Dems open North Port office, goal is turning the area blue

Sarasota County Democratic Party volunteers in North Port include Norine Hemping, left, Cindy Mick, Carolann Palm-Abramoff, Gretchen Lienhop, Joyce Sumara, Steve Hemping, Carole Dicker and Charles Wolf. There’s was an office grand opening Wednesday at 12497 Tamiami Trail.

NORTH PORT — Anticipating a wild and possibly historic year in politics, the Sarasota County Democratic Party has opened an office in south Sarasota County.

The area is surging in growth and potential voters, many of them working-class or leaning more to the Democrat messaging, said Carolann Palm-Abramoff, of the Sarasota County Democratic Party.

Office volunteers in North Port will also outreach into Venice, West Villages, Englewood and other sections of south Sarasota County.

North Port is filling quickly, West Villages alone accounts for the fifth-fastest growing planned community in Florida, and there are about 48,000 registered voters — 39% Republican, 28% Democrat and 33% independents.

That appealed to Sarasota County Democrats seeking to grow their base and help swing this year’s presidential election.

“We’re hoping to have an impact in south Sarasota County,” said Palm-Abramoff, a precinct captain.

She is recruiting a small army for phone banks, social media outreach, door-to-door work and other campaigning for local, state and national Democrats. The big push this season will be voting by mail.

Ultimately, she said, the group’s work this season is supporting a Democrat to replace President Donald Trump.

That will be a challenge: Sarasota County lists 98,750 registered Democrat voters, 136,100 Republicans. And there some 86,000 registered as independent.

The mood is upbeat in the North Port office, however, with a younger and more working-class population in a city of some 70,000 and growing.

Trump squeaked by in Florida in 2016 with 49% of the popular vote. President Barack Obama won the state by a sliver against Mitt Romney in 2012. Sarasota County generally votes Republican.

The south Sarasota County Democratic Party satellite is at 12497 Tamiami Trail, a former real estate office at the Phoenix Professional Center.

The office and its cubicles, in fresh blue paint, on Friday were filled with volunteers, mostly retirees anxious to swing the area to as blue as the walls. There’s space for laptops and phones, training, a small kitchen for the days ahead, said Gretchen Lienhop, a Sarasota County precinct captain and the Veterans Caucus secretary.

“It’s a matter of getting voters to the polls,” she said of the strategy to win. “Invite voters to get more involved.”

The new office at the Phoenix Center opened Wednesday with a public welcoming.

Regular hours will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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