Florida Democrats: Time for calm introspection before making needed changes

Florida’s Democrats suffered a massive defeat on Tuesday. But so did Democrats across the nation and when you look at how things unfolded, Florida may have just done better than many of our neighbors. It is true that Florida’s record run of futility, losing 17 of the last 18 races for Governor or Cabinet (the worst record of any state east of the Mississippi) continues to hinder the long-term growth of the party.

In Big Bend and Panhandle areas, Steve Southerland became the only Republican incumbent in the US House to lose his seat for the GOP (Louisiana GOPer Vance McAlister lost but is likely to be replaced by another Republican in December’s runoff), Dwight Dudley held his St Petersburg State House seat despite enormous spending by the RPOF, and Jose Javier Rodriguez against long odds retained his State House seat. Democrats picked up seats on City Commissions throughout south Florida, including 2006 Attorney General nominee Skip Campbell defeating a conservative Tea Partier to become Mayor of Coral Springs, a city with over 125,000 residents. Pat Kemp came within a hair of countywide Hillsborough Commission seat against the hated conservative Al Higgonbothom.

Unlike other states where Democrats performances were actually worse than 2010, in Florida every down-ballot cabinet race saw reduced victory margins for the Republicans, all of whom were incumbents in 2014 but running for open seats in 2010.

So it wasn’t all bad. Yes,  major changes need to be made but some of the reaction is simply over the top. The Florida Democratic Party should make some staff changes – that is without question. We can get into what those should be in the coming days. The people who made mistakes must be held accountable. Those who profited off the party while others were struggling also must be brought to task. The dysfunction and ineptitude of local “Coordinated Campaigns,” in Florida’s largest and most important counties must be exposed.

I would argue, however very aggressively that the current Chairwoman Allison Tant has done more in 22 months on the job to fix some of the structural deficiencies and staffing issues in the party than her predecessors. Chopping and changing simply for the sake of satisfying angry masses after Florida got caught in an electoral wave is silly. Initially, I did not support the Chairwoman, but she has won me to her side by her actions on the job.

The party Chairwoman Tant inherited had a great deal of dead wood. Expensive consultants on the party dime, long-term staff who had seized being effective and in some cases had come to hinder the party’s efforts and no field program of any sort throughout the state. While a complete overhaul takes time progress has been made. This year’s field program was stronger than it’s ever been in an off-year elections (I can attest to this as someone who was the Field Director of the party in the 2002 off-year elections when nothing went right and I ran around the state as a twenty-something like a chicken with my head chopped off), and most of the newer staff hires have been bright, younger, more savvy people than those they replaced.

However, Chairwoman Tant doesn’t deserve a complete pass. Some staff changes still must be made. Those responsible for the poor planning and enabling of some political consultants and vendors still must go. Additionally, the dysfunction of the “Coordinated Campaign” in most counties is something that must be addressed. This is largely a DEC issue and local elected official issue, but the state party must have more of a role in this.

It is worth noting that Chairwoman Tant needed a significant amount of on-the-job training. When she became Chair it was obvious she wasn’t prepared for the enormity of the task. But by early 2014, it had become obvious some of the changes needed were delivered. Was she the fundraiser her supporters touted? No, but some of those claims were merely naive ones by overzealous supporters during a heated campaign.

A final word on Allison Tant. She has done an excellent job with the Leon DEC, and that local party’s strong organization contributed mightily to one of the only Democratic successes nationally –  the election of Gwen Graham.

Before we move on to other things, one thing I really want to stress is that in the thinking among some of the newer staff hired by the Chairwoman to replace long-time dead weight, multiple cycle thinking has become a staple of strategic thought. Time and again I have lambasted the party for taking a cycle by cycle approach. This year, I have found many staff understanding what 2014 would be like but beginning to plan for 2016 and 2018. In the last two decades that has NEVER been the thinking of previous FDP staff. The constant “crisis” mode of the party pushed by consultants and vendors who were trying to make a quick buck of Democratic candidates guided any sort of strategic thinking.

We will get more into the issues internally with the party in coming days. What staff should go? Who made mistakes this cycle? What role does Charlie Crist have in the future of the Democratic Party? Should elected officials continue to meddle in party matters? And perhaps most importantly, why are DECs and local “Coordinated Campaign” efforts so flawed in Florida’s largest counties?

All of these topics are on the table in the coming days as we sort through the wreckage of Election Day 2014.

 

 

17 comments

  1. concerned voter · ·

    Cooler heads prevailing never happens in this panic-stricken party.

    Like

  2. To the Florida Democratic Executive Committee—Call me.

    Like

  3. Bruce Borkosky · ·

    “Chairwoman Allison Tant has done more in 22 months on the job to fix some of the structural deficiencies and staffing issues in the party than her predecessors.”
    —– Kartik, I assert that mere adjectives (e.g., “stronger”) are an insufficient basis on which to properly assess the success of a person or organization. Election results are only an indirect measure, because we don’t have control over the voters. But one CAN measure those actions that make a difference in elections – voter registrations, phone calls, volunteer hours, etc., all add up to votes. TV commercials can sway undecided voters, but they don’t GOTV. We know that the FDP has failed to do voter registration or fundraising. Neither do they track any metrics. So where is the success?

    Like

    1. More field staff, better hungrier younger staff looking long-term rather than election cycle to election cycle, etc. I agree on voter registration. I agree with the criticisms and would urge Chairwoman Tant to make changes. I think she will. She’s learned a lot on the job and I think knows her initial deficiencies and has progressed to overcome them.

      Like

  4. Bruce Borkosky · ·

    Kartik, what I’m saying is that we should measure ourselves based on facts. “better, hungrier, younger, and looking” are not facts, and cannot be measured. Without measurement there is no way to determine if you are meeting your goals. “More field staff” is a measure, but it is only an indirect measure – the staff could be completely worthless, and so more people doesn’t help as a measure.

    Like

  5. Tant has done a good job, but she had people all around trying to sabotage the changes. The Rich supporters actively and openly said they would not vote if Nan did not win, even though she had very little chance. Who went to work on them? To advise them that a no show vote hurts all? They stayed home and rallied others to do the same. Not understanding that the D party needed this win very much. or not caring.. Election fraud at the tabulators? Very easy to do and yet how do we ever know? I told Allison and Debbie Wasserman Schultz that the D party needed people who knew how to fight the R party’s ever growing KOCH machine and strategy. I was a former R that left that party. I know how they work from within..I know how they are owned by the corporate world and are not he same R party they pretend to be. I could have pointed to many reasons why Charlie left that party and gave examples of how the R party is not for the working people better then most. The Rs and the large utilities ran a smear campaign against me and others while serving on the PSC, because we dared to stop the giveaways to the big contributors of the R party . That and many other issues that show the R party is not with the people can help,, not hurt. Not one response to my offer to help. So be it. All I know is we have no checks and balances. When we were close in numbers in our legislature and state government, we made better policy. Something has to give or the D party will never gain ground here. The havoc the Rs will do to this state in the next few years may be the only thing that gets some advancement by the D party. But you guys better know how to start right now on how to fight them back and maybe making it clear to the many that you are not going to take guns away from all people in a state that has many NRA members. Many issues and stances you need to take a second look at that may just give relief to some of your northern Dixiecrats.

    Like

    1. Patti Lynn · ·

      Nan Rich supporters in Broward County did NOT stay home and not vote. We voted for Crist….
      The turnout throughout Florida was downright disgusting. Register all of the voters that you want…if they don’t VOTE, what have you gained?????

      Like

      1. Bruce Borkosky · ·

        @Patti – because newly registered voters vote at a higher rate than us old-timers. In addition, having more voters IS THE ONLY WAY to increase the number of votes. Here’s an example – say the Reps have 5mil voters, and they vote at 60% – that’s 3mil votes. Now, if the Dems had 8mil voters, even if all of them voted at 40%, that’s 3.2mil votes. More voters = more votes, regardless of the rate.

        Like

  6. Patti Lynn · ·

    Point taken.

    Like

  7. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    Tant is way over her head and should step down.

    Like

  8. Dems in Action · ·

    I too voted for Nan but I worked just as hard for Crist. To continually disrespect her only drives a wedge in the party. Crist failed to excite the base, and choosing to concentrate on urban areas had the rural electorate staying home. Please, get elected officials like DWS out of the party structure. Let the members make the decision on who they want to follow. If you want real cooperation then bring in the base. Make them a part of the decision making. Right now we are shunned. How does that work for the party? The Crist campaign sent us an intern two weeks before the election. She should have been here, at least part time right after the primary. The other problem is that we don’t have a clear message. You can’t just say we are for the working class, how? Democrats that ran away from the President got what they deserved. They, and we, should be pounding away at our party platform. I’ll bet most of the candidates have never read it. The republicans say the same thing over, and over, and over again. They all say the same things, with the same words. And it works. Did we learn lessons from this election. We better have.

    Like

  9. John Russell, CorporatistNation · ·

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017224941
    February 2013 Tarpon Springs Democratic Club Meeting:

    Allison Tant-Richard newly “selected” by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to take the reins as Chair of the Florida Democratic Party in this video comes unhinged in response to a very civil and politely presented question from John Russell, a former registered Democrat.

    Mr. Russell, merely asked the newly minted chairwoman and former paid lobbyist for DBT Inc., how she was qualified to take the helm of the FDP given her background and that of her husband.

    Ms. Tant-Richard in 1999-2000 was a paid lobbyist for DBT Inc. which was the company commissioned by Secretary of state Katherine Harris under the gubernatorial administration of Republican Jeb Bush to scrub the voter rolls across the state of Florida for the then upcoming 2000 Presidential election featuring Jeb’s brother George W. vs Democrat Al Gore.

    History tells us that DBT Inc. was responsible for scrubbing the names of 57,000 African Americans fro the voter rolls leading to the controversial recount which ended in the “determination” made by the U.S. Supreme Court handing the decision to Jeb’s brother George W. Bush.

    Interestingly Allison Tant’s husband Barry Richard who also was/is a registered Democrat just happened to be the LEAD ATTORNEY for Team Bush in the landmark election dispute decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. This was all that John Russell was asking FDP Chairwoman Tant-Richard to explain.

    Facts matter to most people just not the sycophant members of the Tarpon Springs Democratic Club apparently. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing and that is why John Russell’s request for an explanation was so difficult for these zealots to take. This is why they not only acted to silence John but also to physically accost him as the video clearly demonstrates distorted though the images from the ensuing ruckus clearly show. Denial of truth only facilitates the further degradation of what little democracy remains in this country resulting in what can only be characterized as a “CORPORATIST NATION!”

    CorporatistNation is coming… John Russell

    Like

  10. John Russell, CorporatistNation · ·

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017224941
    February 2013 Tarpon Springs Democratic Club Meeting:

    Allison Tant-Richard newly “selected” by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to take the reins as Chair of the Florida Democratic Party in this video comes unhinged in response to a very civil and politely presented question from John Russell, a former registered Democrat.

    Mr. Russell, merely asked the newly minted chairwoman and former paid lobbyist for DBT Inc., how she was qualified to take the helm of the FDP given her background and that of her husband.

    Ms. Tant-Richard in 1999-2000 was a paid lobbyist for DBT Inc. which was the company commissioned by Secretary of state Katherine Harris under the gubernatorial administration of Republican Jeb Bush to scrub the voter rolls across the state of Florida for the then upcoming 2000 Presidential election featuring Jeb’s brother George W. vs Democrat Al Gore.

    History tells us that DBT Inc. was responsible for scrubbing the names of 57,000 African Americans fro the voter rolls leading to the controversial recount which ended in the “determination” made by the U.S. Supreme Court handing the decision to Jeb’s brother George W. Bush.

    Interestingly Allison Tant’s husband Barry Richard who also was/is a registered Democrat just happened to be the LEAD ATTORNEY for Team Bush in the landmark election dispute decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. This was all that John Russell was asking FDP Chairwoman Tant-Richard to explain.

    Facts matter to most people just not the sycophant members of the Tarpon Springs Democratic Club apparently. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing and that is why John Russell’s request for an explanation was so difficult for these zealots to take. This is why they not only acted to silence John but also to physically accost him as the video clearly demonstrates distorted though the images from the ensuing ruckus clearly show. Denial of truth only facilitates the further degradation of what little democracy remains in this country resulting in what can only be characterized as a “CORPORATIST NATION!”

    CorporatistNation is coming…

    Like

  11. John Russell, CorporatistNation · ·

    The Florida Democratic Party is a “JOBS” Program for people who would find the FDP an easy mark for a nice six figure position in which they have little responsibility and no accountability. To retain Mrs. Tant-Richard as FDP Chair with a Presidential cycle about to get underway would be suicidal for people who adhere to true democratic principles.

    Allison Tant-Richard has been trying mightily to hide her scurrilous background as well as that of her husband Barry for years. During the faux “campaign” for FDP Chair with votes manipulated through pressure from Senator Bill Nelson the word about Mrs. Tant-Richard’s background was circulated and roundly discarded by party hacks. Most assuredly the sycophants of the party and they are many, who are mainly motivated by the social perquisites associated with participation in the FDP have been equally ardent defenders of Mrs. Tant-Richard. Just watch the video above.

    As I have stated publicly for years, the Florida Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party of Florida. The FDP is purposefully inept and failure is no accident… It IS by design!
    As well, Truth and the FDP do not belong in the same sentence.

    I have come to know that ineffectiveness is well engrained in the FDP through just the succession of “leaders” that I have known personally. Karen Thurman for one is a good start. I’ll post a video below for your review as she defends the ca$hing of monthly stipends ($3,500) provided by former Republican Party of Florida Chair Al Cardenas’ Law Firm, ostensibly for some nonsensical role in Port Security. Democrats will roll over cheap as Thurman clearly demonstrates here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM1qEtNIgSM

    You might consider also how pathetic was Scott Maddox another shill with a questionable ethical background as well. Most assuredly Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has done her part, and must go as well. Especially given her position as Chief AIPAC shill orchestrating electoral failure from behind the scenes on behalf of the interests of well heeled the benefactors whom she serves. In fact, all of the leaders mentioned originate from the same “cloth.”

    Every individual noted here has exhibited a self serving philosophy willing to pull any string and do anything required in order to enhance their own personal fortunes; at the expense of those who continue to believe in what the Democratic Party at one time used to at least give more than just lip service to stand for. Unquestionably, Bill Nelson must be held accountable as well for playing perhaps the most fundamental role in elevating these shills to the position of FDP Chair in each and every case. In any event, Tant-Richard aka Mrs. Barry Richard must submit her resignation forthwith.
    John Russell for CorporatistNation

    Like

  12. John Russell, CorporatistNation · ·

    I called the FDP out for purposeful ineptitude back in 2007. The notion that the party is manipulated and led by insiders looking to enrich themselves, and/or move forward their own personal agenda comes only at the very large expense to Floridians of having no legitimate opposition party… to call upon to fight the corrupt policy agenda of the Republican Party of Florida.

    At the State Capitol event in 2007 I said… “The Party is a business… It is all about strategy, planning and execution… and when we compare our business to their business… we are bankrupt.” I said this in my address on FDP performance seen in the video above in the Spring of 2007. Seven years have elapsed and NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

    Allison Tant-Richard must remove herself or be removed from her position. The current FDP Chair represents her corporate benefactors through the actions or in-actions that she has taken as Chair of the FDP. She does not set an agenda that has the best interests of working people, small business and those of lesser socio-economic stature at the forefront.

    Allison Tant-Richard and her husband both played a direct role in facilitating the “placement” of George W. Bush in the White House. She has zero business being anywhere near the Chair of the Florida Democratic Party based on her personal history alone much less the now demonstrated results under her tenure as party chair.
    As I said in 2007, “I am not a Washington General and neither are you. ”

    John Russell, CorporatistNation
    CorporatistNation is coming….

    Like

  13. John Russell, CorporatistNation · ·

    To Nancy Argenziano… BOTH Major political parties are CORPORATE. The insiders of the Democratic Party are just as beholden to THEIR corporate benefactors as the Republicans. Democratic insiders just have to pretend that THEY are “really” not corporate or beholden to the oligarchs. Be they Koch or somebody else. The MONEY in politics IS the problem. THIS PSC meeting for example was the last meeting of the Orwellian described (Public) Service Commission where a video camera was permitted. Ms Argenziano is not without her skeletons as well. Watch the video and see where we are. 75% of all working Americans earn less than $50,000 dollars annually. 40% of working Americans earn $20,000 Dollars annually or less. There people are your voters…IF votes cast were actually counted as they were cast. If those people found a party to believe in and were confident that their votes WOULD be counted accurately, then there WOULD be real change in America.

    Trying to be Republican light does not cut it. Nan Rich would have offered a real difference and would have been more formidable than Charlie, however she was never afforded the chance, as Tant-Richard would not even let her speak at the Party Convention. Not very democratic.

    As to the video in which PSC Commissioner Nancy Argenziano attempts to address my concerns…
    In particular, Commissioner Nancy Argenziano in her attempts to distance herself from the very sound arguments made by Mr. Russell inadvertently stepped from the proverbial frying pan… into the fire.

    As Commissioner Argenziano attempted to defend her political integrity, John interjected that “The Florida Public Service Commission was a nice parking place for politicians in between elected office positions….” A point to which Commissioner Nancy quickly responded “YES, YES, YES!”

    Further on in the discussion, Commissioner Argenziano pointed out (again while attempting to defend her political integrity), that the Florida State Public Service Commission Does not work WITH the Florida Legislature… It works FOR… The Florida Legislature….

    WOW… What happened to the “PUBLIC” in P U B L I C Service Commission? Like the PSC is…

    s u p p o s e d to be looking out for the INTERESTS OF …. The PUBLIC… For Crying Out Loud!

    That was then… and this is today. Allison Tant-Richard must resign.
    John Russell, CorporatistNation

    Like

  14. […] on this site in 2014 essentially saying the six seat loss and new veto-proof GOP majority were largely a result of national trends, internal caucus divisions and bad luck. But now with a Special Election slated for April 7th in a […]

    Like

%d bloggers like this: