Wasting Money: The Florida Democratic Party’s way in 2012!

Now that the election is over, let’s take a look at how the Florida Democratic Party did in this cycle. Much like the celebration at the end of the Bad News Bears (in which the Bad News Bears celebrate as if they have won, even though they lost), the Florida Democratic Party pats themselves on the back, even though this election cycle was filled with poor decision making.

Yes, the Democrats did pick up some seats in the state house. But did they really do better than expected. With the exception of Carl Zimmerman and Mike Clelland (and some will argue Mark Danish), the Florida Democratic Party picked up the seats they were expected to pick up. The FDP’s “trickle down” theory, where they would spend massive amounts of money and resources on the presidential and congressional races and thus the coattails would trickle down to the down ballot races, didn’t really work.

Therefore, let’s examine what the Florida Democratic Party did in this election cycle and determine if it was money well spent or money absolutely wasted.

The first race we are going to look at is State Senate District 14. Darren Soto was in a heavily Democratic district. Even though his opponent Bill McBride was a millionaire, he was still a Republican. Some thought that the money that McBride pumped into this district would give him the win. Instead, Soto won in one of the most lopsided victories in the Florida Senate with 70% of the vote. To ensure that Soto would win by 30%, the Florida Democratic Party pumped in more than $100,000 into this race. The numbers indicated that Soto would easily win this race, and the FDP should have known that. Therefore, this was a good $100,000 wasted that could have gone to other races.

In the Senate District 8 race, Frank Bruno also received a large amount of FDP funds. But in the end, Bruno lost by a larger-than-expected margin. Like Soto, over $100,000 was spent in the Bruno race. As St. Pete Polls accurately predicted in mid-October, Bruno would lose by a substantial margin. Therefore, why did the FDP pump over $30,000 into the last week of the campaign? Yes, some of it was for staff, but the majority wasn’t. This is another case in which the FDP did a poor job reading the electorate and not seeing the writing on the wall. They continued to throw good money into a bad race and were burnt. While we at the Political Hurricane were big fans of Frank Bruno, we knew a few weeks before the election that his chances of winning this race were slim.

The two races mentioned above were considered some of the closer races in Florida, and they weren’t even that close. As far as the Bogdanoff vs. Sachs race, that was an important race and all the money that the Florida Democratic Party put into it made sense. Still, let’s look at some of the other races.

While we did support her candidacy, let’s look at the Nancy Soderberg race. Yes, she was a qualified candidate….for Congress. On the other hand, I just felt that the State Senate race didn’t fit her right. Still, in State Senate District 4, Rick Scott won with 62% of the vote, and John McCain won with 64% of the vote. Florida Democratic Party thought if they pumped in over $110,000 into this district and Soderberg lost to  Aaron Bean by 24%.

In regards to the Soderberg race, we do understand that much of this could have been soft money being pumped in from DC and other places instead of the Florida Democratic Party itself making the decisions to put resources here. Therefore, we aren’t going to scrutinize this spending by the FDP as much as we are with the other funds being spent. Still, I mention the Soderberg race because we only assume it is soft money, and not 100% sure where the money came from.

In Senate District 25, the FDP spent $9,750 on polling in a district that was easily going to go Democrats. Joe Abruzzo won by 14%.

In Senate District 27, the FDP spent $27,000 on Jeff Clemens campaign, even though he was against an NPA. Yes, Clemens won with 99.92% of the vote.

Now this one gets me. Either it is a mistake or one of the biggest errors in political history (hopefully it is the former). Senator Chris Smith was given an in-kind contribution by the Florida Democratic Party of $113,950 for “photography”. Hopefully the decimal point on that number was put in the wrong place or it wasn’t really spent on photography. If not….wow!

In Senate District 23, Gwen Margolis was given $23,000 in a district which she won by 24%. Again, not a shocking result.

Therefore, just in State Senate seats alone, there was enough wasteful spending that could have helped a few State House campaigns fully function with full-time staffs. Excluding the Chris Smith “photography” as a small error, and only using $30,000 of the money that was given to Frank Bruno, as well as excluding the Soderberg money, the Florida Democratic Party spent $190,000 on races that were already foregone conclusions. If the Florida Democratic Party split that into three State House races, that would be $63,000 each, easily enough to run a well-organized campaign, especially in the close campaigns of the non-FDP targeted Democrats.

So,  $190,000 in the Senate (possible over $300,000 if Chris Smith was really given a very expensive photo shoot by the FDP), let’s now look at the Florida House.

In House District 9, Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda was given $4,000 by the Florida Democratic Party. She won by 24%.

In House District 14, where Mia Jones won 79% of the vote, the Florida Democratic Party gave her campaign $20,000.

In House District 43, where Ricardo Rangel won 68% of the vote, the Florida Democratic Party gave his campaign $4,500.

In House District 84, Perry Thurston was given $2,000, though he won over 80% of the vote.

In the House, the useless spending was much less and seemed to be controlled. Only about $31,000 was spent in places where it didn’t need to be spent. Still, $31,000 is just enough money to help a smaller campaign get the staff and knowledge to help their candidate get close. Yes, $31,000 might not help a candidate wage a winning campaign, but it could help them run a competitive race, which will make Republicans spend money in a district where they otherwise might not spent it.

With Florida Democratic Party fundraising being at a dismal low, spending priorities need to be considered. Giving over $100,000 to a candidate that is going to win their district with 70% of the vote is highly wasteful. While Democrats are patting themselves on the back for mostly winning seats that, honestly, we should have won anyway, the Florida Democratic Party left some good candidates high and dry.

It wasn’t smart decision-making at the top that helped the Democrats this cycle…it was Fair Districts. The FDP had nothing to do with that.

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5 thoughts on “Wasting Money: The Florida Democratic Party’s way in 2012!

  1. Good article but you missed the most obvious one: 30k for Bob Henriquez in the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser race. Imagine how many House races that could have made an effect on?

  2. This is a tough one. On one hand I agree that the money could have benefited House candidates including a few in the Tampa Bay area and Polk County. But then again defeating Ronda Storms before emerges as a statewide force using Hillsborough County office to promote her views is a long-term investment worth making. For all the people who ridicule Storms as crazy, I’ve seen characters like her emerge statewide and the Christian right would have pulled out all the stops to promote her. She would have been very dangerous in county-wide office.

  3. I really appreciate this analysis. Fair Districts won those seats. The FDP was really limited of what they could do with the line drawing, but they could have at least made some lemonade. It needs to stop acting like the DCCC and seek out more seats rather than helping incumbents that really need to stop being lazy. I really think the major goals in the next ten years needs to be that Democrats need to have majority delegations in the big counties like Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Miami-Dade and have those delegations be solidly held with good candidates and strong advocacy for the urban/suburban needs. If the Democrats can just abandon the rural vote–we can move on to that goal.

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