Over the past few weeks, there has been a jousting match between supporters of Representatives Darryl Rouson and Mia Jones regarding which one should take the helm for the Democrats in the Florida House starting in 2015. Jones’ supporters have gone after Rouson for being a former Republican, pro-school voucher, questionable on LGBT and women’s issues, as well as having connections with Barry Edwards, who has consulted for a number of Republican candidates in Pinellas County. Rouson’s supporters says that Jones is a carbon copy of current Democratic leader Perry Thurston, and will keep the same House Victory staff that has been responsible for the failures during the last election cycle, particular lead consultant Christian Ulvert.
Honestly, supporters of both candidates have valid arguments. There doesn’t seem to be a “fit all” solution to the current choices for House party leader. But what if the candidate pool was expanded? With this, I present to you Mark Pafford.
Just to be clear, Mr. Pafford hasn’t expressed any interest in being in this race, but I, personally, think he would be the best choice for the position. Let me go into why this is the case.
First, let’s look at positions on the issues. As progressive Democrats, we would like for someone that best represents our views. While both candidates have been liberal on a number of issues, Mr. Rouson’s questionable history on education issues should disqualify him from this office. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, because we are talking about a state legislature, education issues are a much higher priority than on the federal level. With that being said, we need a leader that will stand up against school vouchers instead of cutting deals with Republicans to come up with some sort of compromise on important education issues. While compromise is very important in many cases, it isn’t in the case of education. Democrats need to stand firm on this one.
Also, in regards to issues, we need a leader that is a pure progressive so that they can always argue on the side of the minority. Continuing on the school voucher issue, what would we be telling the citizens of Florida about the Democratic Party’s view on the issue when most of the members are against it but the leader could possible be for it? These mixed messages cannot exist within the party leadership role. While Harry Reid has been able to defer the issue of abortion for the greater good of the Democratic Party in the US Senate, I am not entirely sure that Mr. Rouson would do the same.
Of course, Mia Jones does hold the majority view of the House Democratic Caucus and would be able to argue for the minority party in the House. So would Mark Pafford. In this case, both Pafford and Jones get the nod, with Pafford being much more efficient with his time in Tallahassee than Jones.
Second, let’s look at the role of the candidates when it comes to being active in Florida Democratic politics. This is where both Jones and Rouson fail to impress. Many of Rouson’s supporters have argued that Jones is only a hand-picked choice of Perry Thurston and House Victory consultants. With her previous lack of serious activity in House Democratic politics, this argument seems to hold water. Also, her $20,000 contribution in 2012 from the FDP also strengthens the argument for Rouson supporters. As for Rouson, the “former Republican” aspect and supporter of Charlie Crist in 2010 (more on that later) comes up again. Therefore, his loyalty to the party could be questioned as well.
Now let’s look at Mark Pafford. He has been involved in either government or community activity over the last 33 years. He has worked in federal, state and local government. And during that entire time, he has been a loyal progressive. Therefore, when it comes to Democratic political activity on all levels, Mr. Pafford wins, hands down.
A third aspect that we can look at is the passion of the candidates. Both Darryl Rouson and Mia Jones seem to lack the passion that is needed to debate issues on the floor of the House. In the case of Mr. Pafford, he brings the passion that is needed to help energize Democrats. During his time in the legislature, he has effectively debated issues and has been proactive in crafting legislation. Democrats need to ask themselves “who do we want as the face of the Democratic Party in the Florida House”, and passion should be part of answering that question.
Finally, we come to loyalty. Both Mr. Pafford and Mrs. Jones are loyal to the Democratic Party, there in no doubt about that. But in the case of Mr. Rouson, he was a supporter of Charlie Crist early on. If there was any time where elected Democratic officials were called on to show their loyalty, it was in the US Senate race. True, Rouson and Crist are close buddies, but that isn’t an excuse to blow off the first African-American Democratic nominee for the US Senate in Florida, especially if you are seeking a leadership position in the party two years later. While Rouson “officially” endorsed Crist in August of 2010, he was already attending Crist campaign office openings in May of 2010. Therefore, we Democrats just asked for a little bit of loyalty, Rouson failed to deliver.
So, when we look at the candidates for Democratic House leader, both Rouson and Jones fail to deliver. Both have their own unique faults in certain places, but also share a lot of faults as well. As for Rep. Pafford, he is a liberal, he is a loyal Democrat, he will not sell out, he will agree with the majority of his party on the issue, he will provide passionate debate, he will be an effective leader and he will help Democrats make a name for themselves during a vitally important session, right before the next presidential election.
Also, when it comes to fundraising, Mr. Pafford has raised more than enough money for his campaign for State House over the years. There doesn’t seem to be any difference between Mr. Pafford, Mr. Rouson or Mrs. Jones when it comes to this aspect. In fact, the current candidates have failed to even show any history of extensive fundraising experience.
Again, Mr. Pafford didn’t say he was running for the position, and I have never heard that he had intentions to run for the position. I just wish that he would. Still, I truly feel if the responsibility of the House Democratic leader for House Victory was eliminated (thus eliminating House Victory or incorporating it into the FDP), more people would run for this position.