From a protest in Fort Myers, Democratic Senate candidate Rachel Brown said the scene looked different than violence across America.
“Protest was perfect today. Complete peace and there were some watchers taping,” she told Florida Politics via text, using the peace sign emoji instead of the word.
Hers marks a different kind of Senate run for Southwest Florida. Running in District 27, she faces a long-time state lawmaker. Republican Ray Rodrigues, a heavy favorite, cut his teeth in politics over eight years in the Florida Legislature, two of those as a House Republican Leader.
For Brown, a first-time candidate in her early 20s, the streets have been her candidate training institute.
“I’ve done a lot of protests for climate and for other organizations in the area,” she said.
Brown is one of 26 candidates recruited to run the Legislature this year by the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida. The progressive group is working to ensure Democrats field a candidate in every state House and Senate contest this year.
Rodrigues, for his part, said he wants to continue representing Southwest Florida’s conservative values. He suggests there’s plenty to tout on his own environmental record.
“I am proud of the work we’ve done to stop harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee River, construct the C-43 Reservoir and raise 10 miles of the Tamiami Trail so water could flow south into the Everglades’ Florida Bay for the first time in history,” he said.
Those achievements read like a list of Gov. Ron DeSantis’.
“I carried the joint resolution in 2016 to place tax breaks for solar and renewable energy on the ballot, which Floridians overwhelmingly approved,” Rodrigues said.
“I look forward to sharing this message of proven results for the people of SWFL, and I am confident that our robust Get Out The Vote effort will yield conservative victories for both our Senate bid and President Donald Trump.”
Brown will focus on more than just environmental issues, though. She hopes to bring a range of modern issues to the debate, including increases in worker wages and combatting sex trafficking.
“Florida is third in the U.S. for that, and nobody ever talks about that,” she said.
While she’s part of a decidedly partisan effort to try and retake the Florida Senate, Brown said she doesn’t want to be seen as the Democratic candidate in this race. That’s also not a bad idea in a district that at March book closing had more registered independent voters (around 106,000) than Democratic ones (around 101,000). There’s about 154,000 Republicans in the district.
“I want to step away from the game of saying vote for me because I’m a Democrat,” she said. “I really want people to look at the issues, and to make people listen to what I am saying.”
On the wage front, she’s a worker who has done back-to-back shifts at Little Caesar’s and Dunkin’ Donuts so she could pay the bills.
“I know how hard it is to make money,” she said. “There’s a lot of restaurant and food service workers struggling right now, and I hope that experience resonates with somebody who has done through that struggle.”