The closeness of the FDP Chairs race exposed the fault lines on the state party level that exist throughout Florida. They also demonstrated the strong support two excellent candidates had gained through a bruising campaign. Alan Clendenin put many important reform minded ideas on the table, that were embraced by rank in file DEC members across the state. Allison Tant, who has had a key role in formulating and funding a progressive network of advocacy groups that have helped negatively define Rick Scott, also has a background as a strong fundraiser.
The contest could have served as a springboard for ideas and uniting the party going into a tough 2014 election cycle. But what has instead happened is that feuds, both age old and brand new are consuming DEC’s throughout the state.
Large county DECs seem to always be characterized by factions and right now is no exception. But it seems the energy and possible positive momentum generated by a contentious but necessary race for FDP Chair (the closest in election in at least two decades) may be refocused on petty in-fighting at the DEC level.
Some of the trouble is directly related to the FDP Chair’s Race. In other counties, the state chair’s race simply provided an easy and convenient excuse for local factions to create controversy.
In Palm Beach County, State-committeeman John Ramos support for Allison Tant was in direct opposition to 97% of his DEC who recommended a vote for Alan Clendenin. Ramos does deserve to be held accountable in some fashion for his vote which was in defiance of the overwhelming majority of his DEC. However, it appears some of the push to create trouble for Ramos locally is coming from disgraced former Chairman Mark Alan Siegel, who himself harbored ambitions of being Chairman of the State Party. Siegel’s propensity for scandal and embarrassing misstatements as well as the declining share of the vote Democrats obtained in the county under his leadership should be more than enough reason to not empower him again. But alas, Palm Beach County’s DEC has long been influenced by outside forces, some of which seek to keep the party weak in order to help local & statewide Republicans. Siegel himself is a loyal Democrat, but the problems caused on the local DEC are often caused by anything but loyal Democrats.
In Miami-Dade County, Chairwoman Annette Taddeo’s strong support for Allison Tant (she has since been appointed FDP 2nd Vice Chair) contrasted with the leadership of State Committeeman Brett Berlin’s support for Alan Clendenin. From where I sit the majority of Democrats active in the county supported Clendenin and applaud Berlin’s leadership role in the Clendenin camp. Taddeo does have her backers and seems committed to recruiting new people to the party, though those new folks may simply be personal loyalists of hers. But the race has opened up new wounds in a DEC which has been uneven and inconsistent through the years.
Orange County is a strange situation entirely. Chairman Scott Randolph as well as both State Committee-people supported Allison Tant whereas most of the local opposition supported Alan Clendenin. At Monday’s DEC meeting a proposal by Randolph to change the meeting schedule was met with resistance by the opposition. This situation is at least on the surface completely unrelated to the FDP Chairs Race. The next day a writer at the West Orlando News using the peculiar pseudonym “sources” wrote a piece which has no place in the discourse related to our party or any civilized society. According to “sources,” ” the recent spectacle he made of himself at the monthly DEC meeting revealed that Mr. Randolph may have some deep-seated self-esteem dysfunctions.”
Regardless of where you stand on Randolph’s DEC leadership this sort of statement is so completely out of bounds the now infamous “sources,” deserves to be roundly condemned. While as a blogger I generally support the rights of the independent media to question various things, this is the sort of rubbish that gives bloggers a bad name. First off, the blogger is anonymous hiding behind a silly, maniacal pseudonym. Secondly, the quoted attack on Chairman Randolph, in fact the entire first two paragraphs of the piece were so out of line, you would think it was something the slanderous pro-Jefferson tabloid writer Benjamin Franklin Bache had written about John Adams, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton in the early days of the Republic. Thirdly, personal attacks about fi nances and alleged mental issues do not belong in ANY article about public figures unless they can be proven with empirical evidence or quotes. In this case, no attempt was made to ascertain the truth, but instead the only effort made was to slander Chairman Randolph.
In Broward County, many activists have been expressing anger at John Ramos this week for his vote breaking up the unity of the southeast Florida vote bloc in the FDP election. Still Broward, where Clendenin was popular has its own factional problems which are sure to reappear now that the state chair’s race has ended. In Broward, unlike some other counties support for Clendenin’s candidacy proved to be a cause to unite disparate factions in the DEC at least in some sense.
Several Volusia County activists also seem to be disappointed in the support from the DEC leadership for Allison Tant. Conversely, some county activists in places where Clendenin got the state committee votes are unhappy with those votes.
The bottom line is it had been years since we had a state chair’s race so close and energetic. In the week since the Lake Mary election, the deep divides that characterize many local parties have reopened and in some cases are getting uglier by the day.