Allison Tant, who has been the anointed choice for FDP Chair by several elected officials most notably DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has yet to gain the widespread grassroots support her benefactors were hoping for when they recruited her to run. The prospect of a contested race, in fact a messy difficult process seems to have have initially escaped the elected officials who recruited Tant.
What has happened this past week is fascinating for any observer of the top down politics that has characterized the Florida Democratic Party’s more than decade long losing streak at the state level. Party leaders, party staff and party consultants all felt it would be a good idea to handpick a new chair, even though that person is largely unknown to those who toil every day to elect Democratic candidates across the state.
What has in fact happened is that support on the grassroots level for Alan Clendenin and Annette Taddeo-Goldstein the two declared opponents of Tant has grown stronger. Since TPH’s endorsement of Clendenin, I have personally received several messages from activists around the state most have which have commended the endorsement with a few dissenters stating we should take a second look at Taddeo-Goldstein. But one theme seems to be universal – these activists are not supportive at this time of Tant, not because of her personal profile but because of the heavy-handed manner in which she is being pushed as chair.
Meanwhile, State Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) has stepped aside in his race against longstanding powerhouse Jon Ausman for the Chair of the Leon County DEC. This clears a potential path for Tant if she can knock off Ausman and become the Chair of the Leon DEC. But Ausman, a longtime leader in the party at both the local and state level is a formidable force and won’t be moved or defeated easily. Williams in explaining his decision said “We are fortunate that someone of Alison’s stature and talent is willing to serve Florida Democrats. An opportunity like this doesn’t happen very often, and we must take advantage of it.” Following his departure from the race, Williams almost immediately declared he would run for Minority Leader designee in the House.
The three greatest concerns among many activists I have spoken to is about the lack of respect for grassroots organizing, the unwillingness of the current leadership and staff to develop a plan to rebuild the crumbled infrastructure of the party and finally the perceived physical distance of the party staff from the majority of the voters in the state.
It is worth noting that on previous occasions when party elders have hand picked a state chair, activists and state committee members have eventually coalesced around the anointed chair. However, this time around it seems frustration is at a boiling point among Democratic activists thanks to the failure of the state party to fully leverage the advantages created by changing demographics and three Democratic waves in the last four election cycles. Despite these wave elections, two consecutive Presidential wins in Florida and the passage of the Fair Districts Amendment, Republicans still hold 65% of the seats in the legislature and all four statewide elected offices.