'Full of Racists': Florida Democrats Slam Democratic Party Leadership for Ousting Black County Chairs

'Full of Racists': Florida Democrats Slam Democratic Party Leadership for Ousting Black County Chairs

In a demonstration of serious Democratic infighting, Florida liberals are accusing party leaders of racism, governmental neglect, and abuse of power

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
March 27, 2024

PALM BEACH, FL—The Florida Democratic Party is under fire from some African American members accusing its Central Committee of racism for ousting two embattled black county chairs but choosing to keep a third white one in office.

The three chairs from Miami-Dade, Franklin, and Palm Beach counties were suspended on March 4th by Party Chair Nikki Fried for varying degrees of malpractice, including failure to post their membership lists.

When it came time to decide whom to remove from office, the majority white Central Committee removed the two black members—Miami-Dade’s Robert Dempster and Franklin’s Carol Barfield—Sunday evening but allowed Palm Beach’s Mindy Koch to keep her job. She’s white.

Barfield told The Floridian that her removal was due to “trumped-up” charges and possible racial motivations. 

Dempster was accused of holding outdated membership lists, not reaching quorum, and failing to follow protocol in endorsing local candidates, and Koch was suspended for failing to post membership lists, campaign plans, and a budget, and not documenting her removal of members.

Barfield's only transgression was failing to turn in a membership list and financial audits.

"The Tennessee Three"

 "What should have been recommended was a reprimand. I didn't know that in the end, it was going to turn out like the Tennessee Three," Barfield said, referencing three black Tennessee Representatives getting expelled from the House Floor last April. 

Barfield requested an April 1st extension to turn in her papers and in response, received an ask for more documents. Soon after, she was suspended.

"Appearance is everything with people when voting. It's going to hit the fan, and I don't think Nikki Fried is prepared for the backlash," said Barfield.

President of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, Trevor Mallory, vehemently disagreed with his fellow Democrats' claims of racism. "I think the process was fair and straightforward. We gave each person in question of being removed the opportunity to plead their case," he told The Floridian.

"We're trying to support our party's chair to make sure we move forward together, and I just hate that the race card had to be played," said Mallory, who voted to remove all three chairs in question.

"You can't blame the Chair for how the vote failed," Mallory said in Fried's defense, explaining that she was the one who suspended Koch and is not responsible for how members vote.

"This is just a speed bump, and once people get out of their feelings and learn how to take accountability moving forward...I think the Florida Democratic Party under the leadership of Nikki Fried will be the ones celebrating," Mallory added.

In a written statement to The Floridian, Koch struck a conciliatory note.

"I have high regard for Robert Dempster and was sorry to see the vote went against him. These are volunteer jobs after all, and to have your name dragged through the mud for a volunteer job is highly unfair. I want to thank both Robert and Carol Barfield for their tremendous service to the Democratic Party," Koch said.

"I did focus my comments on the results our team has achieved despite the constant undermining and obstruction by a faction in our party. We need to stay focused on defeating Republicans and quit attacking our own."

"Mussolini Mindy"

According to Democratic Palm Beach precinct leader Leslie Wimes—who has clashed with Koch—Koch’s indiscretions go beyond her suspension charges. 

"I'm not one that's always saying 'this was racist'. When it is racist, I'm going to say it was racist," Wimes, who is black, said. "The Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) is full of racists. The majority of people that Mindy Koch removed—and that's one of the reasons why she was suspended, for removing members—were black."

Since January 2023, 254 Palm Beach DEC members left or were removed under Koch's supervision—and the failure to document these removals was one of the reasons Fried suspended Koch in the first place. 

Wimes said she was one of the few insiders unafraid to speak out against Koch, claiming that her position as Palm Beach Chair has allowed her to prevent members from speaking at committee events, remove dissenters, and continue to do so in a relatively unscathed manner.

"Other people are scared to speak out," Wimes said. "She's Mussolini Mindy."

Wimes accused Koch of misspending money, alleging that the Palm Beach Chair spent over $232,000 of DEC funds last year. She said a portion of this was used at various dinner meetings.

“It’s a Kabal of people utilizing the DEC as their country club.”

She pointed to only $4,600 being spent on voter engagement, telling us it's no wonder Republicans flipped Koch's historically blue Palm Beach County red.

"That whole body needs to be revamped because they're all gatekeepers. I think the light has to be shined on what's really happening. Nikki Fried wants to Take Back Florida, but you can't take back Florida when you have practices like this."

Senator Bobby Powell, a black Lawmaker representing Palm Beach County, stressed the importance of uniting the party, hopeful that Koch's second chance in office could act as a "reset" that gives "Mindy a chance to correct some of the things that may have resulted in a suspension," and "a chance for everybody to hear each other out," he told The Floridian.

As far as racism impacting Koch's stay and Barfield and Dempster's removal, he said he could only speculate.

"The Wrong Nikki"

On the topic of Fried, the ousted Barfield said she has never spoken to her. In fact, she says, she doesn't believe Fried has spoken to most Chairs of small counties.

She felt left behind by the Democratic Chair, wishing that Nikki Barnes—a Democratic National Committee alum and current member of the Central Committee—held Fried's seat instead:

"We got the wrong Nikki in the seat. It should have been Nikki Barnes sitting up there. This stuff wouldn't have happened with Nikki Barnes, I can guarantee that. She walks it like she talks it," Barfield added.

In a statement to The Floridian, Nikki Barnes demanded an explanation from those who voted against Barfield and Dempster and in favor of Koch.

"When it comes to the impact of flipping Florida Blue, Mindy’s actions have been so egregious it warranted a judicial hearing to mediate," she said, referencing yet another reason Fried suspended the Palm Beach Chair.

"Her offenses are financial, dispersing funds that need to be put on the ground in Palm Beach County and not in the pockets of her friends. So if race wasn’t a factor, then they need to tell us what would cause them to remove someone who missed a few years of filing reports or someone who violated bylaws, but keep someone who is throwing Democratic donations down the drain," continued Barnes.

"Which is the bigger impact?'

With the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) leading them by over 850,000 registered voters, the Florida Democratic Party's apparent implosion continues.

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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