Over the last two days reports have been circulating that Rep. Dwayne Taylor (D-Daytona Beach) plans to challenge House Democratic Leader-Designate Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach) before or at the organizational session on November 18th. Taylor has been backed by a faction of dissidents, led by Rep. Darryl Rouson, who seem to have been more concerned with exploiting Democratic losses in the recent election than actually helping endangered Democratic incumbents survive the national tidal wave.
Taylor now claims to have the votes to become the next Democratic Leader. What’s wrong with this? Everything.
We’ve already learned the dissidents have a problem with math. In 2013, Darryl Rouson’s camp claimed he had 30 votes but he ended up with 23. This same group of dissidents rallied behind Taylor towards the end of legislative session and believed they had the votes to overhaul Pafford – they didn’t and were not even close.
Let’s review some other facts about this situation:
This past cycle the House Democratic Caucus raised more cash for incumbent protection and new seats than in the previous two cycles. Technology was embraced as a fundraising tool and the attempt to cultivate new donors beyond simply a handful of transactional Tallahassee-based lobbyists was made. Simply put, under Mark Pafford attempts were made to finally identify and reach out to Democratic donors that give to national and state campaigns but never give to Democratic legislative committees. This effort threatens the comfort zone and livelihood of many who back the Rouson faction – corporate lobbyists, insurance lobbyists, private school voucher advocates, and those who benefit from seeing the Democrats in a permanent minority status as a value-free party.
The previous regimes that ran the caucus employed a very backward and Tallahassee-oriented fundraising approach. The team which Pafford has hired at House Victory tend to be long-term thinkers, embracing technology, running numbers in a creative and results-oriented way, and identifying longer range goals than the constant cycle-to-cycle crisis mode under which House Victory previously operated.
Democrats lost six House seats on Tuesday in the midst of a national tide. That’s not good, but unlike the 2004 cycle when every hotly-contested seat ended in blowout Democratic loss and an embarrassingly low 36 members in the caucus, every race save one was highly competitive. In 2004, Chris Smith the Leader-Designate was not challenged in the caucus. After massive loses in 2010, Ron Saunders was not challenged aggressively in the caucus. That election was similar, with a net loss of five seats (the same as 2014 because the Democrats picked up seat in a special election after Pafford became Leader-Designate) yet Saunders wasn’t challenged as aggressively. Why?
Simply put the Rouson faction contains a handful of sore losers, members who didn’t work hard this cycle for their party, instead preferring to play in Democratic primaries to elect allies to their out-group, perhaps in order to mount this coup regardless of what happened November 4th. The faction also has aligned itself with transactional lobbyists, political consultants who dabble with both parties and others looking for consulting or fundraising work. This is a movement based upon narrow self interest and nothing more.
Rep. Dwayne Taylor might be a nice guy but he’s not a leader. Rep. Mark Pafford has been among the leading progressives in the House throughout his tenure. Considering we are entering a two-year period where Democrats must demonstrate clear differences between the parties, ousting Pafford for Taylor will represent a massive victory for the Rick Scott Republicans who seek to neuter the Democratic opposition.
Progressive activists throughout the state need to take action to prevent the Rouson faction from gaining power and essentially sidelining the Democratic message in the House for the next two years. The Rouson faction believes a value-less party that kowtows to Tallahassee lobbyists who represent Republican-oriented special interest groups is the way forward. Those of us who love and care about the principles that make us Democrats know the opposite is true – and even if the Rouson faction carries the day, we won’t give up the fight against the Rick Scott Republicans as easily as they do.