My family is from what is now considered Illinois’ 8th Congressional District. I was born just outside the district, but moved there a few days after I was born, in Zion, Illinois. My maternal grandparents lived there until they died. Many in my family still have a connection to this area of the state. In fact, when I go to Winthrop Harbor, simply known as “The Harbor” to natives, I make sure to stop at The Other Place and get their thin crust pizza (yes, there is a unique Chicago thin crust. Unrelated note regarding pizza at the end of this article).
This congressional district was represented by moderate poster-child Melissa Bean. While being an effective congresswoman, Bean still didn’t rock the boat, and held that moderate line because she was told that was the only way she could keep her seat in Congress. She did that yet again in 2010, but lost to the absolutely irate, insane, ultra-right winger and dead beat dad Joe Walsh.
Not only did the Bean lose, the the Democrats that received the biggest butt-kicking throughout the county in the 2010 election were the Blue Dogs. Again, traditional wisdom said that the moderates would stay in Congress while the liberals would lose. That wasn’t the case.
Since 2010, many progressives have stated that the way for the Democratic Party to get back on track is the dump this Clinton-era DLC type of thinking and become true liberals. We have seen the Republicans do this on the right, and many think that the way that we can win is by doing the exact same thing on the left. As my co-editor Kartik Krisnaiyer hinted, the voters that “swing” the election aren’t those in the middle, but instead the base turnout. Many in the Democratic Party agree with this philosophy.
Using the example above in Illinois, Republicans were able to rally their base around a crazy candidate and win a Congressional race because of two things. First, moderate or “independent” voter turnout is much less in mid-term elections. Therefore rallying your base is essential, because that is all that shows up. Second, Democrats weren’t motivated to vote. This is partly Obama’s fault for trying to please Republicans. But it was also Bean’s fault for not motivating voters. Therefore, those on the far right, and I argue that those on the left, can win so-called “swing” district.
So let’s move away from Illinois and focus on Florida. Of course, over the course of the last few weeks, a lot of people are wondering if Scott Randolph is going to run for his State House seat or Florida Democratic Party chair, or even both. Of course, we will find out soon enough.
What is interesting is that we are in a unique position with Scott Randolph. Because the Republicans have gerrymandered the State House map, specifically to split Winter Park liberals into three districts, they have made Rep. Randolph’s district more of a Democratic-Republican split seat than a pure Democratic seat that Randolph was safe in previously.
When Democrats have been put in a split seat, many of them shy away from running because they feel they will lose in a close election. Just yesterday, Brian Scarborough, who was running in State Senate District 7, dropped out. Even though he raised over $55,000, he dropped out because “the district was clearly drawn to heavily favor a Republican from Clay County,” according to Scarborough. The district he is running in, according the the Gainesville Sun is 40.7% Republican, 38.9% Democratic and 20.7% independent, with most of the voters in the district coming from Alachua County, not Clay. If this is considered a heavily favored Republican district from someone that raised over $55,000 last quarter, Democrats are in huge trouble!
With House District 47, we can make a bold statement both as liberals and as Democrats. This new district slightly favors the Democrats, very slightly. And in the past, these were the type of districts where the Democrats would do one of two things in. First, they wouldn’t run a candidate at all, and the Republicans win, or second, they would run a moderate candidate, and the Republicans would win. No matter how you look at it, the Republicans would win.
Now we have the opportunity to run a true progressive in what is seen as a “toss up” district. Progressives have been saying that they want their type of candidates in these districts. Well, with House District 47 and Scott Randolph, we finally have our chance.
There are three outcomes that we have with this scenario. First, Randolph decides not to run for reelection and focuses primarily on the FDP Chair race. If he does this, he will give Democrats the impression that he feels that he cannot win this seat. And if he feels that we can’t win a slightly Democratic toss up seat, what gives us confidence that if he is elected chair that we wouldn’t write off any close seat, like we are doing now? I personally feel that this shouldn’t be an option for Mr. Randolph.
The second possibility is that he runs for his seat and loses. If he does this, he knows he tried his best. One of the issues regarding this race will be fundraising. More than likely, Bob Brooks is going to see more RPOF money spent in this race than Randolph is going to see FDP money spent on his behalf. Therefore, Randolph, in his race for chair, could say that the Democratic Party needs to take a more active roll, especially financially, in close races. Yes, Randolph would lose this race, but he has a good “what if” scenario that could help Democrats around the state get motivated. In the long run, Randolph would benefit.
The third option is that he runs and wins. This, obviously, is the best possible scenario. If Randolph, who is a liberal, defeats Bob Brooks in what is considered a “toss up” district, this would be a huge victory for Democrats and a reason that Scott Randolph should be the next Florida Democratic Party chair without any question whatsoever. He would have taken the traditional Florida Democratic DLC-type of philosophy and prove it to be a fraud. This victory would highly motivate Democrats, and we can finally run liberal candidates in districts that were once thought impossible to win.
If I were to put money on the three possible outcomes above, I would put it on the third option.
If Randolph decides not to run for his district, a lot of questions will be asked whether he would be a productive leader. But if he runs, and if he wins, Randolph can give Democrats the “Yes We Can” feeling in Florida that many felt during the Obama campaign and rebuild the Florida Democratic Party in the progressive image, and move away from the “we have to win North Florida” DLC-style system. It hasn’t worked since the mid-90s, and it won’t work now.
Representative Randolph (if you happen to be reading this), there is no benefit for you not to run for your State House seat. You have nothing to lose. And if you are victorious in November, you will help propel this party to levels that we have never seen, especially for progressive Democrats. You will help motivate the progressive movement in this state. You will help us win back the State House and Senate. And, most important, if you, as a proud progressive, win in a toss up seat, we will finally get that feeling in our hearts again…the feeling of “Yes We Can”!
So Please, Scott, run…..and win!
(Pizza note: If you want to know what Chicago-style thin crust pizza is like, go to Barnaby’s in Tallahassee. They are actually a Chicagoland pizza place that, for some odd reason, has a location in Tallahassee. That is exactly how Chicago thin crust pizzas taste like (though Tally Barnaby’s has more of a handle on the crust). If anyone ever finds out how a Barnaby’s ended up in Tallahassee, please let me know! I have always been interested in finding out. I grew up on this pizza in Schaumburg, IL, and can’t wait to go to Tally to have more.)