LEAD Task Force report underwhelming and disappointing

It took over seven months of meetings and planning, but late last week the report from the Florida Democratic Party’s LEAD Task Force was released. The report is itself a combination of obvious conclusions and less obvious ones that are based on faulty assumptions. Quite frankly, the report and the entire work of the task force might be described as a colossal waste of time and energy given that we are already now 1/4 of the way through the 2016 election cycle and the conclusions were so obvious that it feels like Florida’s Democrats are once again playing catch up.

Considering the task force was made up almost entirely of establishment figures, tied to the status quo which has delivered constant electoral defeats for almost two decades, perhaps we should not be surprised by the underwhelming nature of the report. But for me personally, I had much higher hopes for this process and for recommendations coming from the task force.

So what exactly does the LEAD report say?

The recommendations for DEC’s were actually very logical and we will devote  another piece to that. But as for the statewide recommendations let’s break it down.

The report correctly states that the party had little presence in the exurban or rural counties of North and Central Florida that represent 45% of the statewide vote. But as I have stated time and again, the bulk of these votes are in places like Hernando, Marion, Lake, Pasco, St Johns and Flagler counties and that the party has consistently made zero effort in these places. But the implication from the report is once again that North Florida, especially the counties between the Suwannee and Apalachicola Rivers represent some sort of nirvana for the Democrats statewide chances. The constant citing of Gwen Graham and discussion of the downturn in North Florida turnout fits the comfort zone of many in the party but isn’t a realistic piece of analysis.

Florida Democrats need to refine the messaging to the middle class according to the report. I or any reader of this blog could have made that same conclusion based on election results and public polling. But it took a “blue ribbon” task force 7 months to release a report that said that. The report recommends that the state party “regularly distribute talking points to DEC’s.” The fact this is not happening already is pretty shameful. Didn’t the task force created after the 2010 election recommend something similar? The task force also recommends more candidate messaging training.  This is logical but also its quite disappointing that this wasn’t being done before.

The report recommends more regional outreach staff and revisions to the party bylaws but does not make specific recommendations on either. Again these are logical conclusions, but the task force again here has simply laid out the obvious. Steve Schale, one of the smartest Democratic pols in the state who oddly was not asked to sit on the task force smartly recommended last week that the FDP leave Tallahassee and relocate to Orlando. For years, I have suggested the FDP move to Tampa which is the center of the state’s largest media market. Whether it is Tampa or Orlando, the party needs to seriously entertain moving – but that wasn’t discussed in this report.

The task force has recommended increasing the vote by mail effort. Again a logical conclusion and let us hope the party employs the best data possible to make this effort truly fruitful in 2014, because this is a data driven activity and the party’s track record in using data for targeting is poor at best.

The candidate recruitment recommendations are so logical yet we waited SEVEN MONTHS for a task force report and thus the fruits of ideas like Candidate Recruitment Councils will not be felt until the 2018 election at the earliest. While Democrats sat around trying figure out how to better recruit candidates, the GOP hit every corner of the state actually recruiting them. The idea of creating a “Municipal Victory” fund to build a bench makes sense, but the FDP has a history of simply playing in municipal races in large cities. As the GOP’s success proves playing in small and medium sized cities is how you build your bench.

While many of the conclusions were obvious, this task force and the report it produced appears to have been a waste of valuable time and effort. Florida’s Democrats coming off 14 miserable months needed more of a boost going into 2016 than this report provides. The report also lacks the type of creativity and innovation that the FDP will need if they are going to turn around years and years of losing. Part of changing the culture around Florida Democrats is giving those who work so hard for the party at the grassroots level across the state some hope that things will change. This report fails to do that.



  1. Do LEAD task force members really care what we think? I think most of them are living in their establishment bubble. They get offended when their status quo ideas are challenged.


    1. old guy on the bench · ·

      It is very easy, as has been amply demonstrated time and again, to tear down – to loudly disagree. What is difficult is to build especially a viable alternative. A suggestion and question, why don’t you and your friends work together and put out a viable alternative report?


  2. Jim Callahan · ·

    The LEAD Task Force Report is available on the Florida Democratic Party website.
    Click on the words, “The LEAD Task Force Report” highlighted in blue
    under the heading, “We Need Your Voice!”


  3. The Observer · ·

    Kartik you could have written this piece the day the task force was announced. When this committee was constructed of insiders it was not hard to figure out what the out come would be. They would never take the blame for all these consistent defeats. This report is a sad case of I have heard this song before. The only way to get their attention is to cut off the money. Too bad these are the same folks who control the money. So get ready for another sad cycle.


  4. I serve on the editorial board of the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, develop exams on Organizational Behavior for the Educational Testing Service, was a public educator on Capitol Hill with the ACLU Legislative HQ, ran Congressional field and communications campaigns here in Florida, led successful efforts to amend the Florida Constitution, registered over 450 voters for Obama in Florida in ’08, and am each year rated by students one of the best professors in the nation, and I offered to LEAD Chair Val Demmings my expertise in researching, writing, and editing the LEAD Task Force Report. I never heard from her about getting involved in developing this report. The Democratic Party has no grassroots strategy for paying grassroots experts. Instead this report indicates we Democrats are not at all prepared to win in 2016. Both parties are led by monied insiders while the People’s lives get more and more impoverished and desperate. Makes you wonder if we need a Progressive Party or just a revolution.


  5. This report is too little, too late. You can not move this slow and expect to win.


  6. Hurrah! for the active Democrats who believe – as I believe – that our Florida DP is out of tune and out of touch with the members and (we should never forget the rank-and-file Democrat voters – the FDP and the DECs flat-out reject any new think or new ideas – this problem seems to be endemic among the DECs whose only functions seem to be selling tickets for dinners and such crap – What I’m talking about is the problem that the rank-and-file, daily working class voters have no idea who or what the FDA is? Same with the DECs. You gotta stay in constant contact with the potential voting public not just a few days (or weeks) before an election – but continuously in between elections – how do we do this you might ask? Well, we must increase our participation in union meetings, local civic groups, PTA’s, veterans club and such organizations – (not just pay dues, but be active in such organizations) – You gotta wonder how many “…street…” Democrats the FDP and the DEC officials personally know – and speak with – c’mon we are the party of the people ! Let’s get serious about out campaigns – Larry Babitts


  7. Establish Candidate Support Levels. The Task Force recommends the ranking of candidates by levels of support the
    Party is able to offer, based on open and transparent metrics. These metrics include viability, grassroots appeal, and
    fundraising ability. Higher performance from campaigns would be matched by an increased level of assistance from
    the Party………… We have strong, viable candidates that are getting none or very little support from the party. All Democrats who put themselves out there to run deserve support. Any fool can support a favorite with name recognition. In non primaried elections against incumbent Republicans we need to get to work immediately. How can we flip seats if we don’t support underdogs. Win or lose these people are our future.


    1. good for you Joe Krebs! good for you! if we have a candidate who is going to run in 18 months (o whenever) we’ve gotta start pumping them up – lotsa local media attention (everywhere the candidate goes, write and submit Press Releases after the event and use the NO COST (a tough price to beat) Letters to the Editor in the local papers – PUFF letters are almost always accepted and published – trouble we have is that most of the people who want to run aren’t qualified for any office – so, we will begin a “…scouting…” program to find people who are qualified – I like your attitude, keep ’em coming Joe the K…


  8. Great article, but can still include more needed changes. Maybe I a bit radical, but radical changes are what’s needed now.

    I think that the entire Bylaws need to be discarded, not just revamped, and new ones implemented. DEC’s simply cannot perform with the bylaws tying their hands.

    The Hispanic vote keeps increasing. That’s our vote. We allowed Republicans steal away the Cuban voters, but the Cuban community is transforming and the majority of Hispanics in our state are not Cuban anyway, but still vote 60+ % for Democrats. With the ongoing growth of Hispanic voters, why doesn’t the FDP have an office in South Florida? Tampa with Cubans and Orlando with Puerto Ricans are also very important. I believe the growth rate for Hispanics is much higher in the Orlando area and Puerto Ricans are already citizens. Why is the FDP only giving token support here?

    Joe Kreps on June 17th addressed support for candidates. Even if a candidate loses a race, she/he adds to the total vote for statewide candidates. The FDP has been very selective in which candidates to support. Who the hell is selecting which candidates to support? The FDP has given financial assistance and staff to village idiot candidates while ignoring others who can take votes away from the Republicans. Whoever is making the selection decisions needs to go. Italy is a nice place.


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