I have always been a big believer in setting people up for success. Putting people in positions where they can excel so that everyone benefits. I understand that people have ambitions and dreams that may not be realistic, and there is nothing wrong with that, but problems arise when people put a lot of effort into endeavors where they will most definitely fail (especially when it prevents someone else from succeeding in that endeavor). I am not going to get into the ludicrous goings on regarding residency of any candidate for Florida Democratic Party (FDP) Chair, but simply look at each of the leading candidates and judge them based on the facts available to all of us. There is more than one candidate for FDP Chair whose candidacy is an insult to Florida Democrats, and one clear choice on who should lead Florida Democrats forward for the next four years.
The starting point for any discussion regarding who should be FDP Chair should be the realization that the main job that the FDP Chair has is to fundraise. If the FDP Chair does only one thing, it is fundraise as they can use the money they raise to hire people to do everything else if they raise enough money. Being a voice for Democratic causes would be great, but there is a limit to the amount of free media that is available. Building a platform is nice, but you need money to communicate any idea or platform that you put together. Candidate recruitment is also something the FDP Chair should focus a large amount of resources on, but having a ton of money to put behind candidates will result in more quality candidates putting their hats into the ring. I wish money didn’t run politics, but in Florida it does at this point in time and Florida Democrats have no hope of escaping the abyss unless they accept that CURRENT reality.
Miami-Dade State Committeeman Stephen Bittel is in a league of his own when it comes to fundraising when compared to the other candidates for FDP Chair. The vitriol that has come out for Mr. Bittel by some people who don’t even know him, and before he was even an official candidate, is mind boggling. Mr. Bittel is a very successful businessman, and it disturbs me that being successful is looked down upon by more than a few people in our party. Mr. Bittel has been very open, honest, and straightforward regarding his plans to run for FDP Chair. Everyone who was paying attention knew exactly what he was going to do, and despite organized opposition he successfully executed his plan to run for FDP Chair by coalition building and doing the hard work required to succeed. In his campaign, he has exceeded every expectation and shown the leadership skills needed to thrive as FDP Chair.
Another leading contender for FDP Chair is current FDP First Vice-Chair Alan Clendenin. Mr. Clendenin may have some nice ideas, but when looking at his track record over the past six months (much less the past four years) no one can have any faith that any of his ideas will ever become reality. Mr. Clendenin ran for school board last year and finished fourth. $20k of the money he raised was a loan to his campaign that he never spent. That means he wasn’t as fully committed as he wanted to appear to be, or he was saving that money for a run-off that he didn’t come within a country mile of getting into. After losing his school board race, Mr. Clendenin ran for re-election as State Committeeman in Hillsborough County and lost an election that had less than 100 votes cast. If someone can’t win re-election as State Committeeman when less than 100 votes are cast, they have no business being FDP Chair.
Former state Sen. Dwight Bullard is yet another person vying to be FDP Chair. Sen. Bullard did an excellent job in the halls of Tallahassee, and I wish there were 160 clones of Sen. Bullard in the Florida Legislature, but he has absolutely no business running for FDP Chair. Sen. Bullard refused to spend any real time raising money for either his own re-election campaign or as Chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. Sen. Bullard lost his seat and local Democrats countywide badly under-performed the top of the ticket. Sen. Bullard looking to be FDP Chair is like me looking teach elementary school while refusing to deal with children (you shouldn’t look to get a job when you don’t want to do the main part of that job). Sen. Bullard then lost his bid to become Miami-Dade State Committeeman, and then ran for State Committeeman again in the special election later last month against Mr. Bittel and lost AGAIN.
I actually personally like both Mr. Clendenin and Sen. Bullard by the way. I think they both should have roles in the Democratic Party going forward, but not FDP Chair. Their homes counties rejected them at the ballot box, and then their home DECs rejected them again. If the people who know Sen. Bullard and Mr. Clendenin best won’t vote for them, then why should anyone else? None of the candidates not mentioned here seem to have a path to victory to become FDP Chair. I don’t know Mr. Bittel at all, and have never had a conversation with the man. I felt compelled to write this to make it as abundantly clear to everyone else as it is to me that we need Stephen Bittel as the next FDP Chair based on the facts. Mr. Bittel is the only viable candidate to show he can excel at every aspect of the job of FDP Chair.
(Author’s Note: Please feel free to send any comments, suggestions, column ideas, or hate mail to ThePhlipSideFL@gmail.com.)
Sean Phillippi is a Democratic strategist and consultant based in Broward County. He has worked for campaigns on the federal, state, and local levels, including the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Sean is the Managing Member of TLE Analytics LLC, the political data and consulting firm he founded in 2012.