Two weeks ago, Darryl Rouson, who was a registered Republican up until he qualified for the Special Election in his House seat claimed he had enough pledges to be selected as Minority Leader for the 2014-2016 term. Rouson wanted to call an election last week for leader which was within his rights, but current leader Perry Thurston has concerns and did not convene a caucus meeting for this purpose. Interestingly, after thinking about the House Caucus historically I realized we as a party have an absolutely embarrassing record of promoting progressive women into leadership and seem to always default to men “whose turn it is” to be leader. This is very troubling to say the least.
It is absolutely unbelievable to think about the fact that over the past eighteen years (counting the 2012-2014 as having taken place since we already have our leadership team for the next two years) approximately half the members of the Democratic House Caucus have been women, yet in those eighteen years we have had a female Minority Leader for just two years. It is also no coincidence in my mind that Lois Frankel, the one women leader we have selected was arguably the best leader we have had since falling into the minority after the 1996 election.
We are coming off an FDP election where the party discussed new ideas and honestly confronted the almost two decade long losing streak we have encountered. Alan Clendenin who earlier today was defeated narrowly for Chairman brought several ideas and plans to the forefront that need to be acted upon by new Chairwoman Allison Tant. However his candidacy was attacked by some women’s groups because they felt the FDP should have a female chairperson and because of the action of some Clendenin supporters. But in fact, the FDP has a very good track record for having female leaders; over the past twenty years the FDP has had female chairs for a longer period of time than male chairs. By contrast, the House Democratic Caucus on the other hand has a shameful record on this front. It is a record of gender discrimination (even if unintentional) that simply cannot be allowed to continue.
The idea that our caucus continues to promote male leaders, some of which like Ron Saunders simply serve as an agent of accommodation to a reckless and arrogant Republican majority is shocking. Perhaps men make better deal cutters with the Republicans while the women in caucus actually promote and protect progressive ideas and causes. Obviously we have had some excellent male leaders like Dan Gelber, but some like Saunders and Les Miller seem to have been employed more to cut deals and be friendly with the out of touch, directorial GOP leadership than anything else. Promotion of progressive causes and women’s issues have suffered under these regimes.
Jacksonville Democrat Mia Jones is running for Minority Leader and she would be the first African-American female to lead the Democratic Caucus. She would also be the first Democratic Leader in either chamber from Jacksonville in several decades. In the early 1980s, Dempsey Barron unseated President designees from Jacksonville in successive sessions, but that is a story for another day.
In the coming days and weeks, I will more closely examine the legislative and public record of both Rouson and Jones on critical issues to progressives. Rep. Alan Williams, a third declared candidate for Minority Leader is irrelevant to this discussion. While some readers of this site base who they support for party chair, caucus leader and governor on what consultants are aligned with whom, I base my support on progressive and organizational principles.