Is Joe Saunders vs. Shayan Elahi really Scott Randolph vs. Doug Head?

Over the last few weeks, the campaign between Joe Saunders and Shayan Elahi has been heating up. A few weeks ago, Elahi sent out a mailer talking about how Saunders lived outside of the district. And while this has been the most tame of attacks, others have said, even on this blog, that Mr. Saunders is only going to help the gay community if he is elected. The path that this race has gone down is purely shameful. Right now, only one side is doing the shame.

Even so, while the campaign between the two candidates is heating up, is it the candidates that are heating it up, or is it the members of the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee that are heating things up? What is already pretty obvious is that sides are being taken, and it isn’t really a surprise.

Those that are supporting Joe Saunders appear to be the new guard in the Orange County DEC. When I say new guard, I am talking about those that starting becoming involved in the Democratic Party back in 2004. These people were highly instrumental in making the current changes that we see in today’s Orange County DEC. While some of them are newer, and some older, they are still considered to be part of the new look DEC.

Those that are backing Elahi seem to be supporters of the DEC old guard. One of those that have been very vocal in this race has been former Orange County DEC Chair Doug Head. Mr Head has been strongly against Mr. Saunders’ in this race, even going as far as making posts on Saunders’ campaign Facebook page questioning his residency. Those that also seem to be for Elahi are also supporters of Mr. Head and strongly against the current chair, Representative Scott Randolph. To no surprise, most of those that are supporters of Randolph also support Saunders.

While it is true that sides are always taken by individuals in primary contests, what is interesting in this case is that each side is oddly uniformed. Most of those that are pro-Randolph are strongly for Saunders. And, of course, those that are pro-Head are very much for Elahi. Is the House District 49 Democratic Primary becoming the first battle over possible control of the Orange County DEC?

In addition to this primary, a number of other forces are lining up, which could make interesting alliances when it comes time for DEC members to vote for a new chair in a few months. Some in the Hispanic community have criticized Rep. Randolph’s lack of reaching out to their community. Some accuse Mr. Randolph of not trying to recruit a Hispanic candidate to run in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District, leaving Alan Grayson as the lone Democratic candidate.

Some Hispanics are crediting Mr. Head with working with them in regards to the battle over the recently drawn lines for the Orange County Commission districts. In aligning with the Hispanics, Mr. Head seems to be trying to position himself to retake the position of Orange County DEC Chair, or find someone that would be closely advised by Mr. Head.

If Elahi wins Tuesday’s primary, Mr. Head and his supporters will claim that it is a victory over not just Mr. Saunders, but Mr. Randolph as well. While this primary doesn’t change the make up of the DEC once it is time to elect a new chair, it will more than likely help Head’s campaign to take over the Orange DEC. An Elahi win gives Mr. Head that momentum.

Even so, most of the numbers seem to be on the side of Mr. Randolph. Most of the DEC seems to be intact. And while their choice in leaders over the last few years have not been the most impressive, Mr. Randolph has given the organization stability and has tried to build them instead of using the organization for his own personal gain.

Mr. Head’s time as the DEC Chair can only be described as less than impressive. Mostly lethargic during in tenure, the Democrats didn’t see any real substantial change. When Head took over from Irby Pugh in December of 1992, there was a lot of promise. Orlando looked as if it was trending, Bill Clinton made a last minute stop in Orlando, Kim Shephard defeated incumbent Bruce McEwen and other Democrats performed stronger than expected against strong Republican candidates. But after Mr. Head took over, enthusiasm in the party fell. Less people were attending DEC meetings. Finances were not in the best of shape and candidate recruitment fell to a new low. In the 2002 election, more Libertarians were running for the Florida House of Representatives in Orange County than Democrats. But the icing on the cake was Mr. Head’s warm working relationship with former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty.

Even with all this, the Hispanics supporting Head claim that he is the only one that can reach out to others. On the other hand, Mr. Head was criticized by former Democratic House member Dick Batchelor in 2002 for the exact opposite. In an Orlando Weekly article about Mr. Head’s leadership of the DEC, Batchelor said “The leader of the party has got to be someone who reaches out and invites participation. A local chairman has got to be someone who excites enough interest to be part of the organization. That’s not happening now.”

Yet this is the person that some are trusting to help build the Democratic Party.

This battle in HD 49 could be a big one. If it isn’t a big battle for the seat, it will be a big Battle for the Orange County DEC. Most people only see the surface of this race…but the infighting is much more interesting.


22 thoughts on “Is Joe Saunders vs. Shayan Elahi really Scott Randolph vs. Doug Head?

  1. HAHAHAHAHA! Fantasy World was always the best part of Orlando Disney. You keep it, as you say, “in tact”.

  2. Finally, an unbiased in depth look at this race. Between the Orlando Weekly and West Orlando News running patently unfair stories on this it can be hard to find. However, from what I can see the Shayan Elahi campaign hasnt been very harsh as you pointed out, just throwing softballs. Just because Shayan has a few crazy supporters (and for a guy who has worked on causes ranging from Food Not Bombs and Occupy thats not surprising), doesn’t mean the campaign is being overly attacking or harsh. Doug Head is a maniac, we all know that (see comment above), but that doesn’t mean the entire Shayan Elahi campaign has to be thrown out with the bathwater.

  3. Dave Trotter FYI – Scott Randolph made it very clear from the get go that he was not interested in DEC and needed this position to make a run for FDP chair. He was practically begging everyone on the board to help him to be DEC chair meanwhile he started rumors against Amy Mercado to have her removed.

    People like Doug Head and others have been disgusted by Scott Randolph’s treatment of other minorities (beside LGBT, whom he considers his base). He has refused to allow more people to join and is closely allied to Nancy Jacobson who is the is the Bette Noir of the DEC, keeping all good fresh ideas out.

    Randolphs have no other ambition but their own on their minds. The party be damned, as far as they are concerned. I think you need to talk to some people before writing hit pieces on people whom you personally despise and who call you out.

    btw Doug Head still hosts the most important Democratic monthly event in Orlando (bigger than DEC meetings), and Scott Randolph and his wife attend to pay homage. You should come too.

  4. Thanks for proofreading for me on that one Doug 🙂 I didn’t even realize I made that misspelling. I really appreciate it. Sometimes my space bar gets clicked one too many times (the brain working faster than the keys). So, it is fixed 🙂 Again, thank you.

  5. Hey, Dave
    Why did you remove my post last night that called you ignorant of the facts and only getting your information from selected sources? Are you, like Joe Saunders, afraid of a real debate?

  6. I didn’t delete any posts. Would you like me to publish a screen shot of our admin screen and show you, and the nearly 1,500 people that read our blog daily, that isn’t the case? In addition, I can show you an email that I get which shows all of the responses to a particular post, whether deleted or not. I get the email when a response is posted. The email chain doesn’t magically disappear on Gmail once a post is removed. If a response is posted, it WILL be on that email, no matter what action is taken.

    Do you really want to play this game?

  7. I’ll give you that one. It was late at night and I might have pushed the wrong button. That does not preclude the fact that this is an intellectually dishonest hit piece coming from an intellectually dishonest candidacy. And we can have that debate anytime

  8. Mr. Head from what I have seen has been a very important figure in Orange DEC politics, and still is, he even opens his home up (literally, free of charge) to those young progressives attempting to make a positive change in the community, no matter what you think of him, that act in and of itself is admirable.

    Dick Batchelor endorsed Shayan Elahi, who is as well endorsed by Doug Head. Plus long-time LGBT activist Jeff Horn endorsed Elahi as well, over a (sometimes) openly LGBT candidate, that should tell us something.
    Why not mention that in this New Guard v. Old Guard horse-hockey?

    So, what is the case? Coming from the Randolphs & Joe Saunder’s camp (via Orlando Weekly) is the message that Elahi’s campaign is made up of “scruffy occupiers” and “DEC extremists” (SEE OW’s Primary School article)

    Let us summarize this race (& the article) then, it’s the “old Guard” which includes Doug Head, (hispanics?) and Dick Batchelor teaming up with scruffy occupiers and extremists and LGBT activists to support Shayan Elahi against Joe Saunders, a fundraiser who lives out of district… [there is no question of his residency Dave, he lives/d with his partner over by Sea World, not UCF]

    BUT WAIT there’s MORE! This is all just a cover for Mr. Head & Mr. Randolph to fight it out over who will take control of the DEC which is almost a non-factor in local and state politics…

    C’mon Dave, this is too bitter a pill to swallow.

  9. Actually let’s summarize this race more accurately. It’s Joe Saunders, a good progressive resident of District 49 (he lives with his brother near UCF) and long time advocate for Equality Florida, Planned Parenthood and NPR who helps liberal causes raise money to fight Republicans He has a record of winning battles with Republicans and has the support of every union that has endorsed in this race plus former DEC Chair Amy Mercado who ran for this seat (or it’s equivelent before redistricting) and is backed by the Florida Democratic Party. Against Shayan Elahi, also a good progressive who has a track record of ruffling feathers, which keeps him from winning battles and who is the only candidate in this race to donate a significant amount of money to his only campaign and the only candidate to violate Florida election law by failing to report is campaign donate on time.

  10. Give me a break On the Other Hand. Joe just became a resident on Friday, and he left his domestic partner living in Williamsburg. By the way, the he’s not registered in the Domestic Partner Registry which Joe did help to get implemented. That’s just a small insight into his character.

    If Shayan ruffled feathers those birds deserved it. By the way, Shayan wins more battles than Joe any day. Is he controversial? I wouldn’t use that word. I would say that he displays a passion that is deeply moving versus a cold fish with no emotion at all.

  11. Setting the personal attack (the cold fish comment) aside as baseless. You’re one critique is still that you think Joe doesn’t live in the district when his drivers license clearly says he does. Is Shayan’s only qualification that he lives in the district? You’re side’s denial of Joe p’s legal residence is like the Tea Partiers who refuse to accept that the president’s birth certificate is real. Both candidates have publicly stated that the other is perfectly qualified to serve if elected. And yet, people like you, Jerry, love to attack the record of service of a good progressive leader rather than try to sell the positive merits of Shayan.

  12. Gee, where did I attack his record of service? I said his work was admirable. You keep harping that he lives in the district, and I’ll admit that he does now but he didn’t then. By the way My post did extoll the merits of Shayan. Perhaps you read only what you want to read.

  13. What’s sad is that after Tuesday we are going to have a winner and a loser. And all of these public attacks are going to be used against the winner. The GOP is having an even more contentious primary, and yet we don’t read about it on public blogs. Good for them.

  14. hmm…. if Joe is a “good progressive resident of District 49” (29 who lives with his twin, c’mon?!) then why did he live with his partner 45 minutes away from the district as of a few weeks ago?

    is he split with his long-time partner?

    or is he just trying to build some street-cred in District 49?

    That’s what I thought.

    BTW check your facts, FDP isn’t supposed to endorse in primaries against other Democrats. So I have no earthly idea what you are talking about, but then again neither do you…

  15. BTW On the other hand (Randolph troll or an Eskamani no doubt)


  16. the fact that Joe has to bring out his driver’s license (he did at my door when I asked about his residency)

    doesn’t inspire confidence…

    but we will see tomorrow night, let’s hope the BEST MAN (Shayan Elahi) wins.

  17. Doug, Democrats lose elections because they are afraid to go to battle and get tested by fire. Shayan is not. I’m not half as concerned about the opposition party as I am about my party. If Joe does win then the Republicans will have a field day with him, and rightfully so-he’s running in the wrong district and since he had to move anyway there were plenty of other districts he could have run in unopposed including Senate district 13 if he so chose.

  18. Sarah, you should check your facts. FDP recorded a video that figured their supported candidates including Joe, and they gave the Saunders campaign a $7,000 in-kind donation. I think their support is clear, but thanks for playing.

  19. It’s possible to ruffle feathers and still get things done. Shayan clearly doesn’t have that talent.

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