Exactly a year ago on December 31st when running for Chairwoman, Allison Tant released her blueprint for that she would do as Chair of the party. Let’s take a look at each point and how the Chairwoman and the party has fared. My commentary is in bold italics. Please keep in mind Tant’s blueprint was not for a single year but for a longer period of time thus she does deserve to be cut some slack for the incomplete status of almost all of these goals especially when considering the absolute mess she inherited.
1. Empower Local Democratic Parties
The Florida Democratic Party can be its strongest when we empower local Democratic parties across the state. By positioning the Florida Democratic Party to serve as a hub of resources for local Democratic parties we can better provide key resources, such as email management programs, voter contact programs and fundraising softwares at cost effective prices. When local Democratic parties partner with the state party by utilizing the same programs and systems we can have a fully integrated system that streamlines data sharing and allows for real-time information sharing. As a component of strengthening the position of the state party and empower our local parties, I would like to add regional staff to help with fundraising, field and political activities. Additionally, the Florida Democratic Party will make investments in leadership development and trainings to allow for team building and leadership skills to grow from the bottom up.
This is a work in progress. Much of the failure of this is down to the ineffectualness of DECs themselves who despite being empowered to make changes by Tallahassee seem incapable of maintaining a high-level operation during off years. Additionally, the state party hasn’t really set up a strong field operation at the local level but from my experience that tends to happen between March and May of an election year. My assumption is that the FDP and Tant are planning on laying this field infrastructure in coming months.
2. Secure High-Tech Infrastructures
In 2008 and 2012, we learned the benefits of having high-tech infrastructures as part of campaign operations. In particular, 2012 showed that President Obama’s electoral successes in battleground states like Florida was highly dependent on data management and voter targeting. As part of an integrated and coordinated campaign operation, the Florida Democratic Party will make investments in high-tech infrastructures that include upgrades to data management programs and voter targeting systems that allow the state party, local Democratic parties and candidates to benefit from the latest technologies.
This is improving. Full marks to the party and Chairwoman on this.
3. Recruit Strong Candidates
A central component of the Florida Democratic Party’s operations must be to identify and recruit strong candidates to run at every level of office. In 2012, Florida Democrats won up and down the ballot because of the strength of our candidates. It is important that we continue to focus our efforts in aggressive candidate outreach so we have candidates from within their communities step up and run for elected office.
Amanda Murphy was great State House candidate for the October Pasco County special election in HD-36. The problem is much of the other House and Senate candidate recruitment has been subpar though much of this falls on the House and Senate leaderships. The recruitment for CFO on the state level has been a debacle of epic proportions and the party’s inability to properly manage the message about Allie Braswell’s withdrawal was comically inept. The decisions of the FDP around statewide races have smacked of desperation. Two underwhelming CFO candidates and a absolute mess being made in the Governor’s race. Both Democratic candidates Charlie Crist and Nan Rich have already had issues with the Party. Crist’s populist/economic based messaging likely takes him clear of the party while Rich was shown nothing but disrespect by the FDP on numerous occasions most notably at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner. The Democrats still do not have a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner of any note. In the Attorney General’s race, the FDP’s inability to head off a potentially bloody primary and their inability to see who potentially could run was shocking. My feeling is the party’s political team was so desperate to get a top tier candidate they in-fact recruited two in the same month, and cannot figure a way out of it. The following month, another top-tier potential Democratic candidate made noises about running publicly, without the party doing anything about it. Right now the party is failing badly in this role. If the party finds a strong candidate for Agriculture Commissioner and figures out a way to sort out the A.G. race mess, then 2014 will be a better year for the party on this front.
4. Activate a Lasting Fundraising Operation
The successes of the Florida Democratic Party are best measured by its ability to implement an aggressive and robust fundraising operation. To implement the many components of a successful coordinated campaign operation, it requires significant resources. My focus will be to develop a lasting fundraising operation through high and small dollar contributions from Democrats across the state and nation. Florida continues to play a critical role on the national level and as such, we must harness and cultivate traditional and non-traditional donors who can make important financial commitments to the state party so we can make the needed investments around the state. In the short-term, to lay the groundwork for the critical 2014 elections, I will focus on three important tasks noted below.
Establish a Governor’s Fund – Our work to elect a Democratic Governor in 2014 is paramount. It will take significant resources, which is why I would like to immediately establish a Governor’s Fund where funds are raised to support the Democratic Nominee in the General Election.
Jefferson-Jackson was a wildly successful from a fundraising perspective but the party’s 2013 cash haul has thus far been far less than anticipated. Still it was never going to be easy. Republicans have monopolized the state’s fundraising apparatus and have benefited from the control of Tallahassee special interest and corporate lobbyists have gained in the last decade.
5. Engage Party Faithful & Activists
The countless hours contributed every day by the party faithful and activists across the state is what makes the Florida Democratic Party a success. As chair, I will continue to bring together our grassroots leaders and activists and encourage greater involvement throughout the legislative sessions and election cycles. Through leadership trainings and workshops, we can better grow our grassroots and keep them involved in key battles that take place in our state’s capital and across county and city halls. The best tool to effectively keep our grassroots leaders and activists engaged is to have open and ongoing communication. As chair, I intend to have an integrated and coordinated communications program that brings our party leaders, elected officials, grassroots leaders and activists together through the active sharing of information.
My work as your chair will be my full-time focus because the work ahead requires nothing less. The Florida Democratic Party’s Pillars of Success is an ambitious plan to build a highly coordinated and interactive state party that paves the way for us to have many victories in 2014 and beyond. However, this plan cannot be fully implemented without significant financial resources. Therefore, one of my major priorities will be to work every day to aggressively raise the dollars needed to ensure we can successful implement the Five Pillars of Success and deliver many resources to local Democratic parties across Florida. Without financial resources, none of this can get done. And more importantly, without your support, we will not move forward!
The engagement of activists and outside progressive groups has improved only slightly. Still the damage done to the party by previous regimes was going to be difficult to overcome. Tant is certainly better than her three immediate predecessors whose conflicts of interests and personal ambitions prevented the party from ever being a cohesive, unifying force. The party is doing a better job though of reaching out to the grassroots activists. This the Chairwoman deserves credit for but in all honesty she could not have done any worse than her predecessors in the job.
In 2014 we’ll learn far more about where the party stands using this document as the benchmark.