I have seen many contests for Florida Democratic Party chair come and go. From the days of Simon Ferro to the current chair Allison Tant, the way in which the Florida Democratic Party chair was selected was a secretive process, where backroom deals determined who would win. Even so, not much has changed from the days when the Florida Democrats were located in the historic Towle House. Places have change, and faces have changed, but the process is still the same.
Even with this process still in place, Lisa King has provided a new approach toward campaigning for the position. While I am sure she perfectly knows that it is the backroom deals that will determine whether her candidacy sinks or swims, her candidacy has provided the most public-friendly campaign that we have ever seen for the chair position. On nearly a daily basis, King is interacting with Facebook members and openly discussing the issues that face the Florida Democratic Party. Other candidates have attended public forums, such as the one held by the Orange County DEC last week, but King has been extremely proactive in keeping people engaged, answering questions, and providing access to a candidate at a level unseen in Florida Democratic politics. It is quite a refreshing change from prolonged status quo.
Regardless of who wins the FDP chair position, King has already done something that should have been done a long time ago. A FDP chair needs to go beyond just communicating to state committee members. They need to communicate to the rank-and-file Democrats in Florida. Part, and possibly most, of the problem with morale in the Florida Democratic Party is that the average precinct committee member feels like they do not have a say in statewide politics. They also feel that the Florida Democratic Party chair ignores them, a reoccurring theme among local DEC members. And regardless of what rank-and-file members say, the state executive supersedes the will of the local Democratic parties. Additionally, state committee members do not always work in the best interest of their DECs, but in their own self interest. Yes, these committee members are individuals, and thus act accordingly. We have already seen examples of this self-serving conduct over the last thirty days.
Hopefully, we will see some reform in the coming years regarding party chair selection. King has already stated that one of her first acts as party chair is to examine the rules of the party. But her approach to campaigning has already shown Florida Democrats that having an open and active Florida Democratic Party is possible. A party leader who is engaged with the rank-and-file Democrat will be the party leader that finally succeeds. Unfortunately, we have yet to find that person. Maybe 2017 will change that luck.