Leon Democrats Clear Tant Path: FDP Chair Race Offers Clear Choices

The leadership of the Leon County Democratic Party has cleared a path for Allison Tant to become Chair of the local party without opposition at tomorrow night’s organizational meeting. Jon Ausman, a one-time powerhouse in the Florida Democratic Party whose power has recently been waning has decided to drop his bid to return as Chairman of the Leon DEC and will instead run for State Committeeman. Tant will seek to be the fourth successive chair of the FDP from north of Orlando and the sixth successive chair of the party from outside the two largest Metropolitan areas of the state (as defined by the US Census Bureau) and the state’s two largest TV markets (Tampa/St Petersburg and Miami/Fort Lauderdale).

In 1999, when Broward DEC Chair Mitch Ceasar was replaced as state chairman, the party still held many of the rural seats in the legislature and  had in the most recent Presidential election won several rural and exurban counties. Since 1999, the Democrats have gradually lost every single rural seat in the legislature and as a voting bloc have been realigned heavily towards urban areas. President Obama won only 11 of Florida’s 67 counties as Chairman Rod Smith points out, but what seems to be lost on these critics is that he actually won the state by 75,000 votes by carrying those 11 counties. Yet, the state party continues to hire consultants and support statewide candidates who neglect the base Democratic electorate and spend little or no time among the Democrats in these areas. Democratic consultants continue to advocate a strategy for candidates that focuses on small pockets of voters unlikely to support progressive ideals while ignoring the fundamental shift in the electorate that has occurred in this state. One needs to look no further than Alex Sink Gubernatorial campaign for proof of this. The same can be said for Bill McBride’s 2002 defeat when Democratic operatives proudly and publicly proclaimed that we could see a record partisan turnout west of the Suwannee River. What instead happened is that Jeb Bush swept the I-4 corridor and won by a landslide record for a Republican, despite McBride carrying almost every county between the Apalachicola and Suwannee Rivers.

The Florida Democratic Party has since the late 1990s become an even more top-down Tallahassee centric party even as demographic changes have made the Democratic electorate almost entirely based around areas along I-4 and south of Fort Pierce on the Atlantic Coast. While Democrats have fallen into a helpless minority posture in the legislature and have a statewide record in Governor & Cabinet elections since 2000 that is the worst of any state east of the Mississippi, Tallahassee based lobbyists and consultant have in coordination with elected officials (both sitting and recently defeated) concocted various schemes to keep control of the party apparatus. They have done little if anything to support local DECs, even in Florida’s most vote rich counties and continue a trend of hiring inexperienced staff whose world view tends to revolve around the State Capitol building and lobbyists in the area. No doubt these lobbyists and consultants have a role to play, but they should not have complete control over the party apparatus as they have now for more than a decade. The staff can be properly trained if given a real plan to work from and ideas about what goes on politically outside of the second congressional district.

The Tallahassee centric group has provided no plan of action on how to restructure or revitalize a party who is consistently losing elections inspite of favorable demographic, voter registration and ideological attitudes in the state. Our endorsed candidate, Alan Clendenin of Tampa has provided such a plan that  would help enable DECs and activists across the state.  Clendenin’s candidacy is supported by numerous DEC and elected officials from throughout the state. A third candidate, Annette Taddeo-Goldstein of Miami has gained support as a strong voice for the emerging Latino/Hispanic electorate that had been largely ignored by FDP consultants prior to the Obama election in 2008. (hence Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist’s remarkable successes with this demographic in 2002 and 2006)

Tomorrow’s inevitable Leon County victory for Tant will move Florida’s Democrats into a new phase. Three declared candidates, with two from major urbanized areas who can connect with the changing demographic and political landscape, and one from an establishment helplessly out of touch with the reality of today’s Florida. That is the  clear choice going forward.

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14 thoughts on “Leon Democrats Clear Tant Path: FDP Chair Race Offers Clear Choices

  1. As a consumer advocate: I have gone up against Crist on many issues in the pass. Especially on the Clearwater Florida Mits and Toyota cases.

    I have found that he was fair and honest with his opinions and actions. He has this ability to act as a fair middle man.

    I would vote for Crist if he ran for Governor.

    Duane Overholt

  2. The big picture for the future of Democrat Party success in Florida is obvious and clear, but overcoming the narrow self interest of local politicos/consultants will be difficult! Pressure needs to continue and if necessary a coalition established between the urban forces supporting Clendenin and Taddeo-Goldstein.

  3. It is time for our elected Congresswoman and Senator to do the job WE sent them to do and get out of the process to elect a new FDP chair.

  4. Blaming Ausman is counterproductive. He is never to be trusted and if you put your faith in him you get burned.

    The real blame goes to DWS forcing Tant down our throats and pushing a continued insider dominated party that ignores grassroots and DECs. I hope Clendenin can hang in there against this onslaught from the establishment.

    It is also worth nothing that Tant has contributed to several Republican candidates in recent years and has also been a lobbyist cutting deals with republicans. The consultants the party hires almost always have conflicts of interest and are comfortable with keeping a republican majority. I wonder if Tant continues this trend.

  5. While I like Allison Tant Richards personally, I can’t support her candidacy for FDP chair. And, Clendenin will win if we all hang together. I’m making phone calls…….can you?

  6. It’s shameful that Ausman has so much power still. That says a lot about Florida’s Democrats.

    My prediction is if Tant wins you’ll see the rise of outside advocacy groups and improvising urban DECs that form an independent structure of the state party. Like the old DEC Chairs Association.

  7. You continue to disrespect the area if the state that made the Florida Democratic Party. While rest of the state was supporting Ronald Reagan we stuck with Jimmy Carter. When the rest if the state was supporting Paula Hawkins we stuck with Bill Gunter. When the rest if the state was backing Jeb Bush we stuck with Bill McBride. What is most striking is that you have in your posts described this the Carter/Reagan split etc yet you continue to advocate abandonment of this area with real Democrats for areas in central and south Florida with real Republicans. Your formula won’t work. Tallahassee has the best and brightest political brains as well as the most educated electorate. Urban voters turn out for Obama but not for other Dems. Your formula for success and victory relies too heavily on making casual voters permanent while ours relies on connecting with life long Democrats disaffected by the liberal and urban tilt of the party. These voters want to come home and will with the right messaging. The consultants in Tallahassee are experienced with this electorate. Those in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, etc are not and will further drift the party away from its historic guiding principles. It is a fundamental difference in approach and priorities.

  8. Blue Dog,

    You bash urban voters, about how they do not support Democrats. Yet your rural homeland rarely votes Democrat above the county level.

  9. It is very important that we keep the pressure up and let those in the bubble as you guys call it know that the activists around the state are not happy.

  10. Hillsborough County promoted by this blog and the candidate for state chair has elected the likes of Storms, Byrd, Murman and Higganbotham in recent years. They all well too reactionary to be elected up here.

  11. While this was true at one time, the likes of Sidney Catts, Cary Hardee, even Fuller Warren and Hayden Burns are not going to win in this state any longer as Democrats OR Republicans. The types of candidates you are longing for cannot win in a state that is by far the most urbanized in the south. As far as those voters “coming home” I’ve been hearing that bunk for years and don’t buy it all. It’s nonsense and just a way for some political consultants unsure of themselves and their methods in urban areas to keep control of the Dem Party by selling candidates a bill of goods about counties where they are considered “experts.” or would face little competition from real experts.

    True, Tallahassee is considered the most “educated” city in the state based on college degrees but for numerous reasons their is virtually no private industry in the town or in the counties surrounding Tallahassee. The spirit of innovation and creativity that has fostered such growth throughout much of the state has passed the Big Bend region by, so it is by no means a heavyweight of any sort.

  12. Is controlling the FDP really worth the battle? I mean honestly they do so little that they can be worked around by DECs and new start up organizations. Seriously why bother?

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