FDP Chairs Race: The Establishment Strikes Back!

A few weeks ago it looked like Alan Clendenin, the runner up four years ago for Florida Democratic Party Chair would either not qualify to run or be an afterthought. But after Clendenin found a way to qualify via rural Bradford County, and the establishment candidates in the FDP Chairs Race, particularly Stephen Bittel and Lisa King continued to sound, well like establishment candidates either excusing previous failures or not giving enough incentive for reform-minded folks to embrace them, Clendenin reemerged as a potential front-runner.

From our conversations over the past week it has become obvious that Clendenin has more support that originally anticipated and even has won over some of those who opposed him four years ago. Why has this happened? Some of those who didn’t buy his critiques of the FDP four years ago, now do six statewide losses out of a possible six later (including the Presidential). These members of the State Committee and other rank-and-file Democrats have come to realize change is necessary to restore Florida to truly being a two-party state, rather than the one-party oligarchy it has essentially become.

The insider class that runs the Florida Democratic Party has taken note of the Clendenin surge and now Patricia Byrd, a particularly well-connected establishment figure from the Panama City area has questioned the eligibility of the FDP Vice Chair to run.

Whether or not you like Alan Clendenin or not, or support his candidacy the gamesmanship from the establishment is clear. They play nasty, they play tough and will use any means to win – call it a Clintonian technique and we’ve all seen how far that’s gotten our party in recent years. Byrd’s maneuver is an attempt on behalf of the party establishment to maintain control at all costs – smart if perhaps if the audience is merely the couple hundred members of the State Committee and other political insiders. Unwise however for a party that needs to win millions of votes to reestablish itself as a meaningful statewide force.

This chair’s race has been disappointing from where I sit. Instead of seeing the proposals for reform and the acknowledgement of past failings from those running, we’ve seen what has more or less resembled an insider contest where the deck chairs on the titanic are being rearranged to look more aesthetically pleasing as the ship tries to steer clear of another iceberg (since this same ship keeps hitting icebergs every two years).  Some candidates running for chair have used fluffy rhetoric and talking points to appear as reformers or progressives while continuing to play an insider political game. Talk of deal-making between candidates and machiavellian maneuvers have intensified in the last week, culminating with this complaint made by Byrd.

Should Clendenin be disqualified on this technicality it becomes far more difficult for whomever becomes FDP Chair to satisfy reformers. The sense of a party adrift that is being run by access-minded DNC members, Tallahassee-based lobbyists and consultants as well as southeastern Florida money interests will just intensify with Clendenin going down as a martyr. Concerns about Clendenin that some active Democrats might have shouldn’t blind them about the cynicism and nastiness of this move by Byrd – it’s nothing less than an establishment power play to shut down a potential threat to the powers-that-be.


  1. Yet Byrd is not going after Bullard? Yes, Alan is a threat, and I think he has a good chance to win. And as someone who supported him last time, I think he would do a great job as FDP chair if elected this time. Still, qualifications as to who can run for the position needs to be reformed, pure and simple.


  2. Patti Lynn · · Reply

    I would have liked it if you had included Dwight Bullard, and how he fits into this process. None of the candidates are operating in a vacuum and we, voters, need more information. Put them all together, weigh them, their positions, etc. Let us compare YOUR perspective with our own.


  3. the old man sitting on the green bench · · Reply

    Given the electoral results that we have enjoyed of late, I suggest it’s time to look at ourselves from a different point of view. What we doing is not hugely different than what every company does on a daily basis — marketing. A question that should be presented and seriously considered is, “What is your marketing plan?” I suggest that we need a cohesive, unified plan that successfully speaks everyone in the big tent. In my working life, I was involved in interviewing people for middle and upper-level management positions. A question always asked was, “What is your marketing plan?” I would go on to say that we should judge people, for any position, on their merits and not their attacks on other candidates.


  4. Cynicism and nastiness, sounds exactly right. Stacking the deck.


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