Florida’s Democrats continue in a self congratulatory mode almost three weeks removed from the election. As we’ve stated before, with the Obama wave and redistricting came countless opportunities for the Democrats to pick up marginal legislative seats that they failed to capitalize on. But the Republicans, disappointed by even minimal Democratic gains have already begun recruiting candidates and organizing for 2014. The Democrats? Party elders are taking a go-slow approach. Many want the new FDP Chairman selected in late January, depriving the party an opportunity to begin preparations for the 2014 cycle BEFORE legislative session begins and ceding a several month head start to the GOP. With all of the advantages the Republicans enjoy in state races, the Democrats do not need to continue the cycle of self inflicted wounds that have turned state government into a one party monopoly.
Generally in off-year elections Democrats perform poorly with 2006 a very notable exception. In 2006, Democrats made major gains particularly in Pinellas County in nearby Sarasota. 2012, will be seen as a cycle of missed opportunities in Pinellas, as Democrats let three winnable seats slip through their fingers. These three seats were among a dozen Democrats could have picked up in what was a wave election, and yet the party claimed victory touting “historic gains.”
How historic were Democrats gains in 2012? Not historic at all. While Democrats picked up Senate seats for the first time in a quarter century, both seats were essentially conceded to the party in reapportionment and simply gets the Democrats back to the number of seats held by the party after the 2008 election. In fact, the Senate drew 15 clear Democratic seats and 2 that leaned Democrat, so the party is still three seats below the number it ought to win.
Over in the House, the scene is equally pathetic. This cycle’s redistricting aided five seat gain is less than what was achieved in the 2006 cycle and will go down historically as an opportunity lost for the party. While Florida has turned blue in national elections (Democrats have essentially won 4 of the past 5 Presidential races in this state) the Florida Democratic Party has accumulated a record in state races since 1998 worse than any other Democratic Party east of the Mississippi. Changing Tallahassee begins with not playing catchup and reactive politics again for the 2014 cycle.
Chairman Rod Smith should be forced by party activists to hold the organizational meeting for the FDP for the 2014 cycle as soon as possible, preferably on December 15th or 22nd so that the party can begin the new year with a Chairperson in place and begin implementing a new plan and vision for 2014.