Over the last few days, the debate regarding the Democratic House leadership in 2015 has taken on a new dimension. Of course, both sides have their reasons why they oppose the other side. And in all fairness, both supporters of Darryl Rouson and Mia Jones have valid points. But is the current structure of House and Senate Victory fueling a fire that doesn’t need to even exist in the first place?
Democrats need to decide if they want to continue to have legislative priorities mixed with electoral priorities. How the current system is set up, that is the case. Whoever is elected the next Democratic leader of the Florida House will be in charge of House Victory. Is that productive? Is that right?
I think it is time that both House and Senate Victory were operated separately from both the Florida Democratic Party as well as the Democratic House and Senate leaders. Basically, they should be organized like the current DSCC and DCCC, where we have specific leaders for House and Senate Victory only. Here are the reasons why this should be:
1. Setting priorities - The battle for Democratic House leader has more to do with the upcoming elections than it does with legislation being proposed in the Florida House. Not once during this debate have we heard supporters of either candidates talk about legislative priorities. Instead, the debate is who controls the electoral arm of the Democratic Party. The discussion is usually “if Mia Jones wins she will hire this person” or “If Darryl Rouson wins he will hire that person”. Nobody ever mentions how either one of these candidates will contribute on the legislative front. And, honestly, I think both are poor choices as far as being productive legislatively (for totally different reasons).
2. Currently, we have to take the good with the bad - Those who support Darryl Rouson only talk about the electoral aspect of him being elected as Democratic House Leader. Could Rouson be a productive candidate recruiter and fundraiser? I am not entirely sure, but I think that could be the case. Therefore, if Mr. Rouson is this recruiting and fundraising guru that his supporters say that he is, then he should be the leader when it comes to helping Democrats get elected to the Florida House.
The issue then becomes should the Democratic Party have Darryl Rouson be the face of the “legislative arm” of the Florida House Democrats? Let’s say that Rouson has a good history of fundraising and recruiting…should be still be the legislative representative for the millions of Democrats in Florida? This is where I say no. His views on too many of the issues flies in the face of many Democratic values. As far as legislation and representing what a majority of Democrats support, Mia Jones would be the better, but still weak, option.
So, do we take the pro-school voucher guy that will help with recruitment and fundraising? Or, do we take the true Democrat but risk House Victory being unproductive for yet another election cycle? Again, we have to take the good with the bad no matter who wins, since the person that assumes this position is both the legislative and electoral face of Florida House Democrats.
3. Spreading leaders thin – Honestly, we do ask a lot of the House and Senate leaders. Because we ask them to be the workhorse for both electoral and legislative agendas, we do spread them thin. This eventually leads to one or both of the responsibilities being neglected. And while we are a minority party, it is important that we are a loyal opposition in the Florida Legislature, and that we let those that support Democratic candidates know that we are fighting their fight even though we are vastly outnumber. But with the current structure, the House leader has to pick their priority, which will hurt the other priority in the end.
4. Passionate and productive leaders on legislation – No matter how we look at it, the roles of both an electoral and legislative leader are vastly different. The electoral leader is more of the “behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms” type of person. On the other hand, the legislative leader is the public face for what the Democratic Party stands for. Again, in the case of Rouson, I am not entirely comfortable with him being the legislative face. But if he can do the “back door deals” and help Democrats win, then he should, without a shadow of a doubt, be the leader of that process.
5. Opening up the legislative leadership process – One question that I have regarding the current setup is how many quality legislative leaders we miss out on because of the heavy workload and dual responsibilities? There could be some members that would be great as far as legislative leadership, but refuse to take the role of Democratic House leader because they do not want to be involved with the electoral aspect of the position.
All of this together brings up a very important question…”would Democrats be comfortable with Darryl Rouson running House Victory as long as he isn’t the legislative leader of the Democrats in the Florida House?” I would say yes. Even on a personal note, I do agree with that statement. The main reason that I do not support Mr. Rouson for Florida Democratic House leader is because of what he can say and do on the House floor during the legislative session, not by what he can bring to House Victory.
On a personal note, this does not mean I support Mia Jones. In fact, I am not a supporter of hers. I feel that she brings very little to the table as far as legislative accomplishments and electoral success. Also, the presumptive people that she would bring into House Victory is extremely worrying.
We are at a point where we seriously need to consider the restructuring of House and Senate Victory. Putting everything under one person isn’t the answer. Also, putting it under the Florida Democratic Party isn’t the answer. If House Victory ran entirely separate of the House leader position as well as the FDP, that could be the most productive way of conducting business. That is how the DCCC currently operates. Therefore, why can’t we do that? If we go this direction, the “House Leader” can worry about legislation, the “House Victory Leader” can worry about elections, and the FDP can worry about everything else.
Honestly, this is a win-win situation for everyone. Again, this is how many other Democratic parties around the nation run (which are much more successful than Florida), as well as the national House Democrats. We should consider doing the same.