Since we’ve been so focused on the FDP Chair’s Race the past few months when Palm Beach County comes up, the name John Ramos instantly springs to mind. But the new Palm Beach County State-committeeman has nothing to do with this scandal, which fell squarely during the tenure of Chairman Mark Alan Siegel, Ramos opponent in December for State Committeeman. Ramos vote for Allison Tant, against the wishes of 97% of his DEC has been much talked about (Alan Clendenin was recommended by the DEC in a 97%-3% vote at the January general meeting) and is dominating the local chatter. But it is the disgraceful and possibly criminal scandal of 2012 involving former DEC officer Shahid Freeman that has hit the papers yet again today. Today’s PB Post article is important reading for those of you who did not follow this scandal as it developed last Spring.
The Freeman scandal began to undermine Siegel’s credibility within his DEC, and he was finally ousted after some unfortunate comments at the DNC in Charlotte. I happen to think Siegel may have been set up by clever Republican operatives for his DNC comments and I actually have some sympathy for him on this. I however, do not have any sympathy for him on the Freeman matter, and it was on that issue that John Ramos, now the subject of controversy over his defiant FDP Chair vote stood tall and won support. Ramos after all was a natural spokesperson on an issue like this. Siegel’s instinct was to go into a defensive posture when the Freeman scandal broke and this reaction culminated in a DEC that was torn apart at the seams.
The scandal undermined the credibility of the DEC at a critical time in the 2012 election cycle. With the State Attorney’s office now involved, thankfully Freeman has been distanced from the current DEC leadership and this scandal should have little impact on organizing for the 2014 cycle. As we have discussed previously on this website, Palm Beach County is proving to be more difficult terrain for Democrats than it was in the 1990s and 2000s. While most urban counties in the state are growing more and more Democratic, Palm Beach seems to be backsliding. The local DEC has over the past decade organized a model precinct development program under the leadership of State Committeewoman Bunny Steinman, but other issues remain with the local party.
Factionalism has always been a hallmark of the county DEC and when issues such as Freeman’s scandal appear, it is quickly exploited not only by Republicans but by other Democrats in the area. Some of these Democrats have made deals with local Republicans in the past and have even supported Republicans at the statewide level. It will be important moving forward that the Palm Beach DEC be ultra-careful to not give these nominal Democrats an opportunity to exploit anything resembling the Freeman scandal.