Sally Boynton Brown runs barefoot, plays ice hockey, meditates daily and has a passion for hot yoga. She also tries to learn something new each year—on her list this year is to learn Spanish, which she'll have to squeeze into a schedule that includes taking over as president of the Florida Democratic Party, one of the highest-profile political positions in the nation. Boynton Brown, who served five years as executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, stepped into the national spotlight in late 2016 when she ran for chair of the Democratic National Committee (she came in third). Boynton Brown has already assumed her Florida duties, shuttling between the Sunshine and Gem states. On a recent whirlwind stopover in Idaho, Boynton Brown sat down to talk about the state of politics in general and her party in particular.
Tell me how (and why) in your formative years you decided to become a Democrat.
Since Republicans had been attacking our voting rights, which strikes at the core of my values of democracy, it pushed me further into the Democratic camp. To be clear, I feel very sympathetic to those who say the two parties aren't working for them anymore.
A fair amount of that played out in the 2016 presidential election.
A lot of people get upset with me when I say this, but I think Trump ran a campaign of hope—the same hope Obama ran on in 2008. Trump just dressed it up in a very different way, but a way many people are finding hard to stomach.
Talk to me about taking over as president of the Florida Democratic Party.
It felt like they were eager to hear about a collaborative, inclusive, transparent way of doing things. I thought, "What a better way to try to make a big impact; to show people that politics can be done differently."
Florida is certainly on the front burner of the national political scene. It's the quintessential swing state.
It will make an even bigger difference in 2020. If you win Florida, you win America. The Democratic Party can take this country back.
Have there ever been any past political candidates that have represented your own true north?
My true north is democracy, never a particular candidate.
But isn't it your job to promote candidates?
I spend much of my time providing the best information possible for somebody who wants to run for office. I tell them what the numbers are and whether they might be a good fit in their district. It's up to voters to decide whether a candidate is right for them. I don't believe it's the party's job to decide whether the candidate is right. I know a lot of people disagree with me about that. Ultimately, it's the primary process where the greatest group of people can make that decision. That's why we have primaries in the first place.
I'm certain I'm not the first to tell you that when you're talking politics, you talk with a great intensity.
I'm a pretty rare breed. I'm in politics because God needs me doing this work, and that's not something you hear very much in this day and age, let alone in the Democratic Party.
I'm sorry. Are you saying this a calling?
Is this something you were born with, or are we talking about something strengthened over time?
Nobody's asked me about this before, so I'm a little...
I'm less interested in what church you attend, and more interested in how faith informs your passion and your work.
I knew from when I was a very little girl that I was put on this earth to change the world and show other people that's why they were put on this earth, too. I believe democracy is powerful.
Are you saying that, in large part, democracy is your church?
I guess it's my church, but I believe in all religions. Believe me, church politics are so much messier than straight-up politics.
Can I ask if you still have many conversations with God?
Sure. I'm having a conversation with myself, ultimately.