The Progressive - December 23, 2021
On November 3, Richie Floyd, a former middle school science teacher, was elected to the city council of St. Petersburg with 51 percent of the vote. Floyd, as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, is now the only openly socialist elected official in Florida and also the first to be elected in the state in nearly 100 years.
Floyd, like many young socialists, became more active in politics after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 run for President. Originally from the Florida Panhandle, Floyd moved to St. Petersburg in 2018, where he became involved in local organizing with the local DSA chapter, in labor politics, and with various progressive coalitions locally and statewide.
His work as an activist for raising Florida’s minimum wage to $15—which passed in 2020—sometimes brought him to city hall, where he learned the importance of local politics in grassroots organizing, informing his decision to run for office. He also met his own city council member, Amy Foster, who later became one of his first major endorsements.
Floyd defined his campaign on simple, popular issues: housing, jobs, and the environment. His policy goals include expanded public housing and tenant protections, increased jobs training programs and wages, and rigorous environmental protections (an important issue for a city surrounded by rising ocean waters).
While he didn’t hide it, Floyd didn’t win his election by labeling himself a socialist. Instead, Floyd won his election by running on the values of democratic socialism.
“It was never ‘vote for me because I’m the Democratic Socialist,’ ” he says. “It was ‘here are the issues, here’s what we want to accomplish, and these are the values we have.’ ”
“Be a good co-worker, and be a good neighbor,” is Floyd’s starting point for organizing and winning as a socialist. It’s a straightforward philosophy, but one that seems to be working in communities across the country.
Cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Seattle, and New York City have had a groundswell of progressive politics in recent years that has projected democratic socialist candidates into city council and other local elected offices. Floyd’s victory puts St. Petersburg on a growing list of cities with openly socialist elected officials.
Socialism’s resurgence into U.S. politics hasn’t yet translated into majorities on city councils or winning the mayorship of major cities. But that doesn’t mean that can’t happen—in fact, there’s a robust historical precedent for it. ...
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