Orange County Democrats in the wake of Val Demings withdrawal – Open forum

Val Demings,  a superstar Democratic candidate shocked Florida politicos with her sudden withdrawal from the Orange County Mayor’s race on Tuesday. Demings, who overperformed in a 2012 Congressional challenge to Congressman Dan Webster, was looking to unseat Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

The Orange County Mayor’s office is one of the most powerful and visible elected positions in the state of Florida. In the past Democrats have had trouble finding viable challengers for the position, which has been held by the GOP since Mel Martinez’s election in 1998.

The Democratic Party in Orange County has been very effective in turning out General Election voters and pushing progressive causes. However, the failure in local elections continues to be a problem, as are several rifts within the party. Many of these divisions are based solely on personalities and individual considerations rather than ideological or tactical distinctions.

Demographically, Orange County has changed more than any metropolitan county in the Southeast in the last fifteen years. In that time Democrats have performed stronger than ever at the top of the ticket. Al Gore became in 2000 the first Democrat since FDR in 1944 to carry Orange County at the Presidential level. Alex Sink in 2010 became the first Democratic Gubernatorial nominee to win the county since Lawton Chiles’ landslide 1990 win.

The Democratic percentages and performance at the top of the ticket creeps up in every cycle it seems, and 2012 represented a breakthrough for legislative candidates in the region, with the Democrats picking up four new House seats. This represented a major shift in local House elections as in the 1992 to 2012 period the Democrats had been left to simply compete in minority-access seats, with the exception of the Winter Park-based House district which Democrats held on and off during the period.

Local County Commission districts are heavily gerrymandered in what I feel is the most partisan map drawn at any level in the state of Florida after the 2012 reapportionment — unlike the State House map, which was fair to Democrats locally and accounted partly for the shift in the delegation composition. Despite this, Democrats still haven’t been as effective as they need to be in engaging some communities.

The idea of this post is to throw open a discussion about Orange County. What are the problems our readers see (if any), and how do they get solved?

A reminder here that excessively personal remarks will be edited or deleted by the moderators.


  1. Truth teller · ·

    At the risk of being deleted by the moderators let me state openly and without reservation that the leadership of the local party has tried hard to stop those who aren’t party of a certain clique from getting in. They won’t work with the other side locally and they aren’t great about promoting Hispanics into leadership.

    You give the party credit for exciting voters in general elections but that’s the OFA people and those working the Hispanic community.

    The local party is merely an extension of the dysfunction and personal stigma driven leadership the state party undertakes. The local leadership backed Allison Tant and has been rewarded for their loyalty. Those who did not back her openly have been excluded.

    The way forward may have to be on the outside. The OCDEC has a function but leadership has to come from the outside where so many activists now reside.


    1. Susan Smith · ·

      Carlos Smith and Vivian Rodriquez, the Chair and Vice-Chair of the DEC, are Hispanic, so your comments sound more like sour grapes from the FDP chair’s election than serious analysis of Val Demming’s decision to drop out of the race.


      1. That might be so but the most prominent Hispanic leaders in the county have been pushed aside by this local party leadership.


      2. Susan Smith · ·

        Who are they?


  2. The biggest issues locally have been the unwillingness of some people formerly in power to let go.

    Being a leader 20 years ago does not entitle you to a permanent seat at the table!!!


  3. Geoff Harkins · ·

    But T simply being an elected official or a staffer for an elected official does not entitle you to run the party.

    Our former Chairman who by the way did not appear on the ballot for any elected office in 2012 said during the Tant v Clendenin race that elected officials should count more in the voting than activists because they had more on the line. That was insulting beyond belief. How he got away with that statement defies logic. The elected officials and establishment figures in the party were all pushing Allison Tant. They were scared they would lose the vote because our system has a weighted vote that favors activists as it should. So he came out and made this comment.


  4. Geoff Harkins · ·

    I found the comment from Randolph ; Reported by none other than the author of this article.


    1. Fla Dem · ·

      So you don’t believe the elected officials party staff and party consultants behind Allison Tant had more skin in the game?

      You believe activista who have other jobs or no jobs it all should be determining the fate of the party? By and large that was the coalition behind Clendennin led by none other than the author of this article whose professional work is in sports is as a PR person. He has no political clients and no skin in the game.

      Knowing a little about his work I can tell you he’s incredibly more professional and cautious about things in his actual profession then he is in running this blog and causing problems for the party.

      He is just one example. The malcontents that were backing the opposition candidate almost won the election. Can you imagine where this party would be if the wrong person had won?

      We already saw how incompetent the House leadership was under one of Clendennin’s biggest supporters. He had to be replaced because of incompetence. Those who supported him in the legislature are equally angry and off the reservation.

      Then you have the angry white man faction in orange county to which this refers to. A bunch of young men running around the county wanting power when they have no idea how to exercise it. Misogynists and sexists.

      The opposition to Allison Tant was based on sexism with this particular crowd simply put. It’s still is.

      At least the author of this piece was smart not to get too close to the angry white men. He adroitly played the middle in orange county and somehow has survived even though he doesn’t live in the area.


      1. I’m glad you claim to know me so well. 🙂


      2. Thank you for reading and for your many comments. I hope we can talk down here in the comments section and maybe you can set me straight about a few things, Fla Dem.

        Chair Tant, to my eye, isn’t raising nearly enough money and it’s looking like every D on the ballot this year is going to feel that. Is that an unreasonable basis for criticizing her? I’m rooting for her but wow, things are going to be tight this cycle. Wish that weren’t so. Am I wrong to feel this way?

        Was it appropriate for party staffers to openly supporting Allison, or should they have remained formally neutral during the course of the race? Totally serious, naive question. Maybe it happens every during chair’s race and I wasn’t aware. Weren’t some of those staffers responsible for counting the votes? I understand there may have been some irregularities there. If someone has a serious problem with the above, does that make them a whiny malcontent?

        Re: House caucus politics, my understanding is that other than a handful of hardcore sectarians, those fences have largely been mended and folks are on board with the Leader who is incidentally one of this blog’s favorite members. There is no threat of a[nother] coup so perhaps it’s best to put that behind us and get as many Dems elected as we can regardless of leadership allegiances, no?

        The party has enough problems, we’re not trying to cause any more. We’re operating on good faith here, providing a unified forum for lefties, moderates, blue dogs, etc. to react to what we see because we know there are a lot of good ideas out there that have been neglected. I think we do a pretty good job of balancing a lot of perspectives that come from lots of different people who often carry acrimony towards one another. Let’s not be like that. If you’d like, send me an email sometime and let’s talk it out.

        And no matter how you slice it, the future of Democratic politics in Orange County is bright. What direction it gets taken is an entirely open question.


      3. Party staffers/contractors should have remained neutral during the Chair’s Race BTW. Really it was not proper for them to get as involved as some of them did.


      4. Fla Dem · ·

        Ryan we have no quarrel with you. We know you are good with the party and the party staff. Kartik likes to take on the party and align with the wrong factions of legislators consultants and activists. Sure the chairwoman could be doing better and she would be doing better if the Democratic legislators were doing more to help her. The same legislators Kartik has cozied up to.

        I happen to like Kartik and think he is a very good PR strategist and a brilliant historian of the legislature and politics in general. I am telling you I had some dealings with the American soccer community and his reputation in soccer is that of a consummate professional a pragmatist and a radical pro-free-market person. He’s well liked by fans because he’s a Charlie Crist type politician in the soccer world. Trust me on this.

        What I am trying to point out is his persona as a blogger and as a Democratic activist is different then his persona in his professional life because he doesn’t have the skin in the game the financial responsibilities that someone like Scott Randolph does.

        That’s all having been said this blog is very important. A lot of people read it. Whenever something is written here it gets passed around. I am not trying to start a fight I’m just pointing out that the Randolph thing was unfair. The hit on Randolph was totally unfair and was highly hypocritical if you do not know Kartik’s professional background.

        I don’t begrudge his alliances. I just think those alliances means he wants a cross purposes with our party. That’s because we have so many Democratic legislators and consultants were selfish. They only think about themselves and not the greater good of our party


      5. So, is this Amy or Susannah? The fact that you see sexism in everything is laughable.

        I guess you are a one-trick pony since you can only debating using this tactic and nothing else. Very Tea Partyesque.”


      6. Fla Dem · ·

        Trotter it’s neither Amy or Susannah.

        And speaking of sexists we know you are one.


  5. The problem is Hispanic voters don’t turn out in local elections and they want to be the “leaders” simply because of ethnicity. We need to engage Hispanic leaders who want to work not just those seeking to make money and to get credit for other people’s efforts.

    Sorry but that is how it is.


  6. What do people expect when one of the largest counties in the state elect a legislative aide for Jr house member as their chairman of the party???

    I know young leadership is in vogue but PLEASE.

    But when the leadership of the party is in love with a member of Congress receipt is the biggest joke in this country by both Democrats and Republicans you can understand why we are such a f****** mess.


  7. Three reasons Val Demings dropped out…….1. If she wanted an elected future this was the wrong race at the wrong time; 2. Nearly all the power groups in the county had come to “terms” with Teresa Jacobs and didn’t want to rock the boat; 3. 2014 isn’t likely going to be a good year for Democrats.


  8. She wasn’t going to win and couldn’t afford a second high profile loss on the record.

    Being seen as a superstar has its drawbacks. You keep getting pushed into higher profile races by the party and the party never has the infrastructure or the strategy to back you up.

    Val saw how she was let down by the DC-based operatives in the congressional race.

    The bottom line is she did not want that happening again as a local consultants weren’t helping much of the local party is beset by infighting. Besides plenty of Democrats made side deals already this cycle with Mayor Jacobs and with individual Republicans.


  9. Think! · ·

    Despite all the anger of liberal activists Jacobs is gettingreelected

    Demmings wasn’t winning


  10. The OCDEC is a vanity project of the Randolphs these days.

    Carlos Smith nothing more than a well-coached tool.

    Similar to some of the other cronies running around the Tax Collectors office and other associated organizations.


  11. The bottom line is we have lost three candidates for high-profile races in the last year before or just after candidate qualifying.

    Why don’t the Republicans ever have these sorts of issues?


    1. Money. Nicely well entrenched cronyism.


  12. Dave Trotter–nice to know your parents still let you have internet in the basement in Indiana. Welcome. Or did they finally kick you out of the house at age 30 or so?

    Where are these”Hispanic” leaders. Just because you scream and shout doesn’t make you a “leader”. When did you raise money for any Hispanic candidate? You’ve had several on the ballot and it sure isn’t the self-proclaimed “leaders” that do anything to help these candidates.

    This was a sad mistake by Demings, which the local party had crafted an entire ticket and strategy around. But that is her decision to make.

    These self-proclaimed “leaders” and the Doug Head Lost Boys complain every day that elected officials don’t help the party, but then they bitch and moan every day about Randolph being involved. He gets left with less than. $50 in the bank and runs a successful party for almost two years before he can’t take the nitwits. There’s a reason the local party has had 7 chairs in 8 years–and that is the “leaders” and Lost Boys. You can’t blame Randoh when there’s been 6 other people before him that threw their hands up and got out. And not a single one of them even comes to party events any more. That’s how much they wanted out after the “leaders” and Lost Boys.

    Wow, I can’t imagine why elected Democrats avoid the party. The local party will never be strong until Doug Head and the Lost Boys are gone. Plain and simple. All the viable candidates know it. All the electeds know it. And everyone at the DEC knows it. I’ve actually come to the comusion that Doug Head has actually been a Republican plant for 20 years and they’ve just been laughing their heads off for two decades that the local party won’t do anything to get rid of him.

    But the fact is that while Orange County is blue, it’s a very thin donor base. The region has the lowest wages of any metro area, and it’s tough raising the money necessary to run big races like Orange County Mayor–especially when the old guard Democrats already cut deals with the current Republican Mayor.


    1. LOL, your tendency to lie just shows your lack of intelligence 🙂


  13. Hey Bob maybe you should look in the mirror. We all agree Trotter is a bomb thrower and causes problems. He being out of Florida is a positive for everybody.

    But the problems in this county have been caused by the Randolph clan making everything about self advancement and personality driven politics. They’re the ones were divided Democrats excluded expertise from other leaders, and failed to do anything to build upon the success coming because of demographic change.

    They are the ones responsible for the demise of the party. The Randolphs and there dozen or so programmed cronies are running the local party into the ground


  14. Doug Head · ·

    Wow! A few thoughts:
    Orange is experiencing MAJOR demographic change. I could see it coming in the 90’s, and thought we did a good job of reaching out. But it continues with emerging South Asian, Asian, East European, Caribbean, African and other groups arriving every day as if this were New York. Karl Rove saw what happened in 2000 and set up a major effort to fight back, featuring Mel Martinez. The Bush White House funded it, but Latinos, Puerto Ricans and other groups kept registering Democrat. We won Orange and did well locally, but there was too much focus on Presidential politics.

    As part of the effort to confuse massive numbers of new voters, the establishment (including many Democrats) had pushed through non-partisan elections for County Commission in 1992, and helped bring them to our School Boards statewide in 2000. New voters don’t know where to access the process. Candidates don’t know where to start. Questions (especially public questions) are discouraged in Orange as the newspaper instructs us in how to follow the lead of the Chamber and large enterprises. There is no large culture of civic engagement except for profit, despite the great success of the local League of Women Voters.

    What everyone in Orange needs is a lot of education about the system. But for those who have arrived at their positions recently, more information is a threat, so education is limited to instruction in how to take orders. Political education in ALL aspects of the system (including functioning DEC Committees) will help Democrats to empower themselves and reduce the current dependence on consultants and cash. Questions should be welcomed, not discouraged. Most questions are seen as challenges to authority, not legitimate concerns.

    After winning the unique election to the Tax Collector job AND re-election to the Party Chairmanship in late 2012, Scott Randolph called on the Party to “rest”, from the exertions of 2012, and we did. The results are showing up now, I think. Val Demings shocked me when she got into this race as a DC consultant based candidate, not when she got out.

    Finally, well funded alternative organizations, PACs, 527s, C4s suck up much potential energy from the Party, but they can never replace it, so the confusion spreads.

    WE can, if we try, get to work educating more new people in how Orange really works, then let them take it forward. And, I think, we can do better addressing economic issues rather than social causes.


  15. My hope is that the Orange DEC not get as bad as a local PTA meeting. Hope. Not saying I have a way to prevent that.


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