House Democratic Caucus divisions largely non-ideological and personality oriented

FlaDemsIn recent days we’ve heard a great deal about the divisions in the House Democratic caucus. In many places they have been cast as fights between the “liberal” wing of the party versus the “moderate” wing of the party. But in reality, what is happening is largely personality driven and politically motivated divisions.

Earlier this week we discussed the issue of Minority Leader Perry Thurston’s amendment to HB 89 regarding  the”Stand Your Ground” law in Florida. The divisions in the caucus that were apparent that day on the floor have intensified according to multiple sources since last week. What is at play in these divisions? Is it simply liberal vs conservative as some have claimed? Or is more at stake?

Many of our sources have fingered the contentious caucus vote over leader-designee in February 2013 coming weeks after a divisive Florida Democratic Party Chairs race had concluded. The close vote between Darryl Rouson of St Petersburg and Mia Jones of Jacksonville started a period of discord within the caucus. The size of the unusually large freshman class in the caucus also played a role.

Perception said many of Jones supporters were liberals and Rouson more conservative and a former Republican was backed by more moderate elements. However these lines while partially correct were not exact then, and are not now even after the ouster of Rouson in favor of Mark Pafford, who has greater support and a level of respect within the caucus than Jones did. Pafford is also seen a s a policy wonk and is respected by members on both sides of the aisle for his passion and dedication to the issues he cares about. This allowed him to gain additional support among Rouson’s previous supporters in the September vote that occurred after a few high-profile mistakes by Rouson.

However, Pafford is not the current leader of the caucus and while he is viewed favorably by many, some of the current leadership is rapidly losing their hold on the members within the group. The members whose growing unease with the leadership is apparent come from every ideological corner of the caucus. They are not merely political moderates or conservatives.

The continued divisions in the caucus can be attributed now to two clear factors:

  1. The direction politically of the caucus in terms of electioneering in the 2014 cycle. This issue directly involved the fate of several freshman members who are in vulnerable seats and the choice of political leadership and vendors by the caucus. This situation will be explored further in future posts. As we reported last month, The Democrats House campaigns were not going well at that moment in time.
  2. The personal future political plans of current leaders within the caucus. Minority Leader Rep. Perry Thurston is running statewide for Attorney General and equally important his key lieutenant, the rules “maestro” Rep Jim Waldman is running for State Senate in 2016. Caucus members and other Democrats around the capitol are complaining about the divisions being blatantly about runs for future office. In the term limits era this is hardly a new development, however the divisions this year appear to be stronger and deeper than in the past. The last time I can recall the caucus being this divided was when the 43 member Democratic caucus in the 2000-2002 time period was having trouble with Representative Lois Frankel, the hard charging leader at the time. However, on many issues both ideologically and process-wise Rep. Frankel was aligned with the more moderate (or even in many cases liberal) Republican leadership of the State Senate. Thus Rep. Frankel had more leverage within the legislature than Rep. Thurston currently does.

While some have tried to cast this as a liberal v conservative fight, several members more liberal than Rep. Waldman based on just about every available vote ratings metric including our own scorecard from last session are more aligned with the Rouson faction, if they are to be called that. Protection of freshman members in addition to the potential for the Democrats to pick up several seats in the legislature (opportunities that were blown by some of the same consultants and vendors in 2012) appears to be a big issue even for some members currently sitting in safe Democratic seats.

Then twe have the process issues related to the perceived grandstanding and alliance building by those including but not limited to Reps. Thurston and Waldman who are running for higher office. the lack of creativity in legislative tactics also is being floated by those unhappy with the leadership.

With the track record of Florida Democrats in state elections worse than that of any other Democratic Party east of the Mississippi since 2000, those who backed Rouson could make a strong point about the need for new leadership, with new ideas, new alliances and new energy.  The message about reform in the party and the need to take out the trash in the way of entrenched consultants and ideas that have cost the Democrats seat in election after election may have been sound, but Rouson was a flawed messenger in many ways for this. However, the issues which brought him into the leadership albeit temporarily still exist, and perhaps have intensified since his removal.

This developing story will continue to be tracked closely at TFS.


  1. Thanks!!! · ·

    Kartik, Thanks for bringing out and facing head on the same issues that I have agreed with you and harranged on about the cronies and rats and consultants in Tallahassee and DC who are still running the party Scott Arceneau and Christian Ulvert who hand picked their puppets, Allison Tant and (even though he is a decent guy unlike Tant) Leader Mark Pafford the keep their six figure salaries intact and the kickbacks they get from the loosing consultants they put onto Democratic candidates who run…weather they want them or not.

    Just recently, the Tallahassee and DC consultant idiots did a masterful job proving that they are just as stupid as ever when they swooped in and took over the Alex Sink campaign and turned a 22 point lead into a 2 point loss by dropping the ball…as they always do…but laughing all the way to the bank with the millions that they scammed for the miserable work that they do.

    It is very frustrating!

    I wish there were more smart independent voices like yours out there and more people read you and paid attention to your hard work.

    Please Keep It Up!



  2. Waldman has been on both sides of every issue.

    Who would be led by him???


    1. he is a smart dude but pretty far to the right honestly for Broward Democrat. You know he endorsed plenty of Republicans when he was a city official before he decided to run for the legislature.


  3. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    Spot on! One of the best blogs you’ve written.

    Frame this one. Are you in the room during caucus meetings?

    You know what is going on!


  4. Yeah this is right on.

    Perry is a good guy but now he’s pushing hard to win the AG and he is the party as his vehicle.


  5. Fla Dem Insider · ·

    This could be written by a republican. You write stuff without talking to Josh Karp or the press office at the FDP, and make wrong assumptions about everything. Some malcontents in the caucus from St Pete or Tampa or former party staffers tell you garbage and you spew it. We know which members say this stuff. Some people cannot control their excitement around town every time you post. They are in fact helping the Republicans also.


    1. Yes let’s make this website previously independent just another source for Ulvert/
      Tant hackery.


    2. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more left-leaning blog than ours. If you want TFS to consider the state party’s point of view, reach out to us like many members have — unlike you, we use our real email addresses. We’d be happy to talk with you. We are all Democrats here.

      The current House maps are drawn to elect around 55 Dems and the FDP apparatus hasn’t been able to capitalize. Someone has to say something about why that is. Allowing things to remain the same is what really helps the Republicans.


  6. Thanks for this. These things NEED to be articulated.

    All we do is lose and then make excuses.

    I think you guys need to rerun the series on the vendors.

    Have any of you party psychopaths actually tried to have a real strategic conversation with Christian Ulvert?

    He doesn’t know diddly about diddly.


  7. You know a lot of the early problems for Rouson was because the party itself choose to take a stand against him. Party staffers party operatives party consultants.


  8. And the line to top it off, “With the track record of Florida Democrats in state elections worse than that of any other Democratic Party east of the Mississippi since 2000″

    Let’s see…did Obama win Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee or Kentucky twice? How can you get away with stating such a false and slanderous statement about our party? This is slander.

    Well I am referring to state elections which is clearly stated…Florida Democrats have lost 13 of 14 races for the cabinet or Governor since 2000. That’s a win percentage of 9%. In the legislature, President Obama carried 54 House districts yet the Democrats hold just 45 seats. The Democrats do hold two seats won by Mitt Romney (Clelland and Zimmerman) but the Rs hold ELEVEN seats won by Obama last year. Democrats have won the Governorship more recently in each and every southern state you list above than we have in Florida.

    Thanks OFA, some savvy polling and political work and demographic trends for Obama’s wins.

    Slander? Maybe you should check your facts before flying off the handle with such ridiculous assertions.


  9. Where Is Victory? · ·

    Kartik, I’m surprised you even answered Christian Ulvert I mean Fla Dem’s stupid comments.

    He is obviously not waiting before smoking the Medical Marijuana samples before it becomes legal this November!

    The most obviously ridiculous comments that show, Allison Tant, I mean Fla Dem’s ignorance is, “the successes of the FDP”


    Fla Dem is now counting 47% as a success? Hmmm? I think this was really probably written by Alex Sink’s young, unqualified and inexperienced “Political Director”, Nick Janowsky… another FDP looser in the long, long line of Allison Tant, Scott Arceneaux and Christian Ulvert’s great list of FDP’s tremendous Tallahassee and Washington DC loosing consultants list who will be rewarded with another loosing campaign soon.

    Nick, I mean Fla Dem, obviously flunked math.

    Did I say “loosing” consultants for the FDP?

    Well there is an OXYMORON for you!

    Keep it up FDP! Your the best thing that ever happened to the Republicans in Florida!


  10. Since you decided to impugn the motives and integrity of several state legislators I am removing your comment and your IP address has been flagged. You also impugned the integrity of this site and as I pointed out last night in a reply had your facts all wrong about the record of Florida Democrats versus those from other southern states. All guests who leave comments are expected to maintain a decent decorum on this website that contributes to the debate not simply personal attacks.


  11. […] The debates over the so-called “warning shot” legislation in both the House and Senate have been impassioned and contentious rounds of sparring, revealing harsh divides between and within the parties. […]


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