Florida Democrats at a crossroads: the time has come for serious rules reform – some suggestions

donkeyLast week, we introduced the idea of rules reform in the Florida Democratic Party. Since that article was posted we have received plenty of feedback and the FDP had a statewide weekend of meetings in Orlando. Per our sources the large counties convened a secret meeting among themselves to discuss potential rules reforms. But our reporting indicates no rules reforms are as of yet on the table though it is possible some are being considered.

A fear is beginning to peculate that party insiders and some Tallahassee-based operatives would like to replace the weighted vote for chair of the party with a strict two votes per county formula. While I believe the weighted vote needs to be revised, I am not sure the Democrats who are heavily reliant on urban counties for votes in statewide races can afford to use the same formula as the RPOF does.

When writing last week, I suggested adding all the Chairs and Vice Chairs of local DEC’s to the State Committee. I reiterate that idea, so each county will have a minimum of 4 votes on the State Committee. In response to some of the feedback I got last week, I believe now that State Committeewomen and men should continue to have a role but should be limited to 1 vote each for Party Chair, and based on what I will propose below might be part of a much larger county delegation to the state committee.

To supplement the four elected committee members from each DEC, the FDP should  begin a process to elect a committeewoman and committeeman from each of the 120 State House districts. This would allow much of the State Committee’s power to continue to be concentrated in urban areas but break up the personal fiefdoms and power bases created by a few members of the State Committee from large urban counties.

Further advantages of electing members by legislative district are the following:

  • More representation from medium sized counties
  • More racial and ethnic diversity on the State Committee
  • Engagement of more local activists who can run for a position on the State Committee from their State House districts
  • The breaking up of personal power bases accumulated by members of the State Committee

From speaking to people around the state after the election, conventional wisdom in Tallahassee even among some party staffers is that the party needs to focus more time and effort on North Florida. Progressives and urban county leaders have said the party needs to double down in the “urban six” counties (Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas).

My belief, is that Republicans are winning statewide elections because of consistent over-performance in the medium sized counties up and down I-75 and I-95. The counties where Democratic performance MUST improve are not Franklin or Hamilton but places such as Marion, Pasco, Brevard, Flagler, Manatee, Lake and Hernando. Those are the counties that are winning elections for Republicans, producing much larger GOP margins than the convenient Tallahassee-based narrative pushed by reporters and political operatives that counties along I-10 are losing elections for the Democrats.

This proposed system of allocating State Committee votes, albeit a very rough proposal would give the medium sized counties additional representation in the process while protecting the bulk of votes from the urban six counties.

I realize this proposal may be a non-starter for many because of the difficulty it would take to create a system to elect committeewomen and men from each House district as well as the contracted timeline between now and 2016. If we cannot change the rules for 2016, we should attempt to do so for 2018 or 2020. However, I believe we have wasted enough time on arcane rules that actually hold the party back and it is time to move forward aggressively with changes. I was disappointed to learn that despite the rumors floating around the state, no actual rules reforms have been proposed or presented by the party to the State Committee. Let me suggest that this is of utmost importance and should be considered as soon as possible.

The Florida Democratic Party has long been constricted by the rules of the party. When random activists or operatives critic the party’s leadership they sometimes forget how little room for maneuvering a chair, in this case Chairwoman Allison Tant has thanks to cumbersome and restrictive rules. Tant has proven in the three short months since the November election debacle that she understands things have to change and has pushed reforms in other areas that are positive. But now she must aggressively tackle rules reforms as well to truly begin to arrest the malaise of this party.  Many on the State Committee have long been more concerned with protecting individual power bases and personal prestige than with electing Democrats.

They would be loath to admit it, but many members of the State Committee do little work during campaign season when compared to others at the county level. Reforming the State Committee’s composition will make the party more dynamic, more diverse and more responsive to grassroots movements.

Currently, activist organizations and candidates need the party less than ever before. Much of the reason for this has to do with the antiquated party structure and rules process as well as the reluctance of many in power to relinquish any degree of control over proceedings.

I realize this proposal and in fact this entire discussion is likely to be highly unpopular with party elders and might serve to unite disparate factions together against common sense reform. But until the party’s rules make sense, and the State Committee reflects the diversity of thought and talents brought to the table by Democrats around the state, the FDP will likely continue to wallow in failure.


  1. Concerned Democrat · ·

    OMG! Bla! Bla! Bla!

    What BS and what a smoke screen to the REAL problem at hand with Florida Democrats!!

    What the hell does changing ANY rules have to do with the pathetic and sorry leadership at the TOP Starting with Sgt. Wasserman Shultz and her puppet the equally incompetent Allison Tant and her minions and loosing consultants feeding at the hands of Scott Arceneaux.

    The answer to the Florida Democrats problems is very, very simple…

    The existing and loosing FDP Committeemen and FDP Committeewomen in Florida have to grow a set of balls (or nuts) and call a special meeting and election and do what the winning Republicans just did a couple of weeks ago who just kicked our asses…FIRE THE BASTARDS AT THE TOP OF THE TITANIC (aka FDP) BEFORE WE ALL DROWN!!!


    We’ve already hit the iceberg! We’re sinking and dying and all you can do is suck up to these loosers and debate weather big counties have the same votes as little counties???


    Are you KIDDING me???

    This is a serious CALL TO ACTION!!



  2. We can change the faces, and even the rules, but until we take a long view and re-prioritize our resources, we will continue to lose. We spent a lot of time last weekend hearing about why we lost the governor’s race, but I’m much more interested in why we lost our rising stars in the House races. I want to know why we kept pouring money into crappy negative tv ads against Rick Scott, which depressed turnout, when $5K in Pat Kemp’s Hillsborough County Commission race could have helped her get 2K more votes to win.

    My sources tell me that those decisions are made because of donors, who only care about the top of the ticket races. If that’s the case, then maybe we should re-structure with that in mind. How do we prove that DECs and down-ticket races are worth the investment?


  3. Tampa Bay Demo · ·

    This would be a disaster.

    The weighted vote is based strictly on democratic performance and adding too many people to the state committee will make things nearly impossible to manage.

    I’m furious an idea like this could even be floated.

    Sorry but Kartik stick to issues and stop making suggestions for party reforms.


  4. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    Brilliant suggestion. Would improve participation and influence from rural and medium counties while keeping the bulk of votes in big counties.


  5. Ron Baldwin · ·

    The rubber hits the road in the county DECs. Yet in my experience the FDP totally ignores what the county DEC’s do.And turnout seems to be a dirty word. Make whatever changes you like at the FDP, but until the FDP actively leads the county DECs I believe nothing will change.

    There are about 5,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pinellas. Yet for years the Republicans controlled the County Commission. In 2014 by a slim margin the Democrats eaked out a 4 to 3 mafority.The Republicans are courting a dynamic candidate to run against a vulnerable (my opinion) Democratic Commissiioner in 2016, and my bet is they will flip the Commission back to Republican rule.

    In Pinellas we had a former candidate for State Rep elected as DEC Chair. He was a dynamic leader and focused on getting candidates elected. Just five months before the General election, along came an FDP big-shot consultant to recruit the DEC Chair to run for Rep again. They asked him how much money it would take to win. He answered $160,000 (that was ten years ago). The consultant said that $250,000 would be needed and the FDP would bankroll the entire campaign. They told him to name a Treasurer (me) and open a bank account and they would wire $50,000 the next day. He resigned as DEC Chair and filed to run for Rep. We are still waiting for the first dollar of that $50,000 from the FDP..And we had two losses. One was the election for House Rep. The other was losing a dynamic Chair of the DEC.who became fed up with the FDP

    Sad to say I believe the Democrats are confirmed hopeless in Florida. Perhaps after Wyoming becomes a blue state we mifgt have a slim chance here in Florida..


  6. Lisa Tripton · ·

    It’s going to be an interesting day when organizers/campaign leaders realize that the very people they want to take over the FDP are the same people who are stopping ideas like district representation and the end of the weighted vote from happening. The FDP has been on board to make all of these changes for years, but the large weighted vote holders and others who have run against current leadership have voted down the changes in Rules committees and other places every chance they get.


  7. Interesting proposed changes.

    This just might revitalize elements of the party.


  8. Concerned Democrat · ·

    the weighted vote needs to stay but the vkting can be split so that two committee people dont control all those votes.


  9. El Perro Mordilon · ·

    I have no idea what reforms are really needed, but I do know that the FDP Bylaws should be scrapped, burned and the ashes shredded before the burial at sea. Seriously, The complexities of the current system cause inefficiencies down the line that are insurmountable to local DEC’s.


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