The FDP, party reform and the future — Overview of this week’s TFS series

Democrats-new-logo-01In the last few weeks as I have been making my way around the state, the discussion has intensified about rules reform and The Florida Democratic Party. During the next week, here at TFS we will look at the potential for significant rules reform within the Florida Democratic Party, and why differing perspectives exist within the party about these issues.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about the rules that govern the Florida Democratic Party. Following four more statewide electoral defeats in November and a loss of six State House seats (four of which Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist carried in his unsuccessful bid to return the Governor’s mansion) a circular firing squad took hold within the party. Despite the losses very few staff or leadership changes were made inside the party – be it in the FDP itself or changes at the local level in larger county DEC’s. The small number of changes gave a feeling of continuity and perhaps an opportunity for Democrats to begin building toward the next election would happen quicker than after previous electoral defeats. But from some perspectives the few changes reflected a desire to continue a denial of reality within portions of the party. Perhaps this is unfair but it is a perception shared by many, even those who like some in the present FDP and local setup.

Florida Democrats have won just over 5% of the elections for Governor & Cabinet since 2000, the worst percentage of any major political party east of the Mississippi River in that period. Because of this statistically improbable record of constant losses, many in the Democratic Party have simply accepted losing and therefore have shifted into a mode of protecting status, access and contracts.

Many political professionals and those who benefit off of the current structure in the party are essentially “feeding at the trough.” Many of these individuals have an obsession with other Democrats and engage in the discrediting of inter-party opponents and of progressive activists. This happens even though many who are benefiting from the current system are in fact labeled as “progressives,” though sometimes in practice they are not.

Among Florida Democrats both among elected officials and some party officials, a fixation with other Democrats often trumps the concerns about Republicans and conservatives. Simply put, many Florida’s Democrats  often act like a losing, whining, minority party which is permanently stuck either in neutral or reverse. Many of the party’s leading members are comfortable with the appearance of status and influence even if it involves continued losses at the polls.

Reforming the rules of the Florida Democratic Party in a way that empowers more people, creates more stakeholders and reorders the priorities of the party is critical if the FDP is ever to be a meaningful entity. This having been said, it is possible that rules reform represents a red herring and while important is simply creating a diversion from the heavy lifting that must be done to reform a party that as stated above has lost almost 95% of elections for Governor & Cabinet over the course of the last 15 years.

In the coming days, we will look closely at reforming the FDP from all angles. Perspectives will include those of party officials, those who profit financially off the party, elected officials and those urban county leaders who benefit from the “weighted” vote system.



  1. Yes, the system needs revamping, although tough to change the status quo without the will of the people. However the last paragraph does address where to start.


  2. we will look at the potential for significant rules reform within the Florida Democratic Party, and why some . ???


  3. Rules reform seems like a total distraction. Unless leadership focuses and commits real resources to building the county level infrastructure that delivers votes, identifies candidates, builds a bench, and makes the case for Dems, I don’t see how anything will change.


  4. Tampa Bay Demo · ·

    Rules reform is a red herring.

    Yes people who are feeding at the trough as you claim are finding creative ways to maintain power by blaming the rules and taking shots at others.


  5. Party vendors haven’t changed in years. The ED has survived losing cycle after cycle. DEC leaders don’t work and keep their spots. The party lost six house seats yet kept the same leadership. As you’ve pointed out 39 on this map is probably 35 or less on the previous map. By the way Ulvert is still involved with the party.

    Now they use rules reform to throw people off.

    All these people do is lose. Then make excuses. Now they talk about needing more moderate candidates! That’s all we run in this state and win as you said only 5% of elections!!!!

    The rules aren’t the problem. Allison Tant isn’t the problem. The problem is the executive director vendors like Dylan Sumner and the entrenched thinking in Tallahassee that is totally different than that of democratic voters across the state.


  6. Lee Dunkel · ·

    Why doesn’t the FDP organize and work on getting rid of our restrictive and expensive Voter ID laws? It is a poll tax! Why doesn’t the FDP work on the restrictive Felon Voter Registration laws? Why doesn’t the FDP come out and support Expanded Medicaid? Why doesn’t the FDP come out and support raising the Minimum Wage? Why doesn’t the FDP come out and support the issue of Global Warming? Why doesn’t the FDP come out and say yes to Public Schools and nay to diverting public funds to Corporate Charter/Private Schools? These are some issues worth rallying around, We need to have a robust vision and agenda for Florida and its people…….LD


    1. Lee,

      I couldn’t agree more! Ridiculous and fundamentally dishonest of the party. They fail to understand the fundamentals. Small minded people running the party, incapable of focusing on what really matters.

      The article nails one thing, RED HERRING. Pay no attention to our incompetence it’s the rules that kept voters home. This is manilpulation and dishonesty at the highest level.

      The lemmings will follow. They always do. And in 2018 we will loose again.


  7. This whole discussion of rules reform is a waste of time. I know for a FACT the leadership of the Florida Democratic Party is pushing the strange rules of the party as a reason for the consistent failures in elections. You imply this might be a Red Herring. This is completely true. Now while you have obviously become a water carrier for Allison Tant and her allies, the last week has shown some signs of objectivity again.

    Rules reform has ZERO to do with the continued electoral losses. This is just a complete waste of time and energy.


  8. Rules reform is critical.

    The current rules leave almost 90% of counties without a voice and the decisions in the hands of a few individuals. Since so many DECs and leaders have no influence on the process they do not work as hard around the elections because they have no real stake in the party.

    We have already opened up the vendor side, let Christian Ulvert go, hired a new data director, revamped fundraising and changed the house and senate victory structures. I’m not sure what note the party can do. After all we did so well in this last election by comparison the RPOF fired everyone and had a coup. Why aren’t we talking about their failures? Losing Southerland, etc?


  9. Truth Teller · ·

    Good piece. The democrats are full of second rate consultants, vendors and operators all making $$$ of the party.


  10. Anne Gannon · ·

    Many of the rules people complain about are actually imbedded in Florida statutes which makes it incredibly difficult to change. I frankly don’t want the republicans writing and creating rules that may place our party at an even greater disadvantage. We need to collectively without all the whining and finger pointing move forward. That is reall challenge. Anne Gannon


  11. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    Rules reform badly needed in the small counties.


  12. Pinellas Democrat · ·

    Small counties are being manipulated by Tallahassee to believe changing rules will somehow miraculously empower them in the Party decision making.

    If you have been paying attention, NO ONE, other than a handful of Tallahassee based closet full of clowns led by Allison Tant has ANY say in how this party is mismanaged. Rules? The party doesn’t follow rules. They are using this to manipulate folks to consolidate power and further insulate themselves from the grassroots.

    ALL WE NEED IS TRUE LEADERSHIP. As stated above the last thing we need is to crack the door and allow the GOP legislature to define how we manage our party. (There are FDP staff lobbying the Republicans to do just that!) We need to focus on running a winning party. Let’s not dig into a ditch. We need to build a REAL voters registration program, we need to create a REAL GOTV program, we MUST communicate with our voters and keep them engaged.

    Anything else is gross negligence and those promoting this red herring should be removed from office.


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