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When Blind Ideology Trumps Realism Southeast Florida Pays

From the Florida Squeeze:

Bubby Nevins, longtime Broward County political watcher and former Sun Sentinel political maestro has taken issue with a recent vote of Rep. George Moratis (R-Fort Lauderdale).  Republican legislators voting against both the wishes of the constituencies they serve and against the wishes of local elected officials is nothing new. This has been happening since the GOP takeover of the Florida House in 1996, when Speaker Dan Webster (R-Ocoee)  demanded blind ideological loyalty and purity from his troops, intimidating and cajoling more moderate and consciousness Republicans at every turn.  If you voted against Webster and were a Republican you may find your office moved or parking space eliminated the next week when you returned to the Capitol. Since then the GOP has used various sometimes more subtle tactics to keep the troops in line.

What’s particularly interesting about Nevins excellent piece is how he starts his argument saying ” One problem with the capital being in Tallahassee 450 miles away is that legislators sometime vote against our interests and nobody seems to notice.”

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Bill Nelson Does the Right Thing…Again!

Tea Party favorite Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has become the national GOP’s second favorite flavor of the month behind Marco Rubio. Cruz, whose upset victory in the Texas Republican Primary was the biggest Tea Party triumph of 2012 has attacked the patriotism and loyalty as an American of Senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s choice to be Secretary of Defense. I need not remind our readers that Hagel received Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge for his service in Vietnam.

Yesterday, our own Senator Bill Nelson bit back at Cruz publicly, and unfortunately this was lost in the State of the Union excitement. “He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nominee,” Nelson said. “You also stated your opinion that you don’t think he has been truthful with this committee. Those are two fairly strong statements.”

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Jim Greer Pleads Guilty (UPDATED)

Greer plead guilty on five counts this morning. So much for the trial of the century in Florida politics.

The RPOF has released this statement:

“Today, Jim Greer, the man Charlie Crist personally picked to lead the Republican Party of Florida, admitted his guilt to five felony charges. For the past three years, Jim Greer has tried to damage the reputation of the Republican Party and its leaders, but the truth is now known that Jim Greer broke the law, stole from RPOF and our donors, and then said and did everything he could to cover up and distract attention from his crimes. Everything Jim Greer has said and done over these past few years should be considered in that light.”

Obviously this spares Governor Crist and many Republicans the potentially embarrassing details that may have altered the complexion of the 2014 races for Governor, Cabinet and Legislature.

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Time to Focus on Taking Down Pam Bondi

Much of the attention of Florida Democrats has been rightfully focused on ousting Governor Rick Scott next year. However, little if any time has been spent in discussing the statewide cabinet races, a place where Democrats must take advantage of shifting attitudes and demographics in the state.  Democrats have lots 10 of the last 11 cabinet races with the lone victory coming in 2006 when Alex Sink defeated Senate President Tom Lee who had become unpopular among Tallahassee lobbyists and Republican donors/activists throughout the state.  This record is worse than any other Democratic Party east of the Mississippi over the same time period (since 2000). While defeating Jeff Atwater (who boasts support of many nominal Democrats in southeast Florida) and Adam Putnam, the former number three Republican in the House leadership appears a clean fit for Agriculture Commissioner. While Democrats should by no means concede these two races, the focus should be on Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Consider that many members of the Florida Bar consider Pam Bondi to be one of the worst Attorney Generals in the country. Bondi has been the hyper-partisan ideological law enforcement office Florida Republicans have long craved. This is no surprise considering Bondi’s  prior claim to fame was a conservative hack on FOX News’ Hannity show, which is one hour of pure right wing drivel. Bondi won a competitive three way Republican Primary in 2010 and then benefited from a conservative tide and political attacks bordering on slander towards Dan Gelber, the single state legislator who was most qualified to be Attorney General in the State of Florida in order to win her office. Bondi and her surrogates waged a campaign of fear and demagoguery about “Obamacare,”  feminism and “radical environmentalism.”

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Strange Donation from the FDP to Rep. Mia Jones In Dying Days of 2012 Campaign

I think  Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) who is a candidate for Minority Leader against the favored Darryl Rouson (D-St Petersburg) and the irrelevant Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) is a solid choice, and I would like to see her win the post. However, I am very troubled to learn that in the dying days of the 2012 campaign as Democrats were struggling to raise last minute cash in extremely close races that the Florida Democratic Party cut two large checks to Jones campaign in a safe African-American dominated Jacksonville district.

For some strange reason Tallahassee establishment Democrats were patting themselves on the back for winning 44 of 120 House seats in this election while the party carried the state at the Presidential and US Senate level. That’s less than 36% of the seats that was won by the Democrats on a completely new legislative map, where almost as many seats should go Democratic as Republican.  The FDP choose to not contest seriously many pick-up opportunities, for some  inexplicable reason. Incumbency has advantages no doubt, but those advantages are negated to a certain extent when sitting members must run in new terrain. One such example was HD-63 where 2/3 of the district was new to Rep. Shawn Harrison and Mark Danish won despite the indifference of the Tallahassee based FDP leadership.

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Robert Wexler Speaks to National Jorunal

I thought this interview conducted by former Miami Herald writer Beth Reinhard (who we in southeast Florida really miss as a local political writer) is revealing on a number of fronts about the former Congressman. It is  certainly worth a read.

FDP Chairs Race: False Choices & The Path Forward

By Kevin Thurman

Since I wrote my guest post last week there have been a number of developments in the chair’s race and I am not expert in the machinations of the Florida Democratic Party’s election system for chair — but I am more fascinated by the insane false choices that seem to be put forth by leaders, columnists, and activists over the past few days.

Paul Fleming even wrote an entire column about all of these false choice claiming the FDP is the “the longest-running soap opera in the Sunshine State.” Sure he gave lip service to the RPOF that has a former chairman under indictment, big spending Amex cards, just badly lost the last election — but says he’s going to focus on us anyway.

What I find funny is that he fails to mention that the “soap-opera” was the organization that exposed all of that thanks to Tampa Democrat Susan Smith, and staff at the FDP like Scott Arceneaux and Eric Jotkoff.

These is the first of series of false choices that he and many others say Democrats are fighting over — which everyone need to just stop. Here’s the four worst I’ve identified.

Money vs Organizing

For some reason thinking in Florida hasn’t grown to meet the 21st century reality that good organizing and good fundraising go hand in hand. Some people have argued that financial resources are the first priority to win in 2014, other have argued that grassroots organizing is the key to winning in 2014. Not only are they both vital to winning as we have seen in the Presidential election in Florida and in races across the country — but they feed off each other.

Since the Obama ’08 campaign moderns campaigns don’t make that choice. It’s easier for Presidential campaigns to do this, but it is how technologically driven campaigning works. Whether it’s turning swag purchases into donations so you can build your donor base at rallies or using successful organizing to impress big dollar donors — these two issues work together.

I remember when i was working for Hillary in 2008 I was asked to present to senior staff an understanding of why Obama out-raised us in the first quarter of 2007.They all assumed it was just the small dollar donations (specifically, incorrectly indetifying the My. BarackObama.com as a major donation driver) — but they later learned that we got beat on high and low dollar donations. Obama’s momentum and grassroots campaign (with a lot of free media) had leapfrogged a generation of traditional high dollar fundraising contacts. The whole fundraising game has changed — there is no choice between organizing and fundraising.

I don’t even have to just point to Obama, there is a Florida politician who did this very well: Marco Rubio. Rubio understood this and used his grassroots machine to create momentum, and used the momentum to raise money, and the money to invest in gaining more momentum to eventually out-raise his opponents when no one expected him to. His main opponent’s campaign, Charlie Crist, was so caught off guard by this success he left the primary before it was over.

I think both Alan Clendenin and Allison Tant likely understand this, but they have each been portrayed as being on once side of the flase choice between organizing and fundraising. We don’t need one or the other we need both. That means pouring what money we can into organizing so we can expand the donor base and raise money (some versions phrase exists in both of their plans — which is why we’ve already won something from this race).

No divided choice here: No matter who becomes chair I hope both Tant and Clendenin will work together to make sure the FDP embraces this kind of 21st century political reality.

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More Developments in FDP Chair Race

It seems like we are writing multiple posts a day about the state of the race, so here is the latest update.

  • Allison Tant has received the support of all of the NW Florida counties except Okaloosa which has endorsed Alan Clendenin. I’m told Holmes County however has not committed to Tant, despite being included in Tant’s release.
  • Tant has secured many commitments from Central Florida while Clendenin picked up several from the counties surrounding Tampa.
  • Palm Beach County State Committeeman John Ramos is the subject of much intrigue today. He signed an endorsement for Clendenin just two days ago but now apparently is supporting Tant.
  • The Dolphin Democratic Club in the Broward County, the most active and influential grassroots LGBT partisan group in the state has endorsed Clendenin.
  • According to a tally sheet from Jon Ausman, whose  outstanding 20-year track record of numbers crunching and knowing party rules speaks for itself, Clendenin is 77% of the way to the necessary votes for chair based on commitments whereas Tant is  59% of the way there. The rest of the votes are uncommitted. (This tally includes Ramos in the Tant column)

Both Tant and Clendenin are expected to speak tonight at the Palm Beach DEC meeting in Delray Beach.

New Endorsements in FDP Chair Race; Alex Sink Endorses Clendenin

In the last 24 hours, major endorsements have come down in the race for FDP Chair.

Monica Russo, the President of the SEIU Florida State Council endorsed Allison Tant saying: “Allison’s dedication to grassroots advocacy for the disabled, public education, and quality health care are aligned with the values of 55,000 active and retired members of SEIU in Florida. In addition, she brings a vitality and tenaciousness to campaigning and fundraising that will be required in order to win real gains for Floridians both legislatively and electorally.”

Mike Williams, who is extremely influential in Tallahassee, and among labor throughout the state endorsed Alan Clendenin.

“I am proud to support Alan Clendenin to be the next Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Like myself, Alan has been a union member and dedicated labor activist and he understands the needs and struggles of Florida’s working families. Alan has espoused the best values ofFlorida’s workers through concrete action. His proven record shows that he understands the power of emboldening a strong grassroots base of activists and the strength of making campaigns about people and values, not just campaign money. He is the perfect candidate to meet the needs of Florida Democrats. As we turn to the 2014 elections that will decide the direction for Florida’s future, we need someone like Alan as party chair. Someone that can make sure that the party speaks clearly to the values we hold dear while being successful at the ballot box,” said Williams.

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Guest Column – Florida Democratic Party Chair’s Race: We’ve Already Won

Guest column by Kevin Thurman

In 2010 when Andrew Gillum was the last to concede the chairmanship to Rod Smith we elected another party chair that took that position without explaining to Democrats how they plan to change our electoral fortunes. This record stretches back decades.

In fact, in 2002 after Bob Poe left his position as Party Chair due to major electoral losses . Scott Maddox didn’t even have an opponent . We’ve been electing party chairs without opposition or real plans for a long time. So it’s great we are trying something different — with the race between Allison Tant and Alan Clendenin. We are using a chair race to determine the direction of the Party. States like Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina, and dozens of others had these kinds of fights years ago. We never did.

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