The Florida Democratic Party whose State Committee is meeting today in Tampa recorded its worst post-election fundraising quarter since Q1 in 2005, during the first quarter of 2013. The party which was beset by infighting in January over who would be its Chair has since been grappling with difficulties related to being a minority party in the state legislature and widespread grassroots resistance to the potential candidacy of Charlie Crist in addition to the continued difficulties related to years of organizational neglect.
When she ran for Chair, Allison Tant the current Chairwoman touted her fundraising ability. While this quarter’s fundraising was little short of disastrous, it should be noted that Tant inherited a party from former Chairman Rod Smith that was hardly functioning at all and that while she probably over-promised her ability to raise money quickly, the poor quarter is probably not yet a fair reflection of her abilities. Moreover, when looking carefully at the report it must be noted that almost zero money was raised prior to Tant’s selection meaning the party lost nearly a full month of fundraising potential.
But what continues to bother me is the lack of creativity in fundraising for both FDP and local DECs. Activist networks aren’t being tapped and the type of issue based donors that fund environmental, women’s and pro-worker advocacy groups hardly ever show up on the finance reports of the FDP except during election. These same groups almost never show up on local DEC finance reports.
An outgrowth of the failure of the party to effectively raise money from Republican oriented Tallahassee based interest groups probably means that House Victory under Rep. Darryl Rouson should remain autonomous this cycle while the FDP looks to expand its fundraising base beyond Tallahassee lobbyists and law firms who do business in front of a Republican controlled legislature. Labor is a reliable ally, but they alone cannot sustain a statewide party. House Victory can continue to raise money from Tallahassee interest while the FDP looks to revitalize it’s fundraising base beyond the capitol.
Partisan fundraising is not easy particularly when you have been a long-term minority party like the Democrats. It has been further complicated by longstanding low caliber of party leadership. Perhaps Allison Tant can change that and change takes time, but the early returns are not promising. I have also spoken to some former small dollar donors who have said they are not giving any longer to the party thanks to a multitude of factors but the potential of money being spent on Charlie Crist’s Gubernatorial candidacy almost always comes up. This is not the fault of Ms. Tant, but she may be forced to address if Crist does not bow out in the next few months.
Tant was a prolific bundler for President Obama, and she and other party officials need to tap the networks of those who don’t typically give to the FDP or local DECs in order to be successful. Current fundraising strategies will always fail because those who give large amounts of money on the state level are comfortable with the status quo where the GOP has held over 60% of legislative seats since 1998. Thankfully, in Tant Florida Democrats have someone who isn’t a former elected official tied irrevocably to those networks but she needs to work hard expanding the party’s fundraising reach beyond traditional donors and towards activists and other interest groups in coastal areas and large metropolitan areas.
Florida’s Democrats continue to be a woeful minority party. This week’s finance reports just reinforce that unfortunate notion.