#TimesUp Florida. Women Have a Reason to Vote and They’re Organizing with their Male Allies.

It was a Thursday evening in July, the first Statewide Gun Safety meeting after the bloody massacre at the Pulse nightclub that took the lives of 49 people and injured 53 others. The meeting was convened by the League of Women Voters of Florida.

At the quiet library in the center of town, one-by-one mothers, fathers, nurses, daughters, attorneys, teachers, friends, writers, accountants, even a woman who worked for the Medical Examiner’s office entered the room and took a seat at the large table.

Many of the attendees had never volunteered before. I was a newcomer too. I didn’t know anyone or what to expect. Yet, I felt I needed to do something. I needed someone to tell me what to do; I was so exasperated after the Pulse shooting. It was time to exercise my civic rights.

I wasn’t alone. Many of the women who showed up that night were feeling the same way I was. As we went around the table and introduced ourselves, I would hear the frustration and urgency in each person’s testimony.

“I thought after Newtown, we’d finally do something to stop this senseless gun violence.” — a teacher.

A retired police officer told us about how destructive and lethal an assault weapon is. His testimony was backed up by a former member of the military. An attorney shared a heart-breaking story about his cousin who lost a son at Newtown. One by one, we each explained why we were there. Each one of us had a slightly different orientation or interest in gun safety, but we all agreed: we can make our voices heard. There are more of us than there are of them. We didn’t gather to take away anyone’s rights. In fact, some of the attendees around the table were gun owners…

I started writing this post last year when the 2017 session of the Florida legislature was considering adopting some of the most alarming gun legislation in the state’s history.

One of the leading pro-gun, NRA-backed voices in Tallahassee– to my horror– was my own representative, HD29 Scott Plakon (R) who was sponsoring a bill, HB 6005, that expanded open and concealed carry on college campuses. Thankfully, that legislation died in committee by May of 2017. But, not after many of us called, called, and called our legislators against several of those pro-gun bills.

And then came Parkland.

After Parkland, another group of women gathered around a table. Here is an excerpt from my friend Michelle’s Facebook post:

Last Tuesday, here in Seminole County, Tracy Kagan defeated her Primary opponent and won the Democratic nomination bid for FL HD29. A single Mom and tough criminal defense attorney, she is ready for a fight against Plakon.

In our county, you might say it’s raining women ready to take on the GOP stranglehold here. They’re coming out to register voters, knock on doors, telephone, hand out literature, and get involved in the civic process in ways they never have before. Guns are absolutely a hot topic issue, but so is education, health care, and the environment. The rational, measured core messaging of the Seminole County Democratic party (SemDems) resonates with families, especially women, in these emotionally charged, bipartisan times.

When Moms link arms in solidarity to protect their children, they’re unstoppable. And it’s not just sheer willpower on their side, the numbers are looking good too.

Democrats are inching a lot closer to to Republicans, topping 100K for the first time. Where the gap between REPs and DEMs was once 30K in recent years, it’s now under 9K. (h/t Howard Mass).

Voter registration drives are continuing throughout the midterm campaigns as well.

REP: 108,937 DEM: 100,003 NPA: 83,384.

And NPAs (Non-party Affiliates or Independents), which is the fastest growing cohort for several election cycles, are not far behind. So the fact that nearly EVERY seat from dog catcher to County Commissioner to State Legislator is held by a conservative from Seminole County is on its face an undemocratic representation of the population living here in the county.

It’s going to be a rough road to November 6, and we’ve already seen ugly emerge in our otherwise quiet, suburban zip codes, but our children, our grandchildren, and preserving our values are worth the disruption to our everyday, comfortable lives.

As they say, #ExpectUs.