon County—sat down with Floricua to discuss the role of the Democratic party in the state, and what he believes it must do to reach more Floridians, especially those who come from Latin America and might have an inaccurate idea of what the party stands for.

This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.

Floricua: Recent polls from Florida Watch and Progress Florida show that 53% of Floridians believe the state is on the “wrong track” under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, while just 31% believe Florida is headed in the “right direction.” What are your thoughts?

Franklin: One thing that I see time and time again is people will complain and say things are not maybe in their best interests, then election days come, and they stay home. There are quite a few folks who might agree that some of the [current] policies do not align with the majority of Floridians, but until the majority of Floridians start showing up for elections, I don’t see there being a change with how the current political landscape is.

Abraham Lincoln said it the best. He said that our government should be of the people. But there’s a reality, that it’s actually of those who participate, and it’s for those who participate. Until folks start coming to the polls and exercising their right to vote in every single election, the policies being passed will not always represent the majority of the people.

Why do you think so many are not motivated to exercise their right to elect their leaders?

We have to do a better job of engaging our constituencies, engaging people. We have to do a better job in the education system, making sure civics is being taught. I run into people every day that say their vote doesn’t count or the vote doesn’t matter.

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People all over the country, not just in Florida, are complaining about the economy, the cost of healthcare, and issues such as abortion rights and “culture wars” are polarizing the country. Do you envision a change in people’s level of engagement with the political process?

I believe we’re going to see Middle America wake up, because Middle Americans typically are the ones who have a decent job. Middle Americans typically are the ones who think things are typically going pretty decent. But for the first time in a long time, on both sides, Democrat and Republican, there’s extremism that’s really driving the narrative for the party.

Given what you call “extremism on both sides,” how do the Democrat and Republican parties compare at this point?

We [Democrats] have the most diverse party. We’re so inclusive in our party that I believe there’s a place for almost every person, about 60% of this country. On the Republican side, the challenges are that they are much less diverse in thought, much less diverse in every way you can imagine. And so, it’s easier for a smaller fraction of the party to begin to control the narrative. So, when you hear about extremism, you’re more likely going to see it on the Republican side. And so that’s why I believe that the Democratic Party is best positioned to do well.

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Kevin Wagner, a Florida Atlantic University political scientist and pollster, told the Tallahassee Democrat that with registered Democrats and NPAs, there is a substantial number of voters that would vote for a Democrat in Florida. But he added that it is going to require the Democratic Party to reach voters more effectively than they have. In your opinion, what are the particular challenges the Democrat party faces in Florida?

The biggest challenge, I think especially in Florida, is that it gets painted out to be the Socialist Party, or the party of big government, the party of not allowing you to start and grow your own business. And Florida is the gateway to Latin America. And there’s so many people from Latin America that have come to be a part of the fabric of Florida, and they experienced what socialism was like, they experienced what communism was like. And so, the challenge that I think the Democratic Party has had is fighting against that narrative in Florida.

Republicans can be quick to call Democrats socialists or the socialist party, or say we’re all about government programs, and having more authority inside of government, and I believe that scares that scares families who have any kind of ancestry from Latin America that have experienced what communism is like or what socialism is like.

How can Democrats challenge that vision of Democrats as socialists or communists?

Democrats have always been strong supporters of programs like Social Security and Medicare, and we need to make sure people know that they’ll be protected if they elect democrats. But we also have to do a better job as Democrats as being what I consider conscious capitalists. It’s not about exploiting people to work for low wages. It’s about having a conscience around what capitalism should look like to ensure that not only can people come here to start a business and grow a business, but we can have a business-friendly environment where we’re more focused on people prospering than trying to implement a lot of government programs and bring all the power and resources centralized into the government.

And I think [we need to] figure out a way to have a better message for the Latin Americans, to figure out that message so that people know we are not socialist, and people know that poor people are coming here and being able to start a great life.

What will you tell Floridians as we move closer to the elections?

I do want to say, even if people aren’t super excited about the policies that are passing, we as Democrats are working very hard every day to represent the interests of all Floridians. We’ll continue to do that. I’m looking forward to my work here as we try to build a better future for all Floridians.

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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