Guest column by Kevin Thurman
In 2010 when Andrew Gillum was the last to concede the chairmanship to Rod Smith we elected another party chair that took that position without explaining to Democrats how they plan to change our electoral fortunes. This record stretches back decades.
In fact, in 2002 after Bob Poe left his position as Party Chair due to major electoral losses . Scott Maddox didn’t even have an opponent . We’ve been electing party chairs without opposition or real plans for a long time. So it’s great we are trying something different — with the race between Allison Tant and Alan Clendenin. We are using a chair race to determine the direction of the Party. States like Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina, and dozens of others had these kinds of fights years ago. We never did.
Why? Florida Democrats face an uphill battle to raise as much money as Republicans for state races we have taken a typical and understandable route of avoid primary fights or internal party elections. We’d like focus on winning the next election, right? It’s a reasonable strategy, but over the last 14 years it just hasn’t worked.
This time Florida Democrats may actually get to cast a vote for who their chair will be. Even after some good victories we are taking a serious look at how we can do better. And now, for the first time ever, we have two plans for Democrats to review and throw their support behind.
If you need an example just look at each of their plans (Alan’s plan & Allison’s plan). Then you’ll see that we are getting some improvements no matter who becomes the next party chair:
– More focus on local parties
– More extensive recruitment
– A new fundraising committee to expand the donor base
– Better engagement with activists
If all these four things happen we will be in a much better place as a Party. And it’s something that Florida Democrats can hold their Party Chair accountable for no matter who wins later this month.
However, there are some very specific differences. Clendenin has committed to a 67 county strategy and recruitment, Tant hasn’t. Clendenin has committed to focuing efforts on GOTV, Tant hasn’t. Clendenin is running a much more grassroots oriented campaign. Tant has much more experience raising large sums than Clendenin. Tant is more focused on the Governor’s race than Clendenin. I could go on and on — but there are good arguments for us to have as a party and we will be better for it.
This race reminds me a lot of the 2004 DNC Chairs race I worked on. In the end Howard Dean results showed he did did well as DNC chair, but I understood why many supported Martin Frost at the time.
That is why I am glad this race is happening. I endorse the election and I think both will already be better party leaders after the race is finished than they would before it. I really don’t care who wins the majority of votes.
This race does present is one danger: personal attacks. While Clendenin and Tant haven’t been incredibly negative — many of their supporters have been. I am disappointed with some Clendenin supporters attacks on party staff, consultants, and fundraisers. I am also disappointed with some Tant supporters attacks on activists, volunteer, and leaders. Let’s keep those to a minimum and instead argue on how to build a strong party.