Florida Democrats Excuses Don’t Add Up



Since the close of the candidate qualifying period on Friday we have heard lots of creative spin from Florida’s Democratic leaders. We have heard what amounts to misrepresentation of the truth coupled with cleverly passing the buck to blame external factors or Republicans for the failure of the party.

In seven out of the last eight election cycles, Florida’s Democrats have performed woefully in the candidate recruitment department for the state legislature. In a few of the cycles the Democrats have not even been trying.

13 House seats where Obama won over 45% of the two-party vote in 2008 were left uncontested by the Democrats. A further six seats that fit this category were filed during qualifying week by Democratic candidates who were recruited locally or chose to run on their own. Two seats that previously had Democratic candidates that fit this category lost them during qualifying week. In those districts the Democrats failed to recruit a replacement candidate.

On the Senate side the failure to field a candidate in Senate District 22 is beyond words. The Democrats have disenfranchised their own voters in one of Florida’s largest cities, Saint Petersburg, by failing to qualify a candidate in this seat. The State Senator for a seat carried by Barack Obama and Alex Sink will be selected in the GOP Primary. This primary between Reps. Jim Frishe and Jeff Brandes is being contested based on internal Tallahassee Republican leadership politics. For whatever reason the Democrats chose to disengage completely in this district, and once the primary was closed by a write-in candidate approximately half the voters in the district were effectively disenfranchised.

The Democrats rightly are voicing criticism of Rick Scott’s antidemocratic voter purge efforts. But as a party, when you do not field candidates in competitive legislative seats you are engaging in another form of disenfranchisement, one that denies Democrats in many districts the basic right of voting for their representatives to the state legislature.

When you examine the state even further you see a number of districts who have been filled by Democrats that are not capable of raising money or garnering enough local community support to effectively challenge their GOP opposition.

Only two serious Democratic House candidates with major institutional backing were signed up during qualifying week: Liz Alpert in House District 72 and Pamela Goodman in House District 89.

Redistricting is used as an excuse but the facts remain what they are. In the five cycles under the last Democratic map, the party lost 32 seats, and in the five cycles contested on the GOP map the Democrats have lost just four seats. It is certainly true that the 2002 redistricting solidified Republican incumbents in many marginal districts, but blaming that for the GOP hegemony over the state and the Democrats inability or perhaps unwillingness to compete in many places is like blaming President Clinton for the Iran-Contra scandal. The Democrats excuses have no grounding in historic reality, but they do serve to deflect attention and criticism away from those who created and perpetuated this mess onto others.

Often times when asked about why winnable seats are not contested you get answers from Democratic operatives like “oh he/she is so popular,” or “he is a nice guy,” or ” it’s tough to beat a Republican woman with a man.” These are state legislators, generally they aren’t even known by the majority of their constituents, but many Democrats operating in a legislative bubble mistake popularity in Tallahassee for popularity back home. That’s where the nice guy argument comes from as well. Those popular on the Tallahassee cocktail party circuit tend to get less aggressive challengers. While many Democratic leaders would never admit to this I have seen it to be true on several occasions over the past fourteen years with the exception of when Lois Frankel and Dan Gelber were Democratic leaders. Not so ironically, our candidate recruitment was stronger and House Victory efforts more organized under those two leaders.

Democracy depends on an exchange of ideas and a vibrant two party system. The Democrats are not only failing themselves but they are failing Floridians.

26 thoughts on “Florida Democrats Excuses Don’t Add Up”

  1. With a likely change in leadership at the top of the FDP, the first question that should be asked of each candidates is, “How do you plan to shake up the FDP and improve the development and recruitment of candidates at all levels in the state?”

  2. Angry Democrat

    Excellent piece. We have all been led to believe that reapportionment was responsible for all our woes. As you demonstrate here that is far from the case.

    The excuses by Tallahassee based staff is mind numbing. Constant spin and I have another theory to throw by you.

    If the party really were ti take off and be competitively fighting for races, the people in power would be challenged. By keeping things small, disorganized and dependent on lobbyists these people can maintain control.

    Support Scott Randolph for Chair. That is the only way we bring REAL LASTING CHANGE.

  3. The part about not challenging Republicans because of personal or perceived popularity in Tallahassee I have experienced. I had two races in the Tampa Bay area where I got no help from the state party and still got about 47%. I could have won them with minimal interest but I kept hearing how popular the opponent was with the lobbyists and their to be collegues.

  4. Without a major shakeup at the top as well in many of our local DECS, NOTHING will change. Tired of all the lip service cycle after cycle. Party officials as well as some elected officials who violate party rules (Burt and friends) are never held accountable for their actions. What level of respect do they expect from the rest of us who are not busy stuffing our pockets with cash and try to play by the rules.

  5. This post is totally unfair. I am going to stop reading this site and unsubscribe to your posts.

    Let me say my peace before I go.

    Rod Smith and Karen Thurman inherited the mess of others. They have worked hard to stop the loses and to hire good staff. You even admit we have only lost 4 House seats in the last decade and actually have a net gain of 3 under Thurnan and Smith.

    The party staff works hard. They do not deserve this sort of treatment from armchair pundits.

    A word about Randolph. He is despised among the lobbyists and party operatives. His ejection would destroy the party. We are in a good position this year and we will pick up seats. It could be all undone by a Randolph chairmanship and we will give back all our gains in 14 with him leading what is left of the party if he takes over.

  6. This is a great piece. FINALLY the truth! Randolph might be the best choice at this point. Siegal between the sexual harrassment and the stealing for the undocumented….good job Dumbocrats.


    Rod Smith don’t run for Governor you suck just like Crist. It is not going to be either one of you or Rich.

    You all might start by training your consultants Ulvert, Aaronson and Johnson to start playing the book. You might just have the book thrown at you!


  7. I am sorry you feel that way about our site. We are committed to giving incisive even critical commentary. The party needs serious fixing and we believe that dramatic changes have to be made. As someone who has been around during the tenures of every chairman since Charlie Whitehead, I can tell you Karen Thurman did a poor job on many fronts and further the solid hold Tallahassee lobbyists and legislators had on our party’s legislative committees. i believe Maddox did a poor job but recognized some of the problems that we had and made at least token attempts to fix them. The last two chairs have shown no commitment to accountability or to acknowledging the problems we have and continue to create. The record speaks for itself.

    I had high hopes for our party in legislative races this year after seeing the map Will Weatherford and the House approved. I was giving the party the benefit of the doubt knowing how poor a job House Victory has previously done at recruiting candidates, that with so many obvious pick up opportunities that candidate recruitment and grassroots development would be increased. Several months later 2012 feels like 2002 or 1998 or 2004 or 2010. Nothing has changed.

  8. You are right that the Dems have blown it but it is not where you think. We need to win back over the traditional Democrats that are in the Big Bend and interior of the state. We need to win those areas and the last 3 D gov candidates have won there.

  9. Agree with EG but until the Ds identify candidates, raise money and first know what they hell they stand for specifically…the public will continue to be screwed by the same old same old. Look at how many people are walking into seats unopposed. It is pretty sad on the part of Rod Smith & Company. I think we need someone else as Party Chair. Randolph should be recruiting candidates through a SuperPAC. Rod Smith is a joke and that Siegal guy in PBC is nuts. I live in St. Lucie and the crap we are reading about the DEC is the reason why we lose. These people are just as corrupt as the Republicans.

    I hope that we have Ron Klein run for State Party Chair or Andrew Guillium guy from Tally. We need some people with at least half of brain and that have not been thrown out of any state on corruption changes, fraud, harrassment or something else…..Ok so I guess Klein is out.

  10. Lewis in Lauderdale

    F U Lee County. Bringing in the gay issue about Crist is totally not germain to this discussion. How does this matter and why would you even bring it up?

    This is a GREAT post BTW, but some of these types of comments ruin it.

  11. How about the excuse that the national party is too liberal for Florida????

    They must forget that Obama actually won Florida.

  12. I was going to leave the post alone, but it is representative of the problems in the Florida Democratic Party today; unable to take criticism.

    One need only look at the results of Democratic elections in the past decade to say there is something wrong. To try and pin all of our woes on gerrymandering is a convenient excuse.

    Obama winning Florida in 2008 shows what can be done in this state wiith an excellent ground game. We have a state party and 67 separate county organizations and most of the time you wonder if anyone is minding the store.

    Statewide we should be able to swamp Republican candidates coming out of our strongholds like Broward County, but when you look at the clown car that is the Broward DEC (look at their pathetic results in the Sink/Scott race) and you realize until we clean house and get leadership that is willing to take names and get some action going, we’ll be wondering what went wrong after every election.

  13. Pingback: Dem: what was party doing? | News Service Florida Political Blog

  14. Apparently a candidate was filing for 22 but messed up his paperwork and couldn’t get to the Supreme Court staff in time to get their help.

  15. If the FDP actually spent half the time and creativity they use to make excuses on messaging perhaps we’d win a statewide election every now and then.

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  17. This is why we need consultants like Eric Johnson who win races, work well with candidates have great relationships with elected officials and can win campaigns! Mark Siegal will make an outstanding chair who can change the culture and actually win elections while raising money.

  18. As usual Morning Star is tripping if she thinks Eric and Siegal are the answers to this party’s problems. They are part of the problem. Considering how long they have been around, what if anything that they have done in the last few years has made things better for the Democrats.

  19. …..And you know what else does not work…..Name Calling. One thing this site and what the dailykos do Really well is Name Calling. Calling out Democrats is NO WAY TO FIX PROBLEMS..