Much speculation has occupied these pages and those of similarly minded political websites and blogs over the past month. The discussion in the FDP Chairs Race has been on the whole productive though we have seen some negative episodes some of which have started on these pages. As time moves on it becomes obvious that many of the perceptions that have been driving this race are simply not borne out in reality.
Here are some of the biggest misconceptions out there:
Myth: Alan Clendenin lacks establishment support
Certainly Allison Tant has the majority of support among the political establishment but many establishment figures are backing Clendenin. Look no further than 2010 Gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink as well as multiple DNC members and many elected officials from outside of Hillsborough County to back up this point. Clendenin, in fact is better known throughout the state among establishment Democrats than is Tant.
Myth: Allison Tant lacks grassroots support
While Clendenin has been painted as the candidate of the grassroots, many leading grassroots activists back Allison Tant. Tant has secured the support of many rank-in-file party members as well as multiple leaders in the women’s advocacy community from around the state. Tant’s recent involvement in progressive advocacy groups and the efforts against Rick Scott have won her many friends among activists.
Myth: Alan Clendenin has no support outside of large counties
Tant does have the majority of small county votes, but Clendenin appears poised to gain enough votes from counties like Franklin, Okaloosa and Monroe to creep close to the amount of votes needed to win the contest outright. While Clendenin’s base is in the four most populated counties in the state (where every committee man/woman have committed to him save John Ramos from Palm Beach who flipped to Tant last week) he does have pockets of support throughout the state.
Myth: Allison Tant is a puppet of Debbie Wasserman Schultz
While DWS is campaigning hard for Tant, and offending some party leaders in the process, I am assured that Tant is in fact quite independent of Wasserman-Schultz and may very well enact some reforms within the party. Many of Tant’s best grassroots backers are independent of DWS and have forged a relationship with the candidate for chair completely outside of the circles of the DNC Chair.
Myth: Alan Clendenin is an enemy of the current party
Clendenin’s campaign has smartly been run as an outsider effort using party reform and long-term planning as its objectives. Still Clendenin is a current DNC member and is tied to significantly influential elements within the party. While he is likely to make more lasting changes than Tant, I do not believe he will completely blow up the party and start over as some Tant supporters have claimed. Clendenin will make major changes no doubt, and reform the way the party is structured. But if people are expecting some sort of pitchfork revolution it is not happening with either candidate.
The reality of this race is much more complicated than Alan Clendenin being the outsider and Allison Tant being the insider. Clendenin a DNC member and long standing member of the state committee has more developed relationships with a lot of the people that matter in FDP politics than does Tant. Clendenin has also proven through his union that he can help raise large amounts of money for political causes. By the same token, Tant painted by many as an insider whose completely controlled by others, has proven in her past political actions that she is a non-conformist to some degree and while her plan for the party is not as detailed or extensive as Clendenin’s, the fact that she has offered a plan differs her strongly with the last several chairs.
The election for FDP Chair is being held January 26th in Lake Mary. Each of the last five FDP Chairs have come from north of Orlando, which is a rallying point in southeast Florida, the state’s most populated area. Conversely, many in other parts of the state are tired of those from SE Florida having a disproportionate influence on the state’s electoral politics. Southeast Florida is after all an area that does not resemble the rest of the state culturally or politically.