Back in 2007, when I worked for John Edwards in Reno, I attended the J-J Dinner which was held the day after the presidential debate between the major candidates. At that dinner, all of the Democratic candidate for president were able to speak at the event. Yes, I met the eventual president Barack Obama. I also met the future vice-president Joe Biden. I also met some of the other candidates, including former Alaska governor Mike Gravel. Basically, the entire Democratic field, even candidates who were not invited to attend the debate on the previous evening, were allowed to speak at the Nevada Democratic Party’s J-J Dinner.
In Florida, it seems we have a different case. The only serious candidate to announce that they are running for any constitutional office position, former Senator Nan Rich, had been told by the Florida Democratic Party that she would not be given a speaking spot at the upcoming J-J Dinner. Mind you, Senator Rich isn’t just someone who threw her name into the mix, with it eventually being removed once the filing deadline rolls around. She is a recent Senate minority leader and has already raised more than what most people expected this far into her campaign. So, Senator Rich’s exclusion from the upcoming J-J Dinner is baffling.
This is the second controversy in a row in which the J-J Dinner has been the center of attention because of poor decision making by the Florida Democratic Party. Last year, the Florida Democratic Party ran a commercial during the J-J Dinner in which they featured candidates who had Democratic opponents, showing that they were purely taking sides in what should have been a party-neutral situation. After the commercial was produced, future Rep. Joe Saunders stated at an Orange County DEC meeting that he and the other participants were unaware that the commercial was going to be shot, and that they were only there to talk about their campaigns. While this statement seems to be true (as Rep. Saunder’s statement was further confirmed by other sources), the Florida Democratic Party still took the steps to show who they favored in the upcoming election.
The question then becomes if they are doing the same thing at the upcoming J-J Dinner? With the initial buzz of the “Charlie Crist Switch” now wearing off, the J-J Dinner would be the perfect venue for Crist to start his run for governor. Not only will he have a captive audience and television cameras (with national media possibly in attendance) , but he will have an audience with deep pockets who can write multiple $500 checks in one night. Therefore, the J-J might not just be a high-visibility media event, but also a large Charlie Crist fundraiser.
If this ends up being the case, then the question must be asked…”why even run in a Democratic primary”? In the case of last year’s video and the behind-the-scene support that the Party is giving Charlie Crist (or, on the other hand, then unfavorable treatment of Senator Rich), has the Florida Democratic Party already predetermined their primaries? Granted, some cases might slip through the cracks, like Andrew Morey defeating the FDP-favored Aaron Bosshardt. But in most cases the Florida Democratic Party will usually gets its way.
But this latest controversy surrounding the FDP brings up bigger questions, and that is in regards to the leadership and staff of the Florida Democratic Party. Since taking over the FDP, Chairwoman Allison Tant has not been able to bring in the untold riches that she promised during her campaign. In fact, the FDP had the worst 1st quarter fundraising in an off-year in eight years. In addition, nobody has been recruited by the Florida Democratic Party to run for any of the constitutional offices or key congressional seats. With poor fundraising and lack or candidate recruitment, what exactly is the Party doing?
Yes, this is a question of leadership, but also a question of the people that Mrs. Tant has surrounded herself with. Many of these staffers worked with Rod Smith’s during his time at the Florida Democratic Party. Smith’s time as party chair showed just as much of a lack of effort as the current Tant tenure is showing. Senator Rich’s snub for the J-J Dinner is just another example of things running as usual. Still, the question has to be asked as to why they decided to snub her in the first place? Did they not think of bad press before they made their decision? One criticism that I have had of the Florida Democratic Party throughout the years is that they only think about the first step, but never about the following steps, where the real news and controversies arise. The are just careless with their decision making, and this latest situation shows their weakness.
With this snub, it can pretty much be assumed that Charlie Crist is going to announce that he is running for governor on June 15th.
Isn’t it odd that, only two weeks away, and we have no idea who the J-J speaker is going to be? If the FDP just wants to throw their support behind Charlie Crist, it would be nice if they would just man-up and say so, instead of playing these little games. If their goal was to give less attention to Nan Rich, they weren’t successful. If their goal was to not turn a mountain out of a molehill, they were also unsuccessful. Not only have they helped the Rich campaign, they have also further damage an already fragile Florida Democratic Party.
Correction: I have been out of the loop for a while and didn’t realize that they already had a speaker line up. My bad.