The Florida Democratic Party’s second-quarter finance report has raised many eyebrows across the state. While Chairwoman Allison Tant can rightfully take credit for strong Jefferson-Jackson dinner, the fundraising unrelated to the party’s marque event this quarter was very poor in fact the poorest we’ve seen in some time. This quarter was the worst Q2 for the party since 2005, when the scandal-plagued Scott Maddox leadership of the FDP could barely pay the bills and keep the lights on at the HQ despite getting a sweetheart deal after shamefully selling the former HQ to the Searcy/Denny Law Firm to raise needed cash. (I can speak from personal experience that it wasn’t the first time that specific law firm had bailed the party both statewide and locally in Palm Beach out when it did not meet its financial commitments.)
After the first quarter, I gave Chairwoman Tant a pass blaming the poor report on former Chairman Rod Smith among other things. I’ll repeat some of my analysis from April in saying that 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 that preceded Tant. It is obvious that the Chairwoman has understood that the previous staff inherited from Smith was not cutting it both on the communications and on the fundraising level. Her hires to solve these problems have been smart, though I have heard some snickers about the specific personnel let me say it is very tough to get high-end people to work for a party that has the type of recent losing record that the FDP does. The new staffers are about as good as you could get given the limitations on the party. The Chairwoman and her top staffers deserve credit for finding people who can at least make an attempt to improve the staffing situation.
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. Furthermore, the Democrats have lost 13 of the last 14 races for Governor or Cabinet, the worst record in those types of races of any Democratic Party east of the Mississippi since 2000.
The problem is that Tant’s fundraising to this point hasn’t been more creative or grassroots oriented as I had hoped it would be. The Chairwoman ran for Chair and was elected based on her fundraising prowess and we were told she could raise “millions” for the party. Those promises seem to have been hollow in retrospect, though I think it is unfair to blame Tant entirely because again she inherited a mess from an absentee former chairman and has just now been able to overhaul the staff in the fashion that any new chair with her ambition needed to undertake. So while Tant must bear some of the blame for the poor quarter, the problems are quite honestly endemic in the party’s infrastructure both for fundraising and for turning out voters in non-Presidential elections.
Florida’s Democrats continue to be a woeful minority party. This week’s finance reports just reinforce that unfortunate notion. But with Tant’s recent staff changes, perhaps we won’t be having this discussion again in three months.