Yesterday we received one of the best comments we have gotten on this website by Sherman Dorn:
“To be honest, I don’t think either Clendenin or Tant’s choice will matter worth a hill of beans in legislative races unless the culture changes, not only to emphasize the importance of legislative races but to light a fire under DECs and candidates to start much, MUCH earlier. I was cold-called by a few legislative candidates for support… in late September. That’s a very old practice, where candidates are told they don’t have to actually work until after the primary, unless they have a primary opponent.
Until DECs and candidates are given strong incentives to create campaign organizations and start fundraising in 2013 (and by this I mean a specific target of a few hundred donations by the end of 2013), neither Clendenin nor Tant can change the longstanding patterns of the past two decades.”
While Florida’s Democrats continue to fight over the party chair and the direction the FDP will take going forward, critical time is slipping away. After several weeks in a self congratulatory mode, we turned towards a chair race and have forgotten about the need to change our culture. We feel strongly that Alan Clendenin will affect greater change on this culture but the point by Mr. Dorn is well taken. The culture MUST change around the critical nature of legislative races where our party continues to badly under-perform and as far as preparation is concerned. The RPOF legislative committees are already very active trying to recruit candidates for seats they recently lost or upcoming open seats that they feel may be vulnerable.
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 and 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 2000 worse than any other Democratic Party east of the Mississippi. Changing Tallahassee begins not only with structural changes to the party but with not playing catchup and again for the 2014 cycle.