Before I get into the meat and bones of this article, I am going to do something that people in politics never do. I will admit that I was wrong. A few months ago, I questioned whether Darryl Rouson was the right future leader for the House Democratic Caucus. When I made that argument, I had legitimate reasons to come to this conclusion. Being a former Republican, as well as having some questionable comments in the past, I worried that Rouson might try to convince House Democrats to lean more toward the AIF, Florida Chamber and other right-wing-friendly organizations. But after this legislative session, I must say that I was wrong. Rep. Rouson was a reliable Democrat, and had a better voting record than some who I assumed would have a flawless record.
With that being said, let’s move over to the job that Rep. Rouson has been given, which is leading House Democrats to victory in the 2014 election. So far, there hasn’t been any real movement on this front. No serious Democrats have been recruited for key seats, and the Republicans have already recruited formidable candidates against Carl Zimmerman, Mike Clelland and Mark Danish. Even with this being the case, is Rep. Rouson’s hands tied in the matter?
Not only has there been no movement in recruiting candidates for the Florida House, there has also been no movement by the Florida Democratic Party in general. Last quarter, the FDP had their worst 1st quarter odd-year fundraising in eight years. As far as candidates, the FDP hasn’t recruited anyone for any of the constitutional offices, with self-recruited former State Senator Nan Rich being the only serious candidate for any of the positions. As far as grassroots organization, nothing has happened, though that might not be an indicator of anything since we are not in an election season. Even so, the Florida Democratic Party hasn’t produced anything whatsoever since Allison Tant has assumed the Chair position of the party. Still, Rod Smith didn’t do much either.
So, let’s go back to the situation that Rep. Rouson finds himself in. As most of us know, mid-term elections are usually not that great for Democrats, as Democratic voter turnout is reduced, especially in Central Florida. Because of this, the Republicans are already given an Election Day advantage over Democrats.
With this being the case, Rep. Rouson has only a few options available to him. First, he can try to retain the pick ups that Democrats had in 2012. This means putting a lot of resources in two seats that the Democrats could likely lose (Zimmerman and Clelland). In the end, this would more than likely result in a net loss for Democrats and they would go into the 2015 legislative session with less seats.
Another option is that Rep. Rouson spends more time in seats Democrats can pick up, leaving seats like Zimmerman’s and Clelland’s to fend for themselves. This could minimize the loss, but would more than likely result in no real change in seats for the Democrats.
The best, possibly third option is that Rep. Rouson could retain those seats while trying to pick up new ones. But that is more of a dream, not an option.
Unfortunately for Rep. Rouson, it is looking more like there is a fourth option which will have to be exercised. That option is to only concentrate on seats that Democrats can retain, while not being able to recruit candidates. Why is this the option that Rep. Rouson might be dealing with? Because the Florida Democratic Party isn’t pulling its weight, and House Victory might have to do all the work themselves, including massive fundraising. Therefore, Rep. Rouson looks as if he is having an uphill battle.
But is this situation happening because the FDP has been lazy since Allison Tant has become FDP Chair, or is this an intentional move by some of the staff in the Florida Democratic Party to undermine House Victory? Rumors have been swirling around that FDP Political Director Christian Ulvert has suggested that the FDP wishes to fold both House and Senate Victory into the Florida Democratic Party so that the Party has complete control over the process. Of course, these are speculations but from reliable sources.
What does this mean if the FDP takes over the entire process? Well, a number of things which I will list now:
1. Uncommitted staff takes over process: As I mentioned already, the Florida Democratic Party has done nothing in regards to recruiting candidates for offices so far, whether they are constitutional offices, federal offices or even state legislative offices. Therefore, this laziness will become even more noticeable if the Party were to take over House and Senate Victory.
2. Christian Ulvert track record: No matter how you look at it, Christian Ulvert hasn’t been a success as a consultant for House Victory in the past. For example, in the 2012 election cycle, Florida House Democrats didn’t make a huge impact. Yes, a lot of money was poured into the Mike Clelland race that Democrats eventually won, but the Orlando Sentinel had more to do with that race being close compared to House Victory. In addition, Ulvert pouring money into State House seats that Democrats could eventually lose, like Zimmerman and Clelland, took away from other House seats which could have been long term investments for Democrats, such as Mark Danish’s seat. Also, Mr. Ulvert style of “reactionary targeting” doesn’t help Democrats compared to a “making a plan and sticking to it” approach.
3. The “check and balance” is gone: If the Florida Democratic Party falls flat on its face or makes questionable decisions regarding a campaign, House Victory and Senate Victory is always there interject. This “check and balance” system makes it that the best decisions can be made for every race. Unfortunately, cooperation between to two rarely happens, with one side trying to prove themselves more than the other side.
4. FDP takeover of House races puts one man in control: This is probably the scariest part of the path that the Florida Democratic Party is going down. If the Florida Democratic Party tried to take over House and Senate Victory, then all of the decision making for all of the Democratic campaigns in the State of Florida will solely lie on the shoulders of Christian Ulvert. Yes, he would be in charge of every single race in the state. Along with the “FDP taking over House and Senate Victory” rumors, it is also rumored that Ulvert is the top-dog in the Florida Democratic Party now, with FDP Executive Director Scott Arceneaux’s role within the Party being greatly reduced.
This is the current situation for Rep. Darryl Rouson. Currently, it seems as if his hands are tied because of an ineffective Florida Democratic Party. If this is because the FDP wants to take over House Victory or because Mr. Ulvert wants to have more say in the process is currently unclear at this time. Still, the current failure of the FDP is starting to bleed into the other arms of Florida Democratic apparatus. 2014 might be a long election year.