Broward County has long been the most Democratic urban county in the state. For years statewide candidates have sought to maximize vote totals coming out of the county to offset certain losses in other parts of the state. For many years a faction of local Democratic leaders have worked outside the DEC creating organizations and networks that benefit candidates of both parties. At issue is the perceived performance of Mitch Caeser, DEC Chairman since 1996. He is being challenged by OFA’s Cynthia Busch who is well regarded by activists in the county and beyond.
The critique of the local party is that it is not an effective political organization. This critique, while having a certain degree of validity, has not been reflected in results. Broward consistently over-performs relative to Democratic and NPA registration, though the numbers have been stable for years. But critics claim that these numbers owe itself to activists organizing on the side, which is an infrastructure outside the party that has existed now for decades in the county.
As someone who is a seated DEC member and has to cast a vote in this race, I have a few observations. My feeling has been for years that the Broward Party needs to improve its structure, communications and organization. When I was a staffer for the Palm Beach DEC over a decade ago, we maintained a sophisticated targeting operation which utilized the most advanced technology of the day, maintained a presence in all portions of the county and communicated regularly with voters even outside of the election cycles. We also got involved in municipal elections to attempt to build a bench in a county which at the time had more Republican local elected officials than Democrats, despite a heavy Dem performance edge.
Broward’s Democratic Party right now isn’t well organized and doesn’t maintain a real presence between elections. Technology is not being used effectively and communications are spotty at best. This comes despite the fact that Chairman Caeser is one of the most articulate and positive spokespeople the Democratic Party in Florida has, and his presence in both a room and on TV is impressive when contrasted with other Dem leaders across the state.
Question marks exist for the opposition as well. Backed by multiple local political consultants who often work both sides of the street, Caeser’s opponents don’t have a real plan for what they would do differently other than to say they would organize more effectively and engage activists. Running a party is not an easy business and in my experiences around DECs and the FDP, stretching back 15 years, I have seen many local parties run substantially worse than Broward’s. A prerequisite for running for party office should be to produce a public plan that can be dissected much as Alan Clendenin has done on the state level.
The opposition has fielded a slate of candidates that have been around Democratic politics for a long while. Many have for various reasons opposed Caeser’s leadership and that of the other officers in the Broward DEC. Both sides have questions to answer regarding how they would run the party. These DEC races with an election slated for December 6th are worth watching by Democrats across the state.