Rebuilding the Florida Democratic Party: Part II – Leadership

We have organized before, we can do it again.

Unless you have been in a cave the last week, you realized that Democrats lost badly throughout the United States on Tuesday. And while many states had mixed results, Florida was amongst some of the worst results for Democrats nationwide. We lost Congressional seats, House and Senate seats, we lost all of the constitutional offices and, well, we just look flat-out horrible. Yes, maybe we won some remote county commission seat in a county that has 10,000 people, but I wouldn’t know, or would I care.

And since the disaster on Tuesday, there have been calls for leaders in the Florida Democratic Party to step down. On Thursday, this blog asked for Karen Thurman to step down, along with State Senator Jeremy Ring. In fact, there is a new website dedicated to firing Thurman.

In addition to these calls for change in the state leadership, there have also been calls for changes at the local level. In the Broward New Times, Bob Norman has asked for the resignation of Broward DEC Chair Mitch Caesar. And I am sure in some other counties there are talks behind closed doors on what needs to be done with their party leaders as well.

But right now these movements mean nothing. While having a website dedicated to firing Karen Thurman is interesting, it really isn’t going to do anything.

Why? Because right now, she doesn’t feel threatened.

Many of us rank-and-file Democrats feel that she needs to be replaced, there is no doubt about that. But we don’t hold any power to make that decision. And, so far, with the exception of Jeremy Ring, no other prominent Democrat (that I know of) has asked for her resignation.

Therefore, the process doesn’t just involve screaming and shouting and putting up websites. The process requires organization, and that might take some time, maybe even a few years.

First of all, if Democrats want to restructure the FDP, they need to start at the local level. The election of precinct committeemen and women at the county DEC level is where we need to start. And while elections for many of these positions were decided on Tuesday, the local DECs can always approve someone as a committeeman of woman. Therefore, even though the so-called “elections” for these positions are over, one can still seek the positions.

Of course, after the appointment of like-minded, loyal Democrats, those precinct committee members that want to change their local leadership need to start counting their votes and supporters. This will take time, and isn’t a “quick fix” remedy.

In addition to getting like-minded Democrats, supporters of such a movement need look at their local DEC bylaws and see if there might be a rule in place that could call for the removal of the chair, or other officers, with a 2/3rds vote. If the DEC does have this rule, then it would be wise for “party changers” to take advantage of this rule if they have the numbers. And if these people want to use this rule to their advantage, it would be best done when the attendance of a monthly DEC meeting is low, usually during a non-election season. Still, this is something that needs to be done on a county-by-county basis.

Even with building a local DEC with like-minded supporters, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to remove the chair from office. Maybe the chair realizes that there has been a change in his local Democratic Party and he is ready to play ball. Each chair has their “plan of attack”, you just need to know where your local DEC chair fits. Will he fight of not?

In addition to taking back our local DECs, we will have to convince other DECs that a new direction forward is the best. Unfortunately, Dixie County has as many votes, basically, as some of the larger counties (a side note: I know I have been beating up on Dixie County lately. God, I hope I don’t see the Dixie County DEC Chair at the next FDP Convention, he might just kill me). With Dixie County having nearly equal power, and the likelihood of their DEC changing leadership is slim to none, we will need to work with these smaller DECs to make our position stronger in the FDP.

The third and final step to taking over the leadership is to find out what elected officials are on our side. So far, Ring is the only one that I know of that has been vocal. Still, there might be some others out here that are quietly thinking what Ring has said publicly. We need to seek those people out.

In addition to seeking those people out, we also need to find primary opponents for people who disagree with our position. While we might not force them to change their minds, we can easily vote them out of office, where they would be powerless.

This is really the only way that people who are “mad as hell” can take over the Florida Democratic Party. They need to start off at the local level, threaten their local leaders with both removal and replacement. And in many cases, these leaders will need to be replaced for the betterment of the Democratic Party.

The Republican Party of Florida basically took nearly 20 years (from the election of Claude Kirk as Governor to the election of Ander Crenshaw as Senate President) to be a strong force. And since 1994, they sure haven’t looked back. Therefore, we should expect an overnight change either.

We will also have to work with other counties and present our ideas of change to them. While voters in Dixie County are almost a 180 degree change from the voters in Broward, both parties can see eye-to-eye on what the number issue should be…the election of Democrats throughout the state.

But if we don’t put any meaningful pressure on the Florida Democratic Party and the local DECs, they will not be worried, and they will not change.

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3 thoughts on “Rebuilding the Florida Democratic Party: Part II – Leadership

  1. Pingback: Florida Democrats: A Map to the Path Forward

  2. Pingback: Quick Hits » Florida Progressive Coalition Blog -

  3. Unfortunately the FDP rules allow the chair to conduct their own election – even to the tune of tabulating the votes. In 2008 we witnessed the Ceasar/Glasser slate stuffing handfuls of ballots into the boxes even though the election rules called for one man one vote. After the election Glasser spirited the ballots away, never to be seen again. Complaints to FDP were dismissed. Even though Karen Thurman is now gone, Rod Smith has indicated no willingness to police the elections for party officers to insure that they are fair. If the elections are corrupt, then there is no way to vote out a malefactor like Broward Chairman Mitch Ceasar. With the election only seven months away Ceasar has refused to implement a field plan and has kept the membership list under lock and key so that even other party officers, such as myself, cannot contact the committee people to coordinate campaign activities. So far the only activity Ceasar has planned for 2012 is to have a cocktail party fundraiser for himself. He was unable to articulate what he needed the additional funds for at the last Broward Democratic Party management meeting. The tragedy is that Broward with its 500,000 registered democrats has long had the lowest voter turnout of any County in Florida. Broward’s under vote was almost the entire margin the Rick Scott won by. Statistics have shown that the precincts with active committee people have at least 10% greater turn out. How long can Rod Smith, and for that matter Debbie Wasserman Shultz, continue to turn a blind eye to the non-performance of Mitch Cesar in Broward County ?

    As far as voting him out at a meeting, we have never had a quorum present at any DEC meeting.

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