Every time we have an internal shift within the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) be it an election for chair or the reform of rules the role of party staff and vendors comes to the forefront.
Assessing the role of staff and vendors needs to be a priority for whomever wins the election as party chair – having lost 17 of the last 18 elections for statewide cabinet or Governor in addition to a disastrous 2016 cycle means reform is essential. But what form should this assessment take on. Here are my suggestions:
- Initiate a review of the responsibilities and role of the Executive Director. Should this job be split? Should some of the power of the Executive Director be shifted to other staffers or to the State Committee?
- Put an emphasis on hiring additional staff from inside the state. If the headquarters remains in Tallahassee, many of the best and brightest people in Florida reside in the state’s most educated city. If the need arises to go outside the Tallahassee area to find staff make it a priority to hire from within the state. Florida’s unique political cultural and nuance driven elections require localized knowledge and experience. If the party headquarters is moved from Tallahassee, implement a similar hiring method there.
- Try and maintain as many of the current staff as possible within the confines of reform – this might not appeal to those who want to blow up the place, but institutional knowledge is an important thing as we continue to discover every election cycle. Losing it completely means you are starting over.
- Review the contracts of all party vendors in concert with the Executive Director. Initiate a study into the potential conflicts-of-interest party vendors have; be it supporting Democrats in primaries or more importantly lobbying for Republican-aligned entities be it in Tallahassee or in front of local government bodies .
- Require party staff to disclose relationships with party vendors and prohibit the contractors from paying party staff an additional fee or kickback
- Once vendor conflicts are disclosed they should be made transparent to members of the State Committee and rank-in-file Democrats via the party’s website.
In most aspects of global society, consequences for failure exist. However for whatever reason, this principle has seldom if ever been applied to Florida Democrats. The FDP’s record of failure over two decades is one of the worst in any megastate in the country, yet many of the same people have been empowered to make decisions over time. Much of this has to do with the personality-driven nature of Florida’s Democratic Party politics – The FDP has long shared the internal behavior of collapsing businesses, declining Empires or nation-states as well as losing sports teams in that decisions are often made based more personality, sentiment and factionalism than on competence, accomplishment and merit.
Dealing with the question of vendors who continue to lose elections and other staff considerations has to be at the top of the list of to-dos from a new party chair. The culture of losing mixed with little accountability or consequence has helped to essentially make Florida, at least a the state level a one-party locale. Any prospective party chair who isn’t committed to fundamental reform and “taking out the trash” so to speak should not be empowered with leadership in this coming election cycle.
This is part one of a series that will run this week on TFS