Thoughts from a lazy Sunday afternoon — CD 13 and Pinellas Democrats

By The old guy sitting on the bench, Guest Columnist

Sixty years ago, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court found that the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ was in fact unequal. Standing here today I wonder what has really changed. Yesterday my wife and I had went shopping for groceries and other things we need for our home. In thinking back I honestly do not recall seeing one black man or woman as we went about our business. Today in church again there wasn’t a black person to be seen. Is there a systematic, formal method of racial segregation? I don’t think so. However the empirical evidence of daily life certainly demonstrates that segregation is alive and doing quite well, thank you very much Mr. Crow.

Americans want to believe that we live in a post-racial world since we elected a black president. I believe there is evidence to suggest that today schools are as segregated as they were before Martin Luther King, when he demanded the schoolhouse doors be open to all. In today’s Sunday New York Times Magazine section there is an article titled “Am I supposed to be here? Am I good enough?” which begins by detailing the journey of a young black woman at the University of Texas at Austin. The questions the young woman at UT finds herself asking are not unusual. I’m aware of the details of another black woman’s journey through a top ten law school. A woman in those times had to be five times better than her male counterparts, while a black woman had to be spotlessly perfect. Are you that good? For sure I am not.

An old saying goes “The more things change the more they stay the same.” Take the case of the Reverend Dr. Manuel Sykes and his abortive attempt to stand as the candidate of the Democratic Party for the seat currently held by Congressman David Jolly. I’m of the opinion that one of the more illuminating comments that has come out of this strange and twisted tale was made by Mark Hanisee, Chairman of the Pinellas County Democratic Party, when Mr Hanisee said that this was a “learning lesson.”

This statement was a beautifully crafted piece of political doublespeak. It can be read several different ways by several different audiences and seeks to appeal to all. There is a real question at issue — was the voice mail left by Mr. Hanisee for Dr. Sykes insulting or not? It seems that Mr. Hanisee is unsure, as he says there was a “perceived insult.” Mr. Edward de Bono, a renowned expert on creative thinking, makes an interesting comment:“Logic will ever change emotion or perception.” If you see no insult then, as one person said regarding this situation, move on, there is nothing to see here.


Looking at the recent experiences of Democratic Party candidates for the CD-13 seat will provide some insight. This is a district that President Obama carried in both 2008 and 2012. In 2012, neither the local or state party enticed anyone into challenging the incumbent, Bill Young. A local attorney, Jessica Ehrlich, that had strong connections to Washington made a run for the seat. As we all know, Bill Young stayed in office and Ms. Ehrlich is now a commentator for Fox News. Upon the demise of Mr. Young there was a significant amount of jockeying about to arrive at a candidate for the Democratic Party to run for the open office. As I recall Ms. Ehrlich’s was already running hard and well in the seat, and then the news came that Alex Sink was to be the candidate and the deck was cleared. Ms. Sink had the backing and the money of the powers to be and she moved into the district in order to run for the office. It would seem the word came down that we don’t want a primary. Unfortunately, as we all know, she too fell short.

This brings us to the current election season. To put it charitably, the candidate selection process was muddled. Was Ms. Sink going to run? No? Then who? It seemed at times that every local Democrat had their turn in the box as a possible candidate. Yet no one wanted to stand as a challenger to the incumbent Mr. Jolly. Into this quagmire steps the Rev. Dr. Sykes seemingly treading where many others feared to go or simply said would not go. Dr. Sykes declares his candidacy as a Democrat for the position.

Rev. Dr. Sykes is certainly a very well-known individual within the community. His accomplishments are significant and impressive. He has spoken to and assisted the Democratic Party on numerous occasions. Now he finds himself declared to be “persona non grata” and dis-invited to deliver a invocation at a party fund raising function. Why? There is some individual out there who will be running for the office. Who? That is left seemingly unsaid. One name appears and just as quickly disappears. Now a newly minted Democrat will be running as a NPA. Does anyone recall how well Charlie Crist did running as a NPA? I thought so. Then the newest flash does not pan out. The upshot: there is no one challenging Mr. Jolly as a Democrat.

This isn’t to say that Dr. Sykes would have been the ideal candidate. Then again, who is? The argument is tossed out that he had no chance of winning. Is that the test of a potential candidate? You must be a sure thing? If that is the case then there are many Democratic Party candidates who should not look to either the state or local party for support.

Could there be something else at play? The good old boys making their picks seems a likely scenario. To ask an impolite question, could there be an element of racism here? I suppose the answer to that lies with your perceptions.


  1. patrianakos · ·

    Does anyone else see the parallel between Mr. Hanisee’s browbeating of Rev. Sykes and the browbeating of Sen. Rich I see on this blog’s comment threads?


  2. The good old boys pick does appear to be the likely scenario…….although Rev. Sykes believes he was treated harshly and disrespected. It could also be considered A Time Is Of The Essence situation and that good judgment may have been lacking. Calling it a race
    issue is overreaching, but that does get the media attention. Lessons Learned???


  3. Susan Smith · ·

    See: Meek, Kendrick


  4. Yellow Dog Democrat · ·

    Did RACE have anything to do with the Washington and Tallahassee “powers that be” that threw Jessica Elrich under the bus for Alex Sink?

    The answer is NO!

    The Rev Sykes RACE card is ridiculous and sad at the same time because this “decision” to dump Rev Sykes goes way, way above Mark Hanisee’s pay scale all the way to the FDP in Tallahassee and the DCCC in Washington.

    Because as we now know the “rest of the story”, while Alex Sink took her sweet time deciding not to run again, all the great Pinellas Democratic “leaders” (?) then took turns turning down the “opportunity” to run against Cong Jolly…ie Ken Welch, Janet Long, Charlie Justice, Darden Rice, Rick Kreisman and many many others. It was Alex and the Washington/Tallahassee gang that had their last ditch, behind the scenes, hand-picked candidate, a Republican, turned Independent, turned Democrat who lived in Tampa who screwed up his resume so bad he dropped out within days of announcing and by then qualifying was over.

    None of this mess had anything to do with Mark Hanisee, or especially race, except that Hanisee had the misfortune of being the one to tell Rev Sykes the sad truth. (i.e. SEE: Jessica Ehrlich) Did Jessica Ehrlich scream discrimination against blonds when she was shoved out the door by the EXACT same Washington/Tallahassee gang under the EXACT same circumstances?

    So why is Sykes any different when he was treated the exact same way for the exact same reason? Because he is Black? Or because he did not have a chance in hell of winning with all the baggage and scandal that he has lurking under the Reverend and the NAACP label and the face that he is personally and financially bankrupt?

    And all those Pinellas “LEADERS” (?) who ran like rats when Sykes and his gang started screaming “RACE”? Instead of bringing Hanisee and Sykes together to seek peace and justice they all write a stupid letter absolving themselves of any sin and walk away leaving Hanisee to be the scapegoat and the fall guy when everybody knew exactly what was going on.

    Now Rex Sykes and his gang are threatening to not vote in the next election if they don’t get their way (whatever that is) and allow the worst Governor in Florida history to get re-elected?

    What exactly does that accomplish?

    I am not negating the fact that African-Americans are discriminated against every day on everything…employment, housing, healthcare and on and on and it is a serious matter that must be addressed and tackled by everyone.

    I’m sorry Rev Sykes, your being dumped had nothing to do with race. It had everything to do with pure politics and weather or not you can win. it’s a free country and you are welcome to run anytime you want. So stop whining and playing the martyr. There are plenty of races still available for you to run on at the County and State level before qualifying ends in June. So its time to put up or shut up.


  5. The good old boy establishment is in its last throes of domination. The glass ceiling is about to be broken. Things like what happened to Sykes make it clear that they are barely hanging on.


    1. Yellow Dog Democrat · ·

      Dear Gecko, Don’t fool yourself. The good old boy power establishment is never going to go away!

      Sad but true!


    2. patrianakos · ·

      Perhaps. But meanwhile, I am sick and tired of having no one to vote for.


  6. You are incorrect here :’It seemed at times that every local Democrat had their turn in the box as a possible candidate.’

    See Meek! See Schneider in old 13! See Russell in old 5. On and on.
    I have contacted all that you contact to clue them in to someone who has shown an interest in the past, in Bill Young’s seat.

    Her name is Nicole Stott. She actually lives in Clearwater, graduated from Clearwater High.
    She is an astronaut. A real one, unlike the misconception surrounding Sen. Bill Nelson.
    The party has ignored this…and here is where we are! Check her out yourself! There are good people in the community, but the party doesn’t want them! It’s up to their corporate masters.

    It’s a two party system, with one money bucket.

    Nicole Stott. I dare you to open the link and look for yourself, what has been given to all in these matters.


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