Over the last few months, the only talk regarding the Florida Democrats Party has been the fight for the FDP Chair position. And while this position is important in regards to the direction of the party over the next four years, it isn’t as important as the overall goal, which is to get Democrats elected. On the other hand, Republicans have already started to position themselves for the 2014 election.
Even though it is extremely early in the election season, Republicans have already recruited quality candidates in what could be considered their two top targeted seats, as well as one seat that is more than likely in their top ten targets. As for the Democrats, there has been an absolute lack or recruitment during this period. While it is important that Democrats pick the right leader, it is important that those who work for the party do their jobs as well, even if they might not have jobs in the future. The fact is that they do now.
The three Democrats that the Republicans have already targeted are Mike Clelland, Neil Zimmerman and Karen Castor Dentel.
In the Mike Clelland race, Republicans have already recruited Scott Plakon, who actually lived in this district in 2012, but was forced to run in another district because he would be running against Chris Dorworth, who eventually lost. Plakon ran a sloppy, and controversial, campaign in 2012 which could hurt him in his race against Clelland. Still, even with this baggage, Mr. Clelland barely defeated ethically-challenged Mr. Dorworth in a Democratic year. The assumption is that the Republicans can easily win this seat in 2014. Still, the question that remains is if Plakon will be the only Republican candidate. Other Republicans who were afraid to take on Dorworth might jump into this race as well. Still, even with a possible bitter primary on the horizon, the Republicans are strong in this seat.
Just down the street, Rep. Karen Castor Dentel has already drawn a strong Republican opponent in Longwood City Commissioner Bob Cortes. Cortes currently lives outside the district, even though he has set up a PO Box in Altamonte Springs to give the appearance that he lives in the district. If Cortes is the Republican nominee, he would be the second Republican candidate to run for this seat that does not actually live in the district. Even with that being said, Cortes is the owner of a towing company named Cortes Towing Services, so he has both money and name identification. Also, Cortes is fluent in both English and Spanish. With the Hispanic voting age population in this district being 18%, this language skill could help turn the tide for Cortes. This race is very much shaping up like the 1994 race between Kim Shepard and Winter Park City Councilman and businessman Allen Trovillion.
Over in Pinellas County, Carl Zimmerman has also drawn a Republican opponent. Chris Sprowls. a 28-year old from Tarpon Springs, has an extremely impressive resume while also having a touching personal story. Sprowls was diagnosed with Hodgkin ’s disease as a high school senior and underwent chemotherapy for nine months. Since then, he has been an advocate for breast cancer awareness. Even with this personally story, he is successful professionally, graduating from Stetson Law School and eventually becoming Assistant State Attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit. He also has the looks and knows how to speak. And with this district already a Republican-leaning district, the GOP now has the upper hand in winning back the seat.
So, the Republicans have already recruited quality candidates for their targets. What have the Democrats done? Absolutely nothing.
So far, the only two non-incumbent Democrats that have announced they are running for State House are in strong African-American districts where it is impossible for Republicans to win. The Florida Democratic Party itself hasn’t done anything to recruit quality candidates in key districts that Democrats can win. Much of this might have to do with the fact that House Victory consultant Christian Ulvert has concentrated more time on actively campaigning for a specific candidate in the FDP Chair race instead of doing his job, which he is being paid to do. Right now, Mr. Ulvert seems to be in self-survival mode. And while that is understandable, it is highly irresponsible for him to abandon the task that he was hired by the FDP to do, which is to organize House Victory and recruit quality candidates.
Could these problem regarding the lack of candidate recruitment have been avoided? Yes, easily. Of course, if FDP staffers weren’t worried about self-preservation and actually did the job they were paid to do, then we might have some quality candidates in some of our targeted districts. So far we have none. In addition, the move by the FDP to move the Chair’s race from December to January has already resulted in the party being severely behind the eight ball.
The question over the next few months is to see if the Florida Democratic Party, no matter wins this chair race this weekend, will recruit quality candidates over the next three to six months. Currently, the system is broken. In addition Mr. Ulvert has failed to do his job. Not only did he have a “less than impressive” performance in 2012, where he helped us win districts that we will lose in 2014 as well as not recruit candidates in districts that we could have retained, but he has also not done a single thing regarding the 2014 election. Hopefully after January 26th, Florida Democrats will put the pedal to the metal.