Well, the vote is over. Stephen Bittel is going to be the chair of the Florida Democratic Party. From my projections, I assumed the vote would have gone to a second ballot, but it seems that some who were projected to go one way instead voted for Bittel. Either way, the race is over. Stephen Bittel is the Florida Democratic Party chair for the next four years, and all Democrats in the state must accept this result.
With this election, it is now time for Florida Democrats to come together. No, coming together does not mean submission. Coming together requires everyone to work with one another to make sure that Democrats win in Florida in 2018 and beyond. Remember, no matter what side you were on in this race, the end goal is to elect Democrats. Our eyes cannot be taken off of that primarily goal.
First, to the ground troops of the Florida Democratic Party; Stephen Bittel stated that he could raise money for the party. Overall, this is a good thing. Just because somebody raises money doesn’t mean that the cannot work on grassroots as well. Let’s see how much money he can bring it. But also, let’s see how well he can organize the party in general. Yes, we need to give Bittel the benefit of the doubt. And unlike Donald Trump, who wants to destroy our country, the end goal for all of us is to see Florida Democrats elected. I am sure I will be repeating that like a broken record, but it does need to be repeated.
Now, let me talk directly to Stephen Bittel (whom I doubt is reading this, but I will write it anyway). There are wounds in the FDP, a lot of wounds. Over the last four years, nobody did anything to heal those wounds. Instead, those at the grassroots level were treated inferior by the FDP executive. As a result, we see less people involved with the Florida Democratic Party. Since I started my involvement with Florida Democrats in 1991, I have seen some numbers grow and some numbers fall. I have seen people come and go. I have seen people who have contributed a lot to the party decide to leave out of frustration. This needs to be addressed. So please, Chairman Bittel, be the person that can heal the wounds of the party.
While I recommend that Stephen Bittel listen to party activists, simply listening will not do. He will have to show that he truly understands the concerns of those on the ground. Providing lip service and then not working with the rank and file simply will not work. To heal these wounds, working together MUST be the top priority.
In order for the party to heal, the following needs to be done.
Transparency: If there is any theme to this election, it would have to be a desire for a more transparent Florida Democratic Party. Transparency does not only mean that the executive keeps the state committee informed on a regular basis regarding the business of the party, it also means giving the state committee an “advise and consent” role when it comes to hiring major positions in the Florida Democratic Party.
Vendor reform: This was the biggest issue brought up by Alan Clendenin. Overall, the Florida Democratic Party has not done a good job when it comes to identifying those who provided services to the Florida Democratic Party. This is a top priority, and vendors should not be given contracts based on patronage.
Election reform: Stephen Bittel himself said that the way in which people have to qualify for the position was crazy (yes, somewhat ironic considering the challenges yesterday to candidate qualifications). Therefore, this is a campaign promise that needs to be kept. What will need to be done? Well, we have four years to decide that. Still, it needs to be done.
Shifting party operations to Central Florida: This is something which has been discussed quite often. It just makes sense form a practical standpoint. Bittel was the only one that did not commit to relocating the campaign operations.
BUILD THE DECS!!!!!!!: The people who are going to have the most impact when it comes to winning local elections are the men and women who knock on the doors, know the neighborhoods, and are able to talk to the voters. When I stated I wanted to run for Florida House District 44, I said so because they are my neighbors. I know these people. I knew that the tide was changing among my Republicans and independent friends. Yet, nobody listened. The state party should build a strong relationship between Tallahassee (or wherever) and the local DECs. Another one of Bittel’s campaign promises was to have people working throughout the state as possible regional field directors. But still, the people who are going to be able to find the best candidates to run are those who live in the counties, not the state party. Therefore, we need to give DECs the resources to go out and recruit quality candidates.
Don’t take sides in primaries: It didn’t work in Orange County, and the FDP does more harm than good in these situations.
Working together NEEDS to be done now. Yes, this means that Stephen Bittel and Stacey Patel need to work together for the common good! This isn’t a recommendation, it is a requirement! And because rank-and-file Democrats need to make sure that the state party is working for them and not against them, it is time to organize for the next FDP chair race in four years. It is time to do it now. If Stephen Bittel does a great job, then everyone can reelect him. However, if he does a poor job, Democrats need to make sure that he can truly be challenged.