Capitol & State

Boynton Brown, former top staffer for Idaho Democrats, takes party helm in swing state of Florida

Sally Boynton Brown in her office at Idaho state Democratic party headquarters in December 2016. Boynton Brown, who stepped down as IDP executive director in April, has taken on the same role for the Florida Democratic Party.
Sally Boynton Brown in her office at Idaho state Democratic party headquarters in December 2016. Boynton Brown, who stepped down as IDP executive director in April, has taken on the same role for the Florida Democratic Party. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Sally Boynton Brown, who stepped down last month as executive director of Idaho’s Democratic party, has been named to the same position with the Florida Democratic Party.

Boynton Brown, 41, was named FDP president — the equivalent of Idaho’s executive director — effective May 1. Florida Democrats have been restructuring since a new chairman took office in December. They announced her appointment April 27.

Named executive director of Idaho’s Democrats in 2012, Boynton Brown ran to chair the Democratic National Committee in December. At the time, besides her Idaho role, she also served as president of the national association of state Democratic executive directors.

In January, conservative media and others seized on comments she made at a DNC candidate’s forum on how Democrats should respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. She ran third at the party’s convention in February.

Boynton Brown announced her resignation from Idaho Democrats on April 21. Speaking from Florida Monday, she said she had anticipated a longer period of transition out of the role but the Florida opportunity “came up really quickly.” She said she came to the attention of Florida’s state Democratic chairman, Stephen Bittel, at the party’s February convention.

“Sally shares my optimistic, idealistic enthusiasm,” Bittel said in a statement. “I look forward to her bringing her knowledge of state party management to Florida as we work to turn our state back to blue.”

If we can unlock Florida, then we can unlock the country.

Sally Boynton Brown

The position is a significant step up for Boynton Brown, given Florida’s size and national significance. It is a perennial swing state and potential game-changer in national elections. The last two presidential contests there were decided by roughly 1 percent of the vote. With more than 20 million residents and nearly 13 million registered voters, Florida is more than 10 times the size of Idaho in both categories and has 29 electoral votes compared to Idaho’s four.

Boynton Brown said priorities for Florida Democrats are re-electing Sen. Bill Nelson and winning back the governorship in 2018. Republican Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited and expected to challenge for Nelson’s seat.

The party also hopes to win a special state Senate election in September and make gains in the state Senate in 2018. Republicans hold a 24-15 majority in the Florida Senate, with the one vacancy, and nearly two-thirds of the 120 seats in the Florida House.

Boynton Brown is at work in Florida. Born in Middleton and a lifelong Idaho resident, she said her family will remain in Boise. She plans to be back in Boise about six days a month.

Despite “huge differences” between the two states, she sees a similarity in trying to build Democratic strength in areas where they’ve traditionally fared poorly. Her campaign for DNC chair was built on a theme that the party’s more-liberal national positions often worked against candidates in conservative states such as Idaho and in crossover states as well.

“I really believe that the Democratic Party’s job is to build connective tissue within communities,” she said.

Florida, with its razor-thin political divide, is “an amazing microcosm of the United States,” she said. “If we can unlock Florida (for the Democrats), then we can unlock the country.”

Dean Ferguson, former Idaho Democrats communications director, is serving as interim executive director until the party selects Boynton Brown’s successor.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @DentzerNews

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