Last session House Democrats demonstrated remarkable cohesion on school “choice” issues. Under the leadership of Minority Leader Perry Thurston and incoming leader Mark Pafford, the caucus coalesced behind a position opposing the unprecedented expansion of taxpayer money being siphoned to private schools. This came just a few short years after 24 House Democrats broke ranks on a voucher vote thanks to large donations from pro-school “choice” advocates in the corporate world.
Rep. Dwayne Taylor who is now being run for House Democratic Leader by a dissident faction of House caucus members led by Reps.Darryl Rouson and Kevin Rader has received per TFS’ estimates over $20,000 in campaign cash for his previous House elections from pro-voucher interests. This includes Step up for Students and All Children Matter bankrolled by corporate out of state interests and Tampa venture capitalist John Kirtley.
As we discussed yesterday, the push for Taylor to replace Pafford is based largely on personal self interest among members and transactional lobbyists and political consultants. The desire among many is to create a rubber-stamp for the Rick Scott agenda, for the Chamber of Commerce, the insurance industry as well proponents for corporate schools. Having defeated Democrats at the ballot box, Tallahassee lobbyists and political insiders who seek a party that mimics Republican talking points on economic issues (while continuing to be very liberal on social matters to appeal to the Democratic “base” voters in safe districts) have encouraged this dissent in the previously united Democratic caucus. They would like to see the Scott agenda passed with as little debate as possible. We can now safely add advocates for school “choice” legislation to the list of those hoping for a Taylor victory.
The progress House Democrats made in terms of technology, attracting new, savvier staff and taking a long-term view of political developments threatens those whose desire to maintain a minority party who provide little but nuisance opposition to the Republican hegemony in this state.
For years, House Democrats have depended on donors that give more money to Republicans. The attempts recently to turn the party into a values based one that emphasized ideology and economic/social justice and mined reliable Democratic donors OUTSIDE the Tallahassee and Florida Democratic establishment is a threat to those who take a short-term view of matters and are comfortable with the status quo. Democratic defeatism which is rampant among those in the Tallahassee establishment and corporate core that back the Rouson faction serves the agenda of the Rick Scott Republicans and the corporate lobbyists that control the legislature.
School “choice” advocates no doubt will be lining up behind Dwayne Taylor’s attempts to seize the leadership away from Mark Pafford. The losers in all of this if Taylor is successful is not just progressives but Florida’s citizens. Democracy depends on an exchange of ideas and competition among ideologies to provide the best solutions for our people. But ironically those who preach about the free market want as little competition as possible in the arena of legislating. They seek to impose a virtual one-party system on our state with regards to the most important economic issues of the day.
Dwayne Taylor might be a decent legislator and a nice guy. But many of the forces backing his candidacy seek one-party control and total conformity in Tallahassee. Others backing him as discussed yesterday are simply sore losers. The Democratic Party suffered a national defeat Tuesday and it would highly irresponsible to compound that defeat by going backwards ideologically and politically. Dwayne Taylor becoming Minority Leader, I fear would be just such a backward move.