With the finalization of the legislative maps for the next five election cycles determined in the past week, bloodletting has begun among elected officials of the Democratic Party. In addition to potential incumbent vs. incumbent races that have been set up by the new maps, some members find themselves without comfortable seats to run in. All of this is nothing new for a reapportionment year as the same things happened in 1982, 1992 and 2002.
The difficulty this go round for Democrats is the continued relative decline in population of the two heavily Democratic metropolitan counties in southeast Florida ( Northeast Miami-Dade, Broward & Palm Beach counties) versus the rest of the state, creating fewer opportunities for potential Democratic candidates to run for office. As usual, ambitious officeholders are piling into seats against one another and in some cases sitting officeholders are targeting other sitting officeholders.
Organizations, and in some case Democratic Party related entities, have begun to take sides in the primaries. What is also interesting is the number of elected officials who have begun to make endorsements in these primaries even before the qualifying period ends. In some cases endorsements were made long before the districts were finalized in hypothetical primary match-ups.
We’re seeing in some new districts ethnic splits between Democrats. By design, the GOP packed Democratic voters together of multiple ethnic backgrounds to maximize the GOP tilt of the surrounding districts, as well as to create bloody racially tinged primary fights. But our party has lacked the discipline to avoid this bloodletting in the past and early indications are that it may intensify in this election cycle.
Despite the continued push for Fair Districts in Florida, the GOP dominated Legislature seems to have achieved a measure of success with their reapportionment in that Democratic elected officials are pointing fingers at one another about reapportionment. The decision of several Democrats to back the Republican plans in each House, picking self preservation over practical politics, did not help matters.
So as we approach the primary season, parts of the Democratic base have been splintered. While the GOP is going through a similar primary bloodletting process they are a majority party with a strong leadership tradition. Ethnic divisions also do not create the potentially sticky primaries for the Republicans in the way they do for the Democrats.
The weakness of the Democratic Party on the local level in southeast Florida and the preeminence of elected officials and their activist allies is exposed by these primary fights. What is needed is a heavy handed approach from the party.
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