Time for Allison Tant to show she is a leader.

tantSo, let’s discuss that elephant in the room.

Last night, Florida Democrats suffered a major blow throughout the state. Along with the defeat of Republican-turn-Independent-turn-Democrat Charlie Crist losing the governor’s race (something that I warned people about a number of times), Democrats lost all of the constitutional positions, as well as five state house seats. The State Senate remained unchanged, basically, because there were no competitive races. Overall, it was a disastrous night for Team Blue.

Yes, there were some bright spots last night. Democrats defeated Steve Southerland. After years or time, money, and resources that the state Democratic Party used in the congressional district, at the expense of other campaigns, they finally won the seat. I mean, it seemed as if the Florida Democratic Party was only concentrating on the 2nd CD for the last two cycles. But even with Gwen Graham’s win, the losses were more shocking than the one pickup. While Karen Castor Dentel’s loss was a disappointment, Joe Saunders’ loss in House District 49 was a major blow. Saunders’ loss (which will be discussed later this week) really exemplifies the scale of the Democratic defeat.

After such a defeat, the finger pointing starts, as well as it should. And who should the finger be pointed at for the Democratic defeats in Florida? The answer is simple…Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant. A party leader must take responsibility for the performance of their party after an election. Even if they were not the actual reason why they lost, that person still takes responsibility. But after the tweets from Tant last night, it seems as if a state of denial is setting in, and a true realization of the magnitude of the defeat fazes the FDP Chairwoman.

Not being able to take a responsible role and deal with the low points of an election defeat is a sign of a weak leader. Ignoring the fact that the Florida Democrats suffered last night is also a sign of a weak leader. Throughout the last year or so, I have criticized Chairwoman Tant for not having the leadership qualities to be an effective Florida Democratic Party chair. Unfortunately, her post-election reaction to the results in Florida further confirms her lack of leadership qualities.

But is Allison Tant the main person to blame? Technically, yes. I say technically because of the old “The Buck Stops Here” concept, idolized by President Harry Truman. Since she is the leader, the “buck” needs to stop at her desk, as she must be held accountable for those who work on her behalf. In Canada, when a party loses an election, party leaders usually acknowledge their party’s loss and resigns that night (or very shortly after), even if they were able to retain their own riding. That is the mark of a true leader. In the case of the Florida Democratic Party, however, there is much celebration that the shed out back didn’t burn down, even though the house went down in flames. The “turning lemons in the lemonade” analogy can only work in a number of cases. This phrase has now outlived its usefulness in Florida Democratic politics.

This “ignoring our losses” tactic is getting quite old. While the night was horrible, the party always deflects attention away from it, and tries to blame the election loss on externalities. I’m sure, like clockwork, we will hear the old line “well, it was a wave year, and we were taken in by the way”. Yeah? Why did Graham win despite the “wave”? Why did Saunders lose in the highly Democratic district that a “wave” should not have implications? Using this diversionary tactic is a way to suck local Florida Democrats into thinking that everything is alright, and having them ignore the real issues. This tactic is no different from those employed by the NRA. After a mass shooting, public opinion is strongly for gun control. But as time passes, and the NRA talks about externalities, such as mental illness and video games, the gun debate disappears and the NRA is off the hook. As a result, Columbine became a debate about video games and Sandy Hook became a debate about mental illness. The NRA did their job. The FDP will try to do their job as well and try to make everyone think that everything is alright.

While the post-election “nothing to see here” reaction shows lack of leadership, her leadership qualities have been questionable from the start. I have questioned her leadership in the past because of her lack of being strong when it comes to selection (or in this case retention) or Florida Democratic Party staff. Allison Tant continues to keep failing consultants and staff on the payroll, and has shown that she does not have the strong leadership qualities to fire people who are either dead weight or detrimental to the party. Some have claimed that she has not made staff changes because of “intimidation by male staffers” to keep the current FDP staff. But once a person decides to seek, and eventually obtains, the position of leader, who is the top decision-maker where “the buck stops here”, you have lost your privilege to play any of the “victim cards”. That comes with the territory of being a party leader, or any leader.

After a loss like this, it is time for Allison Tant to show that she is a true leader. And contrary to popular belief, I really hope that she does a good job. It is this type of election loss that Allison Tant needs to show that she is a strong leader, and to prove her critics, like myself, wrong. So, what does she need to prove that she is a strong leader? Frist, she must acknowledge that last night was a disastrous result for Florida Democrats. Without this step, she will continue to be a weak leader.

The second step can go one of two ways, which requires a longer description. First, she could resign as Florida Democratic Party chair. This move might be seen by some as “honorable”, and I can accept that assessment. But if she does resign as FDP Chair, she must also relieve all Florida Democratic Party staff of their duties, and institute a moratorium of a specific time period, let’s say two years, where Florida Democratic Party staffers cannot be involved in the election of Democratic Party officials (such as Scott Arceneaux was in Tant’s election). The influence of current staff in party leadership elections has corrupted the system, giving some candidates an unfair advantage, and has also created a highly questionable voting process (as many feel that Richard Daley-style ballot stuffing tactics were used by Allison Tant’s team to defeat Alan Clenednin). Therefore, centralized party staff influence should be removed.

The “second second” option that can be used is that Allison Tant does a house cleaning at the Florida Democratic Party and hires all new staff. But simply cleaning out the party staff is not sufficient. To replace current Florida Democratic Party staff, the party needs to look outside of the state for quality staffers. Simply replacing Christian Ulvert with Susannah Randolph does not solve the problem, as both of these individuals are self-interested actors and will make decisions based on their own benefits instead of for the benefit of the party. Furthermore, the Florida Democratic Party is extremely unique. It is the largest swing state in the nation, with a state Democratic Party is that suffering. If the Florida Democratic Party advertised that they are seeking people to staff and run the FDP, the “best of the best of the best, with honors” (as Will Smith in MiB would say) would be lining up to grab these positions. What high-profile political director wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to save a failing party in a state with such opportunity? Therefore, selecting staff outside of the state is the only real option.

On the other hand, selecting staff within Florida doesn’t make sense, unless they have a long history of either winning, or a pure understanding of Florida politics. Picking staffers inside of Florida is kind of like teaching Tea Party members about the theory of evolution. If you want to teach them that evolution is a viable theory, is it a good idea to pick someone within the Tea Party group to teach them about evolution, or someone from the outside? The answer is pretty obvious.

While the staff needs to be cleaned out, the Florida Democrats really needs to have some key players go. The first of those is Scott Arceneaux. He has been Executive Director of the Florida Democratic during the worst of times. He has also made the Florida Democratic Party a closed circle of people that must come to him first in order to get the Florida Democratic Party’s “blessing” regarding anything. Under Arceneaux, there has been no transparency whatsoever (which was apparent during the Tant-Clendenin election). Competition between vendors is a highly selective process, not because the competition among the vendors is great, but because those who make it to his door seem to be pre-selected.

Political Director Christian Ulvert also needs to be relieved of his duties. Of course, I have questioned Mr. Ulvert’s tactics in the past, and I still do today. Since coming to the Party after Tant’s election, legislative races have been primarily run through Ulvert’s office. But looking at how he conducts business, I truly wonder if he is “in over his head”. One question that I have about Mr. Ulvert is his knowledge of politics. Personally, I am usually very weary of people who enter politics through a communications background. Basically, looking at where money is being spent and campaign strategies under Ulvert, I think he lacks the basic skills to understand fundamental electoral politics in Florida. The reason I say this is that he has always been reactionary in his campaign strategy. You can easily see Florida Democratic Party money shift from race to race only when polling says that the party might have a chance in a particular seat. A good political director should be able to identify the key races first, stick to those races, and not be reactionary every time poll numbers shift one way or another. This zig-zagging between elections leads to a very incoherent party apparatus.

Steve Schale is also a person whose value has been overinflated throughout the years. One could argue that Schale was “in the right place at the right time” in 2006 when it came to the wave in Florida. Even with this luck, Schale has passed himself off as some kind of “numbers guru”, yet his analysis of the numbers in Florida are quite elementary. For example, here is a quote from his website regarding numbers in Central Florida:

” Since 2000, Florida has experienced subtle demographic shifts.  For example, the 2000 census showed that just under 54% of all Floridians lived in one of the state’s seven ‘urban’ counties, counties with a population of more than 750,000 (Broward, Dade, Duval, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Orange).  Today, that number is 51.7%.  The shift, not surprisingly, is almost exclusively into the midsize (typically suburban) counties.”

Honestly, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to come up with these numbers. A middle school student with a calculator and a basic understanding of Florida geography could easily come up with the same conclusions. However, these generalizations by Steve Schale are the backbone of his so-called “expert opinions”. In addition to his lackluster interpretation of the numbers, Mr. Schale has also bounced around from campaign to campaign, seeking what is best for him and rarely open to outside opinions. Therefore, he suffers from the same closed approach as both Arceneaux and Ulvert.

On the financial front, we have Beth Matuga. Yes, it is still quite comical that she claims to have a “Yale education” because she attended a weekend seminar there that wasn’t even sponsored or conducted by Yale. However, the fact that she has to embellish her educational credentials should raise red flags. What is interesting, however, is that Matuga is listed as the Finance Director for Senate Victory. How many senate races were competitive in Florida last night? Yep, zero. Yet, the Florida Democratic Party justified paying Matuga over $115,000 in 2014 alone to raise money for predetermined outcome races. While Matuga is not closing the doors like Arceneaux and Ulvert (or she might be and I am unaware), she is easily feeding at the trough of the Florida Democratic Party. While there are a number of finance directors nationwide who work their butts off to raise money for their respective Democratic parties, I am quite dumbfounded that someone who falsifies their educational credentials and doesn’t work gets a free $115,000. This “feeding at the trough” mentality in Florida needs to go. I am not saying that Matuga is the only example of this practice, but she is the most blatant example of financial abuse in the Florida Democratic Party’s corrupt system which does not attach performance measures to income. The “free money” problem is a disease in the FDP.

The final group that I would like to bring attention to is the so-called “communications team” of the Florida Democratic Party. If anything exemplifies the reincarnation of Moe, Larry and Curly, it would be Joshua Karp, Max Steele and Ben Sharpe. The unprofessional manner in which these three have carried out their jobs must make one wonder if the Florida Democratic Party leaders have the intellectual fortitude to put together a strong Democratic Party apparatus. These three, particularly Max Steele, have been known for their childish manner, getting into pissing matches with people they disagree with on Twitter. They are also widely believed to be the masterminds behind parody blogs and websites which purely insults those who disagree with the FDP, which does not contribute to the overall debate, and rather magnifies their childish manner. These public Twitter spats are reflective of how the Florida Democratic Party runs. And while I had my issues with the FDP before these three arrived, I feel that Brannon Jordan and David Bergstein ran the communication arm in a professional manner (even if they had an obsession with the 2nd CD).Just because someone has the “disclaimer” that “opinions on this account are solely that of the author” (which is the reason I parody this quote on my Twitter account) does not mean that the attitude of those “authors” are not damaging peoples’ opinions of the Florida Democratic Party, especially those that matter. If I am looking to invest money in the FDP, I want to make sure they have a professional team. These three show the lack of both discipline and professionalism within the party, which will make investors weary.

As we have seen, the Florida Democratic Party has some big problems, and the staff is the root cause of these problems. However, the ball is now in Allison Tant’s corner. As someone who wants the Florida Democrats to succeed at every level, it is important to have a strong, professional political party that exemplifies the best of what Florida Democrats have to offer, and not the worst. The first step in showing she is a strong leader is for Allison Tant to admit that yesterday was a disaster and to make changes within the Florida Democratic Party. I, personally, do not want to see Allison Tant resign. She seems like a very nice person, who is also a progressive. But I also do not want her to resign because I am not entirely sure that she would be replaced by a strong leader. But, if she does not make changes or acknowledges the losses, she should be forced to resign.

Allison Tant was elected leader of the Florida Democratic Party, and now it is time for her to show those leadership qualities. I think Mrs. Tant should realize that if she does make the wholesale changes that are needed in the Florida Democratic Party, and seek the “best of the best” talent from outside of Florida, she would have a surprising amount of support within the local parties.

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10 thoughts on “Time for Allison Tant to show she is a leader.

  1. I think this is an unfortunate article. Much of what you say is true, but the Chairwoman has made many changes that are positive for the party. She needs to do more, but has done far better than her immediate predecessor in attracting new young talented staff to the party and cutting off some of the consultants who have caused problems. This was never going to be a quick fix. Florida’s Democrats are on a 20-year losing streak and it was never going to change overnight. I think Allison has really made an effort to reign in the rogue staff and some of the consultants have been cut. More has to be done but don’t just assume she hasn’t already made some of the changes you and I called for two years ago on this site. She has. I will also add that some of the staff changes she made already have proven to be excellent. I think you should asses what she has already done. Weeded some of the real cancers in the party Sure the results are poor but this was a national wave and the process of fixing the party structure has already begun. We also had a more extensive field program this year than ever before. Paid for with state party money. I don’t want to change chairs again unless we have to. If Allison wants to stay in the job and makes a few basic changes to her staff, she should be given the support to finish out her term.

    – Kartik

  2. But she is the chair, and she has the absolute power to make changes in the staff, particularly the members that I have mentioned here, who are considered “cancers” from Key West to Pensacola. If you have a building on shaky foundations, you do not just replace the windows and consider that rectifying the problem. In many cases, you raze the building and create a new structure.

    As you see at the end of my article, I said that I feel that the best option is for Tant to stay on, but to show some leadership qualities. She has failed to do this, and I have addressed the key points as to why this is the case. If you could provide a more concrete critique of why she has done a good job, I am open to hearing what you have to say. But this response creates generalizations that purely does not capture the true sense of the problems which are facing the FDP.

    And I do agree that this is unfortunate, that you drank from the vat of FDP Kool Aid and found the taste to be sublime. Over the last few months, it seems as if The Florida Squeeze has taken a soft approach in regards to Allison Tant. I mean, you have already used the “wave” analogy, even after I stated in this article that it would be an excuse for poor performance (as a “wave” cannot explain the Graham win). Of course, I have my reason as for why this might be the case, but I do not wish to make this opinion public as my critique could lead us down a path of no return.

  3. Dave, you have no idea what is going on internally. Changes have been made and more are likely to come. Chopping and changing constantly isn’t a good policy. This was a national wave and we simply got swamped in it but did better than other states. I am sure Allison is heartsick about it. It also does not help that the “out” faction in the party includes some elected officials and operatives that seemingly were cheering on every Dem loss. We don’t need those people leading the party.

  4. Seriously?

    1. The “you have no idea what is going on internally” is the same argument Susannah Randolph made. Trust me, like I said, I do not need to be a rocket surgeon to realize there is a problem, nor do I need to live in Florida. That is an excuse the FDP has been using ever since I have been in politics, even when I lived there, that “outsiders” don’t understand.

    2. After I said that the FDP was going to use a “wave” as an excuse, you continue to use the “wave” as an excuse. Also, if it is a wave year, why have a FDP staff at all if all elections will be predetermined by opinions on national policy? If anything, the “wave” should have had less of an impact because there was only one competitive federal race in the state (FL02). If anything, this was the year where the FDP could have had the most impact on the election.

    So, you are saying she made some changes. Yes, that is nice. Obviously those changes didn’t work because the party still loss by staggering margins. And, in the end, the job of a political party is to win seats. Yeah, you might hire a fundraiser that brings in $1.2 billion over the course of three weeks, but if that party doesn’t win a seat, the fact that the fundraiser raised an extremely unheard level of funds is a mute point. The results of the vote determines whether the staff is competent or not, not other residual factors.

    Still, over the last few months, you have been quite the defender of the Florida Democratic Party. This is particularly the case with Allison Tant, where your defense of her makes one wonder if you would take a bullet for her. Why have you, all of a sudden, become a defender of the party, particularly the leader? I think you have a responsibility to your readers to let people know why this change of heart. I don’t think it is my place to say anything, but I think an explanation is warranted.

  5. No, it’s not time for that….for that time has passed. It’s truly time for her to STEP DOWN!
    Here is what we knew all along, and did not like it then, and maybe people can accept this more now? Just look at what almost 10,000 people have seen!
    http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1017&pid=224941
    ************************
    What Happened in Florida
    On Tant Richardson:
    February 2013 Tarpon Springs Democratic Club Meeting:

    Allison Tant-Richard newly “selected” by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to take the reins as Chair of the Florida Democratic Party in this video comes unhinged in response to a very civil and politely presented question from John Russell, a former registered Democrat.

    Mr. Russell, merely asked the newly minted chairwoman and former paid lobbyist for DBT Inc., how she was qualified to take the helm of the FDP given her background and that of her husband.

    Ms. Tant-Richard in 1999-2000 was a paid lobbyist for DBT Inc. which was the company commissioned by Secretary of state Katherine Harris under the gubernatorial administration of Republican Jeb Bush to scrub the voter rolls across the state of Florida for the then upcoming 2000 Presidential election featuring Jeb’s brother George W. vs Democrat Al Gore.

    History tells us that DBT Inc. was responsible for scrubbing the names of 57,000 African Americans fro the voter rolls leading to the controversial recount which ended in the “determination” made by the U.S. Supreme Court handing the decision to Jeb’s brother George W. Bush.

    Interestingly Allison Tant’s husband Barry Richard who also was/is a registered Democrat just happened to be the LEAD ATTORNEY for Team Bush in the landmark election dispute decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. This was all that John Russell was asking FDP Chairwoman Tant-Richard to explain.

    Facts matter to most people just not the sycophant members of the Tarpon Springs Democratic Club apparently. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing and that is why John Russell’s request for an explanation was so difficult for these zealots to take. This is why they not only acted to silence John but also to physically accost him as the video clearly demonstrates distorted though the images from the ensuing ruckus clearly show. Denial of truth only facilitates the further degradation of what little democracy remains in this country resulting in what can only be characterized as a “CORPORATIST NATION!”

    This is not how you energize democrats to get to work.

  6. The Florida Democratic Party is a “JOBS” Program for people who would find the FDP an easy mark for a nice six figure position in which they have little responsibility and no accountability. To retain Mrs. Tant-Richard as FDP Chair with a Presidential cycle about to get underway would be suicidal for people who adhere to true democratic principles.

    Allison Tant-Richard has been trying mightily to hide her scurrilous background as well as that of her husband Barry for years. During the faux “campaign” for FDP Chair with votes manipulated through pressure from Senator Bill Nelson the word about Mrs. Tant-Richard’s background was circulated and roundly discarded by party hacks. Most assuredly the sycophants of the party and they are many, who are mainly motivated by the social perquisites associated with participation in the FDP have been equally ardent defenders of Mrs. Tant-Richard. Just watch the video above.

    As I have stated publicly for years, the Florida Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party of Florida. The FDP is purposefully inept and failure is no accident… It IS by design!
    As well, Truth and the FDP do not belong in the same sentence.

    I have come to know that ineffectiveness is well engrained in the FDP through just the succession of “leaders” that I have known personally. Karen Thurman for one is a good start. I’ll post a video below for your review as she defends the ca$hing of monthly stipends ($3,500) provided by former Republican Party of Florida Chair Al Cardenas’ Law Firm, ostensibly for some nonsensical role in Port Security. Democrats will roll over cheap as Thurman clearly demonstrates here.

    You might consider also how pathetic was Scott Maddox another shill with a questionable ethical background as well. Most assuredly Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has done her part, and must go as well. Especially given her position as Chief AIPAC shill orchestrating electoral failure from behind the scenes on behalf of the interests of well heeled the benefactors whom she serves. In fact, all of the leaders mentioned originate from the same “cloth.”

    Every individual noted here has exhibited a self serving philosophy willing to pull any string and do anything required in order to enhance their own personal fortunes; at the expense of those who continue to believe in what the Democratic Party at one time used to at least give more than just lip service to stand for. Unquestionably, Bill Nelson must be held accountable as well for playing perhaps the most fundamental role in elevating these shills to the position of FDP Chair in each and every case. In any event, Tant-Richard aka Mrs. Barry Richard must submit her resignation forthwith.
    John Russell for CorporatistNation

  7. I called the FDP out for purposeful ineptitude back in 2007, so the notion that the party is manipulated and led by insiders looking to enrich themselves or move forward their personal agenda at the very large expense of Floridians having no legitimate opposition party to call upon to fight the corrupt policy agenda of the Republican Party of Florida. CorporatisNation is coming….

  8. “The Party is a business… It is all about strategy, planning and execution… and when we compare our business to their business… we are bankrupt.” I said this in my address on FDP performance seen in the video above in the Spring of 2007. Seven years have elapsed and NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

    Allison Tant-Richard must remove herself or be removed from her position. The current FDP Chair represents her corporate benefactors through the actions or in-actions that she has taken as Chair of the FDP. As I said in 2007, “I am not a Washington General and neither are you. John Russell, CorporatistNation

  9. Nothing new here… The FDP is charged with maintaining the status quo which is defined as keeping Republicans in charge be they registered as Republicans or Democrats… witness Tant-Richard and her husband Barry as the prima facie example.

    As a candidate for Congress in 2008 I was advised that a Lake County DEC member was actually filling out ballots for other DEC members and casting votes for my opponent, Republican incumbent Ginny Brown-Waite. I have been ostracized in the media with false information (He is a physical threat, aggressive etc.) by FDP hacks to include specifically Allison Morano who has been “taken care of” by The Party for years well before she was actually accorded an official paid position.

    The folks in charge will jump all over anyone who questions the credulity of their actions or lack there of. I was not the only one to be accosted by these hacks with the able assist of a media equally responsible for keeping the status quo undisturbed. Former Space Coast Congressional Candidate, Vietnam Veteran Fighter Pilot and War Hero Robert Bowman was treated similarly.

    I understand that it is difficult for most to accept, but this political racket has been purposefully engineered by powerful insiders who avoid the limelight at all costs while eager shills work for on their behalf in return for money and/or social rewards.

    This unenviable paradigm will only be broken when it is exposed to the light of day in all of its putrid detritus. THIS is the paradigm that we must overcome and replace with democracy because as it stands presently we have none.

    The Steps of The Florida State Capitol, Spring 2007… and NOTHING has changed…

    CorporatistNation is coming…

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