Last week, Representative Scott Randolph let it be known that he isn’t running for reelection to the Florida House of Representatives and instead is focusing his efforts on running for the chairman position for the Florida Democratic Party. Of course, I said that Randolph could do a disservice to the party if he waited until the last minute to announce a candidate. But instead he didn’t and bowed out of the race for State Representative in a very gracious way. Since the announcement of Linda Stewart taking Randolph’s place as a Democratic candidate was two weeks before the filing deadline, this gives any other Democrat a chance to run. Therefore, the way that Rep. Randolph did this was quite proper, and I praise him for that.
While I am glad that Randolph has decided to run for Florida Democratic Party Chair, which he wouldn’t assume for a few months from now anyway, he has already faced his first test.
As many of you might know, Linda Steward, a well-qualified former Orange County Commissioner, was pitted against current Florida House member Geraldine Thompson and Victoria “Lurleen Wallace” Siplin (and yes, I will continue to call her that). No matter how you look at it, this would be a “your for Gary/Lurleen Siplin or against them” type of race. And with that, both Stewart and Thompson was splitting the anti-Siplin vote.
Instead of letting these two duke it out in a primary to get the anti-Siplin vote, Scott Randolph worked to get Linda Steward to run for Florida House District 47.
By doing this, Randolph did three very important things. First, he made it so that Democrat isn’t pitted against Democrat. I’m not talking about this in the sense of the candidates, but the actual rank-and-file Democrats working for these candidates. If Siplin were to win a three-way primary, there would be months, or even years, of Thompson supporters blaming Steward for making it a three way race, and Stewart’s people would do the same thing. Therefore, Randolph helped divert a possible messy situation for Orange County Democrats for months and years to come.
Second, Randolph was able to spread the wealth. Instead of having two qualified candidates running in one district, he was able to get them to run in different districts. Now to our south Florida readers, this might not sound like a big thing. But when recruiting a Democratic candidate in Central Florida is about as hard as finding one of those gray M&Ms, it is quite a big deal. And no matter how you slice it or dice it, Central Florida Democrats have the best slate of candidates running since 1992. In fact, it might even surpass 1992, but I don’t know anything about candidate prior to that. And who was instrumental in making Central Florida a legislative target? Yep, Scott Randolph.
Finally, Randolph has shown that winning House District 47 is just as important as winning a highly Democratic seat. My biggest worry was that Randolph would throw in a candidate that none of us had ever heard of, which was far from being a good thing. Instead, he convinced Stewart to run for the office, which was an absolutely stellar choice. When talking to Randolph at the convention this past weekend (which, by the way, I thought he was going to rip into me, which he has every right to do, but he was extremely cordial), he said that he is running so that he can be a full time party chair. In addition, he said that we need to start competing in close races again. Basically, he knows that we need to win the close districts in order to become bigger players in both state houses.
What I find extremely interesting is that the moderate DLC-types that have been running the party for the last few decades constantly say that we need to “capture the middle”. Yet, they never run quality candidates in close districts. On the other hand, we have Randolph, who is quite liberal as we know, saying that we need to start striking at these districts. One would assume it would be the other way around. But it does seem like one group of people are only interested in protecting the status quo. That isn’t Randolph.
After this weekend’s convention, there was something else that I thought was very striking. There seems to be this feeling among Tallahassee Democrats, and I will include Rod Smith into that mix, that “they don’t have time for anyone”. When I had a future candidate talk to Chairman Smith during this convention, he almost gave them the brushoff. He gave the “I can’t help you, you need to talk to so-and-so”. I’m sorry, but when you are the leader of the party, you need to act and treat everyone that has a (D) next to their name that their campaign is as important as the Obama For President campaign, especially when they just spend $75 of their own money to attend an event just so they can talk to Smith about their campaign because the FDP protects access to him like he is The Ark of the Covenant.
Randolph, on the other hand, has a very good hands on approach to talking to people. He truly seems to care about moving the Florida Democratic Party in a forward direction, which is what we really need. The two men, as well as those that associate with them, have two very different approaches to how the Florida Democratic Party should run. And personally, I support Randolph’s approach.
In the past, I have looked at the FDP Chair has just being a “stand in” position. Those elected to it usually have lost a recent election or looking to promote themselves for a future election, or both. This is the reason why the FDP has been extremely ineffective over the last decade. In Randolph, we see a different approach. We don’t see his name being tossed around to be a candidate for Florida Governor, like the current chair.
Instead, in a guy like Randolph, we just see a guy that wants to help Democrats win and take back our state. Honestly, that is all I am asking for in a Democrat Party chair. Is that asking for much?