Trying to rationalize Florida Dems J-J program leaves more questions than answers

Since we broke the news almost two weeks ago that the only declared Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich has been omitted from the Jefferson-Jackson program, speculation has run rampant about the motivation of the party to do this. Theories, many of which are completely unfounded have floated, and what is equally worrying is that the minority leaders of both the Florida House and Florida Senate have not been invited to speak either.

The question then becomes what is the motivation for streamlining the Jefferson-Jackson program? Florida Democrats, who have been on a remarkable losing streak in state campaigns (Democrats have lost 13 of the last 14 statewide races for Governor or Cabinet) do badly need to reform the way they do business and present themselves. So perhaps Chairwoman Allison Tant felt that a good place to start showing a change from the past failures was at the annual gala dinner?

If this is the case, Tant can be complimented for taking the initiative to change things, but her decision making or perhaps that of her subordinates is deeply flawed. The failure of the Democrats in off-year election cycles over the past 16 years has had more to do with a lack voter enthusiasm and a state party that has isolated itself perhaps by design from grassroots activists for years than with pleasing donors by reforming the way J-J is conducted.

Perhaps Tant, who has hired an entirely new communications staff is trying to change the image of the party and streamline the expense and monotony of J-J. But is this really necessary given that the party’s structural issues and performance problems? Did big ticket donors to the party really request this change? Furthermore, even if it is deemed a necessity to streamline the dinner, how logical is it to omit speeches from the party’s lone Gubernatorial candidate and House/Senate leader?. Even if you allowed just five minutes for each to speak, you would extend the dinner even for allowing introductions, by less than a half hour.

Further questions have to be asked as to why the Florida Democratic Party has done little to compliment Senator Rich’s messaging about Governor Scott and the Republican dominated legislature in light of the speaking snub. While many Democrats, particularly in the political establishment yearn for another candidate to enter the race, with just one announced candidate the party should working to echo and enhance her messaging which has been effective with Democratic audiences. This can be even seen as an opportunity to raise money and rebuild the crumbled structure of the FDP.

The party was not particularly aggressive in complimenting the messaging of the legislative caucuses during session and instead of giving the legislative leaders an opportunity to message directly with donors and activists at the dinner, they too are being denied an opportunity to speak.

All of this leaves little rational explanation for the decision to omit speakers unless it is simply personality clashes, pettiness or a panic move by the party hierarchy. Based on what I can surmise the decisions are probably not being made by the Chairwoman herself, but are being made by staffers and one or two donors with the Chairwoman approving.

The public fallout from the speaking snub of Senator Rich continues to grow and the party itself has had little answer for the criticism. With a new communications team now in place, let us hope the party’s rapid response team and public posture improves. In reality, it cannot appear much worse than it already does.


  1. Of course they don’t want Rich to speak. Marginalizing her makes it easier for Crist to waltz to the nomination without moving too far to the left. Crist would be a stronger general election candidate pretending to be a moderate than if he had to pretend to be a liberal. A strong primary challenger may require Crist to take liberal stands on more and more issues. Tant has her job thanks to Debbie Wasserman Schultz. DWS has her job thanks to the White House. The White House wants Crist as the nominee, so Tant has to toe the line.


  2. Embarrassing is the only way to describe it.


  3. Dem daysi · ·

    Why hasn’t anyone put Charlie Crist’s feet to the fire and made him commit to what he will be doing for the party, whether its fundraising or running for governor. This would stop most of the chatter.


  4. I don not like that our annual dinner is named after the American President who led the biggest genocide in the history of America. Andrew Jackson is a deplorable symbol for the Democrats to be using when we are a party of multiculturalism and equal opportunity. Especially dureing this year of heightened attention to the plight of America’s Native people, the Idle No More Movement. The State Party has their work cut out for them, but myself and many others will not sit around and wait for them to get their act together.


  5. Florida Dem · ·

    Tant is proving to be over her head.


  6. […] explanations for not allowing Senator Rich to speak have been poorly thought out and have left more questions than answers. However, in recent days the speaking snub has taken a back seat to some of possible fireworks […]


%d bloggers like this: