Lisa King provides a refreshing change towards campaigning for FDP Chair.

15622158_431485553642192_7550311417053279000_nI 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. Continue reading


Strange Donation from the FDP to Rep. Mia Jones In Dying Days of 2012 Campaign

I think  Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) who is a candidate for Minority Leader against the favored Darryl Rouson (D-St Petersburg) and the irrelevant Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) is a solid choice, and I would like to see her win the post. However, I am very troubled to learn that in the dying days of the 2012 campaign as Democrats were struggling to raise last minute cash in extremely close races that the Florida Democratic Party cut two large checks to Jones campaign in a safe African-American dominated Jacksonville district.

For some strange reason Tallahassee establishment Democrats were patting themselves on the back for winning 44 of 120 House seats in this election while the party carried the state at the Presidential and US Senate level. That’s less than 36% of the seats that was won by the Democrats on a completely new legislative map, where almost as many seats should go Democratic as Republican.  The FDP choose to not contest seriously many pick-up opportunities, for some  inexplicable reason. Incumbency has advantages no doubt, but those advantages are negated to a certain extent when sitting members must run in new terrain. One such example was HD-63 where 2/3 of the district was new to Rep. Shawn Harrison and Mark Danish won despite the indifference of the Tallahassee based FDP leadership.

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Clendenin and Tant Both Deserve Credit; Some Supporters Do Not

Tomorrow morning in Lake Mary, Florida’s Democrats will select a new party chair. Alan Clendenin and Allison Tant have both made strong cases as to why they should be the next leader of a once proud party which has recently been on losing streak of record proportions. Both candidates have offered ideas and a vision which contrasts with the previous three party chairs.

I have supported Alan Clendenin in this race and am hopeful of his victory tomorrow, should this election come to a floor vote. But based on Allison Tant’s record and conversations with many of her supporters I believe she will be a significant improvement over current Chairman Rod Smith who will stand down tomorrow.

While both candidates have articulated positive visions for rebuilding a party whose statewide infrastructure has collapsed, some of the supporters of both candidates have been out of line. While many have taken shots at this website about our coverage of the race, I personally have tried to keep the discourse factual and specific to issues related specifically to the Florida Democratic Party. Continue reading

Rod Smith Threatens Democrats About Rules Challenges Using Voter Suppresion Metaphor

File this under “unbelievable.” We have often talked about the Democratic Party’s unwillingness to follow its own codified rules. But now Chairman Rod Smith is taking things to a new extreme by cautioning members of the State Committee against filing any challenges related to Saturday’s election. Using the mantra of “voter suppression” Smith strongly implies he will judge any challenge unfavorably.

As has been mentioned time and time again on this site the rules of  the party exist for a clear reason and in the cases of members of the State Committee they are governed by Florida Statutes. The rules do not exist to be followed when convenient and routinely broken when inconvenient. Chairman Smith much like his immediate predecessors have flaunted the party rules claiming they have inhibited the ability to do the job while selectively enforcing them when a political purpose was served.

Both sides in the race for FDP Chair have the right to fairness and due process under the rules that govern the Florida Democratic Party. But threats towards those who are simply trying to safeguard the integrity of Saturday’s election cannot be deemed acceptable.

The letter from Chairman Smith follows and is in the opinion of this writer, outrageous.

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County Breakdown in FDP Chairs Race: Should the Weighted Vote Go?

The Florida Democratic Party uses a weighted vote system with its State Committee members. This system is controversial as at least in theory disproportionately favors the three urban southeast Florida counties over the rest of the state. These counties arguably have little in common with the other 64 counties, yet can ostensibly control the party under this system with little coalition building.

This weighted vote has made the current chair’s race close. Were the rules that govern the RPOF Chair elections in place, Allison Tant would have already wrapped a victory. It is worth noting that the geographic variation of recent Republican Party Chairs has been far greater than among the Democrats at the same time, with the RPOF having been led in the previous ten years by chairs from just about every corner of the state, SE Florida excluded. The Democrats who have become overly dependent on urban areas for votes have not had a Chairman from a major urbanized area since Bob Poe left the job on January 2003, a statistic not lost on many from those areas. The last three chairs have failed to build the party structure in large counties both from the standpoint of donors and activists.

While this has been a nasty chairs race, not much has been written about the Democrats dependence on urban areas for votes coupled by the continued unwillingness of the party to either select chairs from urban areas or set up the type of field operation in areas outside Tallahassee the GOP thrives on. The Republican turnout and field operation in second tier counties like Pasco, Lake, Brevard, Lee and Sarasota are particularly impressive.

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Carmen Torres, DNC Member Endorses Alan Clendenin

Tampa, FL – Carmen Torres, Hispanic community leader, volunteer, member of the Executive Board of the Democratic National Committee, DNC, Vice Chair of the DNC Southern Caucus, and Florida Elector for President Barack Obama Endorses Alan Clendenin to lead the Florida Democratic Party.

“Alan has a vision for the future of our party and has the character and the experience of how to get us there. (He) is one of us and he gets it!” –Carmen Torres

“Carmen embodies every quality we look for in community and our party. Her character, charisma and an innate political sense enables her to deliver an inclusive message that resonates with women, Hispanics and every voters; the Democratic Party is on our side. I am proud to call Carmen a friend and I am grateful for the overwhelming support I have received from our diverse Hispanic community.” –Alan Clendenin

“Alan is a known quantity and has established his commitment to the Democratic Party for many years. He has worked at the grassroots level for many years… Alan is pro-labor, pro-woman, pro-diversity period! He has demonstrated this year after year and as recently as this past year when he poured his heart into the work of the Platform Committee.” – Carmen Torres

Letter from Carmen Torres is below:

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Chuck Mohlke Endorses Alan Clendenin

Endorsements keep flying in the race for FDP Chair. Yesterday it was Andrew Gillum, a man many would back for FDP Chair today if he ran endorsing Allison Tant here on TPH. Today, it’s the well respected and incredibly knowledgeable long-time National Committeeman Chuck Mohlke endorsing Alan Clendenin. I can speak from personal experience that over a decade ago as a young staffer, Mohlke was an invaluable resource for me as I tried to navigate through the minefield of local DEC politics throughout the state.

Full endorsement below:

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FDP Chairs Race: False Choices & The Path Forward

By Kevin Thurman

Since I wrote my guest post last week there have been a number of developments in the chair’s race and I am not expert in the machinations of the Florida Democratic Party’s election system for chair — but I am more fascinated by the insane false choices that seem to be put forth by leaders, columnists, and activists over the past few days.

Paul Fleming even wrote an entire column about all of these false choice claiming the FDP is the “the longest-running soap opera in the Sunshine State.” Sure he gave lip service to the RPOF that has a former chairman under indictment, big spending Amex cards, just badly lost the last election — but says he’s going to focus on us anyway.

What I find funny is that he fails to mention that the “soap-opera” was the organization that exposed all of that thanks to Tampa Democrat Susan Smith, and staff at the FDP like Scott Arceneaux and Eric Jotkoff.

These is the first of series of false choices that he and many others say Democrats are fighting over — which everyone need to just stop. Here’s the four worst I’ve identified.

Money vs Organizing

For some reason thinking in Florida hasn’t grown to meet the 21st century reality that good organizing and good fundraising go hand in hand. Some people have argued that financial resources are the first priority to win in 2014, other have argued that grassroots organizing is the key to winning in 2014. Not only are they both vital to winning as we have seen in the Presidential election in Florida and in races across the country — but they feed off each other.

Since the Obama ’08 campaign moderns campaigns don’t make that choice. It’s easier for Presidential campaigns to do this, but it is how technologically driven campaigning works. Whether it’s turning swag purchases into donations so you can build your donor base at rallies or using successful organizing to impress big dollar donors — these two issues work together.

I remember when i was working for Hillary in 2008 I was asked to present to senior staff an understanding of why Obama out-raised us in the first quarter of 2007.They all assumed it was just the small dollar donations (specifically, incorrectly indetifying the My. as a major donation driver) — but they later learned that we got beat on high and low dollar donations. Obama’s momentum and grassroots campaign (with a lot of free media) had leapfrogged a generation of traditional high dollar fundraising contacts. The whole fundraising game has changed — there is no choice between organizing and fundraising.

I don’t even have to just point to Obama, there is a Florida politician who did this very well: Marco Rubio. Rubio understood this and used his grassroots machine to create momentum, and used the momentum to raise money, and the money to invest in gaining more momentum to eventually out-raise his opponents when no one expected him to. His main opponent’s campaign, Charlie Crist, was so caught off guard by this success he left the primary before it was over.

I think both Alan Clendenin and Allison Tant likely understand this, but they have each been portrayed as being on once side of the flase choice between organizing and fundraising. We don’t need one or the other we need both. That means pouring what money we can into organizing so we can expand the donor base and raise money (some versions phrase exists in both of their plans — which is why we’ve already won something from this race).

No divided choice here: No matter who becomes chair I hope both Tant and Clendenin will work together to make sure the FDP embraces this kind of 21st century political reality.

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Major Developments in the FDP Chair’s Race

Allison Tant has released a statement that indicates she has been endorsed by the seven of the state’s ten Democratic House members backing her. This is not a surprise but it adds to the impressive list of insiders backing Tant’s candidacy.

In even bigger news  considering the weighted vote FDP process, the state committee members from the three large southeast Florida counties (Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach) have elected to support Alan Clendenin as a bloc. In the weighted vote system of the FDP State Committee, this means Tant, the candidate of many party insiders will have very little margin for error with DECs outside of the area.

The vote for Chair is scheduled for January 26th in Lake Mary. If Clendenin were to be elected he would be the first Chairman of the party from one of the state’s two largest media markets since 1999.

The full statement from the south Florida DECs is below:

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Tant’s Party Memo Shows Promise: Analysis

On New Years Eve, FDP Chair candidate Allison Tant released a memo outlining a few thoughts she has about the direction of the Democratic Party. She calls it her “Five Pillars for Success.”

I am pleased to see that Tant has shown she takes the role of being Chair seriously by offering her vision for where our party needs to go into the future. Let’s look at Tant’s memo and my analysis:

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