Desperate Southeast Florida Democrats Take All Comers

Democrats are on a remarkable losing streak in Florida when it comes to state elections. The Republicans have held at least 70 House seats and 25 Senate seats since the 1998 elections and since 2000 have won 13 of 14 races for Governor/Cabinet. Much of the recent focus of websites like this and activists around the state has been on former Governor Charlie Crist and his party switch. But this article is not about Charlie Crist but about Democrats at the legislative level who have substituted hard work and candidate recruitment with allowing party primaries or nominations to be controlled by those have no loyalty to the principles and platform of the party. This story is about Broward and Palm Beach counties, long the most Democratic large county legislative delegations.

Southeast Florida for various reasons tends to have the lowest turnout on primary day and that has empowered some “power brokers” in local Dem clubs as well as activists who consider personality and access to elected officials more important than ideology or competence. For years we have seen this as elected Democrats have no loyalty whatsoever to the ideology of the party and the talking points they spout out at local Democratic clubs are difficult to reconcile with votes cast in Tallahassee. Furthermore, a growing number of former Republicans are running as Democrats and gaining partisan support in the area.

Katie Edwards has gotten a remarkable amount of abuse from progressives over the past week. I strongly opposed Ms. Edwards candidacy and supported her opponent, a good progressive Louis Reinstein last year because I had followed her actions and words when working for the Farm Bureau, lobbying in Tallahassee and as a candidate in 2010 in a more conservative part of southeast Florida (SW Miami-Dade County). Yet Edwards was embraced by many progressives who now are pouring scorn on her. But considering she was the only Democratic candidate for State House in the entire state to earn an “A” rating from the NRA, and spoke openly about being a “fiscal conservative and social moderate” it is not her fault but that of local Democrats that she won the primary easily. Edwards is acting in Tallahassee exactly as she had promised she had, if the Democrats who value access over ideology had bothered to pay attention. Critiques of her after the fact simply are not fair because she is conducting herself in office just as she had promised to and just as she did before being elected. The extreme disappointment in her is the fault of those who did not pay attention to her words and actions in the past. As for me, she is voting and acting exactly as I had expected and certainly how those who backed her financially expected.

Now take Rick Stark who bested an excellent Democratic woman, Robin Behrman in a primary. Stark was a longtime Republican activist locally even serving as an officer of the Broward County Republican Executive Committee until recently. His party switch in 2010 seemed entirely based on his desire to seek an open or redrawn House seat in the 2012 reapportionment year. Getting elected as a Republican in Broward County is difficult and Stark had been on the front-lines helping the GOP over the previous decade so he knew how difficult it would be. Stark’s party switch was embraced by several activists and party leaders and I was even told by some that he had “genuinely changed.”

A simple question should have been asked directly to the Democratic club leaders and activists who supported Stark. Do you really believe that Rick Stark would have become a Democrat if it was not convenient for him to do so locally? Stark is sure to cast some horrible votes in Tallahassee but those who value access and being on a “winning team” over competence and ideology do not have a leg to stand on when he stops towing the party line.

No Democrat stepped forward in an open seat to challenge Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Commissioner and son of Broward State Committeeman from 2000 to 2012 and thus Moskowitz has voted erratically since getting elected, and is also getting criticized by activists. But again I questioned him based on following his words and actions and prevented the Political Hurricane from issuing an endorsement for him because he is not a progressive. The same area is represented in the State Senate by Jeremy Ring who could be the single least reliable Democratic vote in either legislative chamber. Yet his district gave both Alex Sink & President Obama huge majorities in recent elections. Ring hasn’t been called to the carpet by local Democrats and thus can you really blame him for continuing to vote in the manner he does? (As an aside I have been the one called to the carpet by several people locally for having the audacity to criticize Ring for his unacceptable voting record)

Palm Beach County has had its share of Democrats who say one thing locally and vote another way as well. I could write a whole novel on disloyal Democrats from that county so I will save it for another day, but it fits this well developed pattern. Low turnout primaries in a reliably Democratic part of the state continue to be dominating by party insiders or activists who fail to do homework on the candidates. The area is also attracting lower caliber Democrats to run for office than Central Florida, where one must work hard, and build a real infrastructure to be successful as a Democratic candidate in a truly competitive environment.

How does this impact the failure of the Democrats to build a majority in the state? When you have representatives from your most liberal areas who don’t advocate forcefully the values of your party, it is impossible to build a real statewide infrastructure. When it comes to repeated failures statewide for the Democrats, Southeast Florida must bear its share of the responsibility because it is the members from liberal southeast Florida who in many cases don’t stand as tall as needed on progressive issues thus allowing the caucus and the party to not take an appropriate stand on what really matters to Floridians. It is these same members who have contributed to allowing the lines between the parties to become so blurred that someone like Charlie Crist can easily walk into the Democratic Party and have the level of support he currently enjoys.

Small wonder Broward and Palm Beach county elected officials routinely backed the most “electable” candidates in Democratic primaries for Governor against the will of their constituents. Rick Dantzler was backed by many over Buddy MacKay in 1998, Bill McBride over Janet Reno in 2002 (Reno crushed McBride in both counties despite the hostility of many local officials and party officers, Rod Smith over Jim Davis in 2006 (though this one was more mixed, and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schutlz strongly backed Davis, helping him win Broward) and evidently Charlie Crist over Nan Rich in 2014 even though the later represented Broward County in the Legislature for 12 years.

Several progressives from central and north Florida have asked me in the last week how the Crist conversion could happen and be so easily accepted. Just look at Broward and Palm Beach counties for your answer. It is impossible for the Democrats to be a real values based party if we cannot even right our own ship and use our nomination process to select those who actually represent our views and our way of thinking. Before blaming elected officials for going rouge, SE Florida Democrats must look at themselves in the mirror.


  1. Broward Dem · ·

    Good piece. Very accurate. Why are we supporting Dems who conveniently switch parties and races. And that Weston club had no business endorsing the BREC Stark. And gunner Edwards? She won’t even talk to us liberals who voted for her. Bye bye Moskowitz too. Why don’t you vote to take away advancements for women some more?


  2. Katie (not that one) · ·

    Sorry I agree with K.

    Anyone stupid enough to support Katie Edwards has no right to complain.

    As for Stark he’s cast no really bad votes yet and unlike Katie doesn’t talk down to is or isn’t condescending. I think he’ll be okay.

    Moskowitz is snot nosed kid. Get rid off him!!!


  3. Broward Dem · ·


    Great article. I cant wait to see you write about the irony of two former republicans, Scott Herman and Barbra Stern who will be seeking out to be the Dem nominee against Rep Moritias the Republican.


  4. Realist · ·

    It is about time someone wrote this!


  5. Kartik, once again you have hit the nail on the head…except that these are exactly the kind of Democrats that can lead the Democratic Party out of the hinterlands…Katie Edwards is a breath of fresh air…and she has taken on some proverbial bastions of the status quo, and she is still coming out swinging…she is a future Dem leader in the House…Rep. Moskowitz has nevertheless voted his conscience (and in one case voted against a Smart Justice proposal)…but that is what he is supposed to do!……Sen. Jeremy Ring is a rock star…progressives can certainly complain but he has been a committee chair in the Senate when few other Dem’s have attained that status…progressives consistently complain about the ideologues in the legislature (read: GOP) and yet your desire is to commit the same crime…the legislature is about compromise…a Mother’s Day resolution in the House would come out a Father’s Day resolution in the Senate…quit looking for strict adherence to an ideology because if you insist on it, you are committing the Dem’s to permanent minority status – which is already the case…without business support the Dem’s have no chance nor hope to become the majority in the legislature…remember that your beliefs – progressive politics is still in the minority in Florida…to win is about finding middle ground – which is where Floridians are!


    1. Barney, I respect your opinion and experience in these matters but I think the electorate has changed since the 1990s and moderation on either side while theoretically a good governing philosophy is not what activists want on either side. I would submit this is true on the right also, as someone like Baxley is more in tune with those who elected him in Ocala now for a second set of terms (his clock has started again vis a vis term limits) than most of the Republicans in the legislature. Voters are either liberal or conservative Rick Scott ran as a conservative and was elected Governor. Alex Sink ran as a moderate and was not. Same thing in Crist v Davis. Same thing in Obama v McCain and Romney. Both Republicans ran as mushy moderates while Obama ran to his base. Same thing in Bush v McBride. Bill Nelson an obvious exception to this rule but he’s benefited from weak opposition and personal likability.

      So while from a governing and Tallahassee perspective moderates of both parties may be desirable, for voters they want someone who stands on principle and reflects their values not that of political insiders. That’s the issue at stake. This same discussion is going on in the GOP nationally and there I believe the activists and tea party are correct- the two best GOP years of the last half century, 1994 and 2010 have taken place when the base of the party was motivated and turned out in remarkable numbers for an off-year election. Democrats need something similar in Florida in off-years, ie state election cycle years to win statewide. The GOP continues to nominate great candidates to motivate the base while the Ds ignore the base and nominate those who lose statewide and anger the activists in the process.


    2. Why are Democrats the only ones who are expected to compromise and give up their values?


  6. Molder from West Palm Beach · ·

    GREAT article. Include Aronberg, Bernard, Brandenberg, Slosberg, Sachs and Klein in any sequel you write about PBC.


  7. The Observer · ·

    Do not forget Wexler got in bed with the Republicans all too often. Burt also.


  8. Don’t forget Gywn Clarke-Reed who is nothing but a tool for the school voucher people.


  9. More leftist propaganda from this site. Kartik you are totally CLUELESS about compromise and governing. How can representatives properly help their districts if they are harassed by imbeciles like you into voting no on everything. Work to foster consensus. Work to help Republicans see the light. When they do like Crist don’t denegrate them with daily posts rehashing ancient history and age old controversies. Embrace our newly minted partisans.


  10. […] of the Democratic Party to build a decent bench from which to recruit candidates (instead of taking all comers) is due in large measure to the unwillingness of the party proper to get involved in local races and […]


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