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10 Reasons to Run for Office as an Independent in Florida

4 min read
Good Party Politics Team · Apr 4, 2024

Florida is sometimes seen as a microcosm of the United States. It’s known for its diverse population, dynamic economy, and as a pivotal battleground state in national elections. The political landscape in Florida is as varied as its geography, ranging from the conservative panhandle to the liberal enclaves of the southeast and the swing status of the I-4 corridor.

As we approach the 2024 elections, the opportunity for independent candidates in the Sunshine State is significant. Read on to learn about the independent movement and 10 compelling reasons why running as an independent in Florida could be a strategic move.

Florida's Political Climate

Florida's unique political climate, characterized by its status as a perennial swing state, makes it an intriguing battleground for independents. With its population representing a wide array of demographic and political beliefs, the state offers a vibrant platform for candidates outside the traditional two-party system.

Although the state is often considered a conservative Republican stronghold, there are currently 12 recognized minor parties with ballot access in Florida. There is also a large portion of the electorate who identifies as independent. According to the latest data available, nearly 4 million Florida voters — 27.2% of the population — are unaffiliated with either establishment party. 

However, the fact that Florida is a closed primary state means that unaffiliated voters are underrepresented in primary elections.  

Another Florida anomaly is the fact that the Independent Party of Florida was the third largest political party in the Sunshine State, with more than 250,000 voters registered under their banner, until it was dissolved in 2017 after years of court battles with the Florida Division of Elections.

The Independent Party of Florida was a separate entity from the independent movement at large. It was formed in post-Reconstruction Florida to give voice to residents who felt disaffected by the Democratic Party. According to political analyst Dr. Susan MacMannus, a large swath of Florida independents have registered with the party thinking they are registering as unaffiliated voters. 

Notable Independent and Third-Party Politicians in Florida

Floridians have a long history of supporting independent and third-party candidates. One of the earliest third-party or independent candidates from Florida was Frank W. Pope, a 1884 gubernatorial candidate representing the Independent Party of Florida.  

The state has also had two independent or third-party governors. The first was Sidney Johnston Cotts, who served as governor under the banner of the Prohibition Party from 1917 - 1921. More recently, Charlie Crist, who served in numerous capacities as a Republican, turned independent in 2010 while serving as governor. 

Working down the ballot to local elections, we find a number of third-party office holders representing communities throughout Florida. Two cities have elected Libertarian mayors. Most recently, Jordan Marlowe was elected Mayor of Newberry in 2011, serving until 2023, and Martin Sullivan served as Mayor of Frostproof from 2016 - 2020. That city elected another Libertarian, Austin Gravely, to its city council in 2017. 

Not to be outdone, several localities have elected third-party candidates to city council and school board seats. For example, Democratic Socialist Jessica Vaughn was elected in a 2021 non-partisan race to represent the 3rd District on Hillsborough County’s school board. Green Party member Kim O’Connor was elected to represent District 3 on the Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation Board in 2018.

Top 10 Reasons for Independents to Run for Office in Florida

Thinking about running for office is a daunting prospect, but seeing others come before and succeed should provide some inspiration for other independent and third-party hopefuls in Florida. 

If you need further incentive to run for office as an independent in Florida, here are 10 more reasons to launch an indie campaign in 2024:

Reason #1: Swing State Dynamics

Florida's status as a swing state means that elections are often decided by narrow margins. This could provide a ripe opportunity for independents who are looking to make a significant impact in their community.

Reason #2: Diverse Electorate

The state's diverse population, including significant Hispanic, African American, and retiree communities, allows for a wide range of political messages and platforms to resonate with voters. It also empowers independent candidates who can represent underrepresented or marginalized communities better than the two establishment parties can.

Reason #3: High-Profile Elections

Given Florida's importance on the national stage, successful independent campaigns can gain substantial media attention. This could build awareness for independent campaigns and amplify the candidate's message beyond state borders.

Reason #4: Voter Discontent with Partisanship

With the growing amount of polarization in American politics, there's a notable segment of the Florida electorate that’s disillusioned with the binary political system. These residents are seeking alternatives to the status quo — alternatives that independent candidates are uniquely positioned to provide.

Reason #5: Openness to Nontraditional Candidates

Florida has a history of electing nontraditional candidates to office, which indicates an electorate that is open to independent and outsider voices. 

Reason #6: Key Issues with Bipartisan Appeal

Florida faces several critical issues, such as climate change, immigration, and healthcare, that transcend party lines and can be effectively addressed by independent candidates. In fact, independent candidates can address these issues more effectively by focusing on their constituents’ interests without worrying about national party platforms.

Reason #7: Strong Third-Party Tradition

The state has a robust tradition of third-party and independent candidates performing well in elections, laying a foundation for future campaigns.

Reason #8: Effective Use of Ballot Initiatives

Florida's use of ballot initiatives allows independents to champion specific policies directly to voters, potentially building a support base around key issues. Since 1978, the earliest data available, this capability has been used by individual voters and organizations to place dozens of issues on state and local ballots. 

Reason #9: Potential for Grassroots Mobilization

The state's varied and engaged political communities offer fertile ground for grassroots mobilization, which is essential for independent campaigns. Currently, there are more than 39 groups devoted to voter outreach alone, and many organizations can obtain grant funding to further their causes. 

Reason #10: Influence Beyond the State

Until recently, Florida has been home to two presidential candidates, with a major headline-grabber still in the race. This increases the profile of Florida overall and places it in the national spotlight. As a result, success in Florida has implications for state and national politics, giving independent candidates the potential to influence major policy discussions. 

Running for Office in Florida

For those considering an independent run for office in Florida, it's crucial to navigate the state's complex political and demographic landscape skillfully. Building a campaign that speaks to the diverse concerns of Floridians and leveraging the state's openness to independent voices can provide a pathway to success.

There are a wide variety of political offices being elected in Florida in 2024. Here are just a few of the many local offices up for election this year:

  • Miami-Dade County will elect its next county executive, county legislature, county community council, and more. County elections are coming up on August 20 and November 5, 2024.

  • Fort Lauderdale will elect a new mayor and city council on November 5, 2024.

  • Palm Coast will vote for its next mayor and city council on August 20, 2024.

  • Sanford will vote for a new city council on August 20, 2024.

Similar local offices are up for election across the state of Florida. For more information about open seats in your area, use Good Party’s Election Lookup Tool.

Dates and Deadlines for Independent Candidates in Florida

Although some deadlines have passed for special elections, there’s still time to throw your hat into the ring and run for state, county, or local office in Florida. The candidate filing period for judicial and court offices begins with pre-qualifying on April 8, 2024, and runs from April 22 - 26, 2024. Most other national, state, and county/local candidates have until June 14, 2024 to file.

You can get more information about deadlines, qualifying requirements, and other election matters by contacting your local board of elections office in one of Florida's 67 counties. 

Tips for Independent Candidates in Florida

In a competitive and increasingly partisan political atmosphere, independents need all of the help they can get. Here are some more general ways to improve your independent campaign in Florida:

  1. Tailor your messages to diverse communities. Crafting messages that resonate with Florida's diverse communities can help build broad support.

  2. Focus on statewide and local issues. Depending on the office you’re running for, emphasize solutions to issues like climate change, immigration reform, and healthcare, which are of particular concern to many Floridians.

  3. Leverage digital campaigning platforms and tools. Given Florida's size and population distribution, effective use of digital and social media is essential for reaching a wide audience.

  4. Build a strong grassroots network. Engaging with communities on the ground can help independents build a robust support base across the state.

  5. Capitalize on voter discontent. Position yourself as a fresh alternative to the traditional parties, appealing to voters seeking new leadership and ideas.

Free Tools for Independent Candidates in Florida

The 2024 elections in Florida present a unique opportunity for independent candidates. By tapping into the state's diverse electorate, addressing key issues with bipartisan appeal, and leveraging Florida's swing state dynamics, independents have a real chance to impact both state and national politics. 

Running as an independent in Florida is not just a campaign; it's a statement about the desire for innovative, inclusive, and independent political leadership in one of the most influential states in the nation. 

Get your campaign off to a strong start with support from Good Party. We have more than 50 years of combined political experience at your disposal, and a range of free and effective campaign tools to help maximize your advantage. 

Book a demo today to meet with our team about launching your campaign in Florida.

Photo by Muzammil Soorma on Unsplash


Reasons to Run for Office
Independent Candidates
How to Run for Office
By Good Party Politics Team
The politics team is focused on transforming the political landscape by promoting transparency, accountability, and positive change. They aim to engage citizens in the political process, encourage informed decision-making, and support candidates who prioritize the common good. Their mission revolves around creating a more fair and just political system, fostering collaboration, and breaking down traditional barriers of partisanship.