Amidst all the attention on major primaries throughout the state, below the radar an effort to challenge and unseat some leaders of the Broward Democratic Party will also be decided tomorrow. The Sun Sentinel reported Sunday on the effort to defeat Chairman Mitch Caeser within his own precinct, and previously Buddy Nevins has profiled what is at stake locally. Additionally, the state party chair race could be profoundly affected by the results in Broward as Rep. Scott Randloph, Mark Alan Siegel and other potential state party chair candidates will be concerned about the outcomes tomorrow. The December DEC elections will be effected by whatever shifts in power are perceived to have taken place on Primary Day.
The decentralized nature of both the statewide party structure and local DECs like Broward’s have served the party badly over the past two decades. Florida’s Democrats have become too comfortable with the laissez-faire approach where accountability for poor electoral performance is non-existent. Many local officials in Democratic Executive Committees are interested in status and perception of some prestige within the party. While some DECs do a decent job and put in the effort to recruit workers and train them appropriately, they do so in a vacuum with little or no guidance or interaction from the state party. I served as the Field Coordinator for the DEC Chairs Association over ten years ago and while some DECs like Doug Head’s Orange County participated effectively and actively, most did not. Why? I do not think most of the DECs had any real interest in organizing at a high level and coordinating activities with neighboring counties where districts where Democrats were running may overlap.
In fairness, Broward’s DEC is far from the least functional in the state. Many of the DEC’s in the I-4 corridor area and medium sized counties on both coasts are suffering from a lack of leadership and inability to properly organize. Relative to what goes in other DEC’s across the state, Broward’s is pretty good. Relative to how effective it could be, the Broward Democratic Executive Committee is not firing on all cylinders.
DEC’s need to work on recruiting local candidates, training precinct captains to turn out the vote, training potential campaign workers, and also to be the central hub for all Democratic related matters in a county. The continued use of DECs to promote personal political agendas or political consulting practices have led even the strongest Democratic counties in the state to be under-performers in critical elections. Broward must be considered in the category of large counties where the DEC has become excessively political, and where the effectiveness of the party itself has been undermined by personal grudges on both sides. The mere fact so many precinct committeeman and committeewoman slots are being seriously contested on August Primary ballot is proof of this.
A good percentage of precincts in the county find contested elections tomorrow. I am fortune as an incoming Committeeman that I have been left unopposed for DEC election but both factions of the local DEC have gone all out this election to target certain individuals who lead the various factions. (As a point of reference about the DEC, I have been on several boards of Democratic clubs since the late 1990s and yet have never until this year attempted to be a seated member of the DEC. I think most activists don’t bother to run for the DEC unless they have some specific motivation to do so- this motivation is typically unrelated to party organizing) The stakes are high if the DEC is to actually be proactive and accomplish what the critics of the party feel is not being done. Or the elections themselves could be meaningless if the DEC is not going to be used as a positive instrument for recruiting, training and electing Democrats.