Legislative Races Need to be Given Higher Priority by Elected Officials and Local Parties

Coming off a special session where the Republicans Leadership once again showed arrogance and the contempt for the will of Florida’s citizens, the Democrats would have a unique chance to target vulnerable Republican lawmakers. But unfortunately due to the Florida Democratic Party’s emphasis on the Governor’s race legislative races and particularly House races have taken a back seat. Even more disappointing is the failure of local DECs in important parts of the state to work with the State House leadership to identify the types of candidates that could be successful in marginal districts.

The single-focus on the Governor’s race has hurt the legislative campaign committees with recruitment and perhaps fundraising also. The staff working on legislative races have done the best job they could to raise money and find candidates but it hasn’t been easy. When you are alone on an island politically it is difficult to be as successful in raising awareness as needed. In the Senate, all focus now is on protecting Maria Sachs, while the House is largely focused on protecting Democratic incumbents.

An acknowledgement that this will be a difficult year for Democrats in the Legislature is growing. The harsh reality of this 2014 cycle is that in many of the seats that the Democrats recruitment efforts never truly got out of the box effectively in a large number of the most winnable seats on the map.

The districts held by Reps. Santiago, Wood, Tobia, Spano, Pilon, Bileca, Rooney, Moratis and Raschein are all seats that are competitive and in the right circumstances winnable for Democrats. But for whatever reason despite the availability of data showing these seats as highly-competitive, the Democrats took a pass. In many cases the failure to identify viable candidates comes down to the poor local infrastructure including the lack of aggressive recruitment local Democratic elected officials.

The bottom line is that the party was not successful in recruiting candidates in many top and second tier races. Some of this failure rests squarely on local DECs and the unwillingness of sitting House members to work hard to find candidates in swing districts.  Of the dozen districts which are held by a Republican but Alex Sink and/or Barack Obama ran at 49% or higher at the top of the ticket only a handful have viable Democratic candidates.

Local DECs have a responsibility in swing districts to be working hard at finding House candidates. In 2012, the Orange County Democratic Party under Scott Randolph worked hard to find candidates in every marginal seat. This year, the Miami-Dade Party led by now Lieutenant Governor candidate Annette Taddeo did something similar through these late recruits are probably not going have the same level of success that the Orange County ones did in 2012. Nonetheless, these serve as positive examples of what local parties can accomplish.

All too often local DECs function as merely glorified debating societies and a place for cheer-leading.  In theory they must maintain a critical role in the process of recruiting candidates for office. Identifying State House candidates in tough seats is a job that local parties must undertake beginning at least a 18 months before an election. But in many cases local parties and those elected as leaders of local parties do not take this responsibility seriously enough.

Fundraising for Democrats running for House and Senate has also been underwhelming. But the poor candidate recruitment is an even bigger problem for the party.  These two factors are probably related to a large extent but I have previously seen cycles where fundraising was somewhat lackluster yet the Democrats prioritized and recruited well for House. 2006 serves a powerful example of this.

In the future sitting Democratic House members need to take a more active interest in races around the state and work with local elected officials and local party officials to identify targets early and start the recruitment process. 2014 appears to be a lost cycle for legislature as the process realignment continuing was very possible this year.


  1. The Indian River Democrat Party is a social club of a small cadre of not well informed people. They have no interest in electing Democrats. All they want is an excuse to have cocktails with their friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. P. Lavins:… I understand. I left the Dem.Party to vote Independent and I never looked back.
      I’m very sad to say, a difference between the parties : the Dems. party and get
      nothing done, while Repubs. party but do the business of governing. No wonder
      Florida is awash with Repubs. who put a crook, a criminal, a thief in the Gov.


  2. There are 2 groups in most counties../.the DEC and the people who make the decisions and raise $$$.. These are not the same people. Elected officials seldom show up at the local DECs so there is a disconnect. Ante up for a high cost fundraiser and you will see a very different group than show up at the monthly DEC meeting. These groups need to come together.


  3. Excellent piece. DECs and the inept House leadership of Thurston and Pafford have combined to put us in this horrible position.


  4. Mark Lynn · ·

    I can remember a day not so long ago when local parties didnt need to recruit … the candidates came out of the woodwork to run themselves. Most were good to decent candidates to boot. House Dist 118 in ’90 had 5 Dems running, two years later 4. When Dist 119 opened in 1986, 5 or 6 Dems ran. Tom Gallagher’s open seat (Dist 117) also in ’86 drew 6 very good candidates. Dist. 114 in ’88 had four Dems … I could go on and on. Simply put …. where have all the people desiring to run for office gone?? Have they evaporated over the past two decades? Or are they now GOPers?


    1. InsiderMyself · ·

      Today, if a good, qualified democrat comes “out of the woodwork” to run, the party leaders will put in another candidate, to take them out.

      It’s two parties and one money bucket!


      1. John Russell · ·

        That is precisely what was done to me. Rob Whittel in 2004 a registered REPUBLICAN out of Miami and Delray Beach was “recruited” to run against me to take me out. I lost in a 4 person primary to this klown who had NEVER BEFORE IN HIS LIFE CAST A VOTE IN ANY ELECTION AND WAS GOING TO RUN FOR CONGRESS!!!! When he filed to run as a Dem Whittel was STILL A REGISTERED REPUBLICAN!!!! Karen Thurman the Chair of the FDP and former congresswoman gave Whittel $2,000 for his campaign. Karen gave me $50 DOLLARS when I won the primary in 2006. Whittel after winning the 2004 primary to face Ginny Brown-Waite threw out some signs and then immediately retreated back to South Florida… NO CAMPAIGN!!! He now is an attorney in Brooksville. There is all the documentation required today to validate Insider’s comment. JR


  5. Right on the mark. Local DECs are a waste of time and when combined with the unfocused house victory and the selfishness of most Dems from safe seats you get a losing formula.


  6. sandyo4era · ·

    This is sad but true. Have too many Dems given up instead of going steely for principles? I have sensed since the Bushes a deepening weariness/depression across America. Does this partly account for few stepping up.
    And, by the way, do not blame Thurston and Pafford–> they are hardworking, fine Democrats. But you can “lead a horse to water…”. That blaming comment kinda sounds like scapegoating, which neither deserve in my opinion. Sorta’ like blaming the teacher for kids failing because THEY didn’t do the homework…this from an old professor…sandyo@passERA.org


  7. A Florida Democrat · ·

    Did you know not one candidate in a marginal seat was recruited after Mark Pafford became leader-designee? Not one!

    The recruitment efforts were progressing nicely under Darryl Rouson. Now the entire House Victory is geared towards protecting incumbents. The only candidates against sitting Republicans Pafford has to back were recruited by Rouson. The map could have been expanded but Pafford choose not to.


  8. John Russell · ·

    The Florida democratic Party is anything but “democratic.” Notably, the chair of the FDP though a registered Democrat, was a paid lobbyist for the organization that “scrubbed” 53,000 African American voters from the rolls prior to the 2000 election. Worse still, her husband also a registered Democrat was the lead attorney for Team Bush in Bush V Gore with the eventual SCOTUS decision appointing George W. Bush to the Presidency. Watch this! http://vimeo.com/88703809

    Likewise, as has been mentioned elsewhere in this blog, most of the DEC’s outside of South Florida are nothing more than social clubs for retirees populated by those who may remember the good ole days having worked on the Kennedy campaign etc. These naive but well meaning folks for the most part “believe” in the party though its objectives have been bankrupted by self serving leaders whom they “follow” blindly. The local leaders uniformly are adherent to the DLC manuscript out of Tallahassee and D.C.

    These leaders are often closet republicans who do all they can behind the scenes to disrupt any members who might want to actually accomplish something. The general public perceives the FDP as feckless and uninspiring and why not when the leadership is spineless, corrupt and indifferent to say the least. I have known this for quite a few years now and have had my fill both as a citizen and a former candidate and Democratic Nominee for U.S. House in 2006-08.

    The Pasco County DEC has a few good people but very few of those and in total is a joke fielding just 35 people including myself and a few “ringers” who only show up and are ALLOWED to show up and vote when officer seats are up for election. I btw was not a Democrat or a member having changed my registration to No Party prior to 2012. Quite often no more than 20 members including the ever present leadership cadre show up for a meeting. Motivated new members quickly depart once they witness the well engineered dysfunction of this group. Hence the pitiable membership.

    My thoughts are with Beverly Ledbetter a fine school teacher and public activist who is running against the next in line little Republican corp funded d bag Danny Burgess who is slated to replace “I never had a real job and yes I broke the law gerrymandering the redistricting but what are you going to do about it” Will Weatherford! .

    My opinion which holds true today remains unchanged from my statement in my speech on the steps of the State Capitol in Tallahassee seven years ago. Watch this… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Lz5dzxJgA

    It is not surprising that the Democratic Party at every level in Florida has continued to diminish dramatically over the intervening seven years since I gave that speech. Bill Nelson gave us Karen Thurman and Alison Tant. What does that tell you? I would laugh, but the people are the ones that suffer. Why should anyone want to run for office as a Democrat? The answers are numerous and the major issues are detailed in my post.

    Thanks, John Russell


  9. John Russell · ·

    An aside and a prediction… Will Weatherford who has NEVER held a REAL job will be following in Marco’s footsteps to the United States Senate. Trust me on this one… Now see who this klown and future U.S. Senator in 2016 really is… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A6fWtPQhPk Oh and in case you have yet to hear it, in his own words… “He, Will Weatherford “walks in a HOLY way!” Worse yet are all of the elderly morons and sycophants who eat this s**t up! JR


  10. […] Kartik Krishnayer writes for The Florida Squeeze on the need for the Florida Democratic Party to remember that, yes, there are also legislative races on the ballot this November, and they need the state party’s support, too. It can be difficult to keep that at the fore when close statewide races grab all the headlines, but politics and policy is something that mostly works from the ground up. The races that are the least sexy are also the races that are the most important. […]


  11. Just when I and many others thought the RPOF could not go to any more laughable depths than Crybaby Haridopolis, along comes Lil Willie Weatherford to one-up his predecessor, big-time. Just a jaw-dropping shill was Weatherford along with his sidekick Don Gaetz; but both of these buffoons were just fine with the RPOF and their fellow shills in the FL Legislature. And the product of their labor in the last session is a testament to the utter lack of sincere public servants in office, compliments of the Republican Party of FL. N


  12. Just when I and many others thought the RPOF could not go to any more laughable depths than Crybaby Haridopolis, along comes Lil Willie Weatherford to one-up his predecessor, big-time. Just a jaw-dropping shill was Weatherford along with his sidekick Don Gaetz; but both of these buffoons were just fine with the RPOF and their fellow shills in the FL Legislature. And the product of their labor in the last session is a testament to the utter lack of sincere public servants in office, compliments of the Republican Party of FL. Is it a surprise then that Democrats in FL seem to be in the grip of a malaise and few have stepped forward to run for state office? All of us who witnessed live, on TV, the dog and phony show of Gaetz/Weatherford pretending to embark on an honest effort to leave partisan scheming by the GOP out of the redistricting their party was in charge of, saw right through their act. As they did their circuit tour, the dark actors of the GOP were busy doing the opposite of what they were directed to do by the voters of Florida via the Fair Districts amendment to the FL Constitution. These thugs never let a Constitution stand in the way of their dirty work! And yes, the mystery remains HOW Weatherford took in over $100K of income while never leaving his Wesley Chapel house to actually report to work!!? Why are we Floridians settling for this rubbish?


  13. […] risk for House Democrats, with the numerous pick up opportunities that are on the map having been ceded before qualifying and the general national mood which is anti-Obama to say the least. But the Democrats have done a […]


  14. […] in the House and break-even in the Senate. This scenario seemed impossible in mid-August when we lamented the poor candidate recruitment in legislative races. But the Democrats have in the seven weeks since  that article was published, run a disciplined […]


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