Krishnaiyer’s Editorial: Democratic Legislative Prospects Should Be Far Better

Since 1998, with only a few exceptions, we have heard nothing but excuses from Democratic legislative leaders explaining the poor numbers for the party in both legislative bodies. As we have consistently pointed out on this website these excuses wore thin about a decade ago but continue to be in circulation. The question then has to be how serious are the Democrats about actually winning back either chamber? While reaching 61 House seats and 21 Senate seats may seem nearly impossible, reaching 50 House seats and 17 Senate seats should be an attainable goal. Yet the Democrats have gotten nowhere near these numbers since the 1998 election carnage.
Redistricting and other institutional advantages for the Republicans can be overcome with good organization, real effort on the local level and an understanding of how Democrats held marginal or even Republican-leaning seats throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Redistricting may be a convenient excuse for the Democrats but the inability, or perhaps simply the unwillingness, to recruit strong candidates that are able to simply gain the votes that Republicans do towards the top of the ticket.
Our research indicates that in the newly passed Florida House districts that will be in effect from 2012 to 2022, Barrack Obama won 54 seats in the 2008 election. Obama ran between 48% and 50% of the two party vote in fifteen additional districts,  bringing the potential attainable Democratic number to 69 House seats. But Democrats, unlike the GOP, suffer from significant drop-off down ballot. In the 2000 election Al Gore carried 17 Florida State House districts that were won that very same day by Republicans. Conversely, the Democrats won just 5 seats carried that same day by George W. Bush. The swing between Gore and Bush districts was GOP plus 12 and they left that election cycle with a 77-43 majority in the House.
The leadership of the Legislative wing, Democratic Party in Florida has continued to make excuses for woeful electoral performances, the failure to properly target areas with changing demographics, the inability to turn Democrats out in off year elections and the failure to educate Democrats why they should keep voting in down ballot races.  But the Tallahassee-based Democratic legislative leadership, much of it isolated from major changes to the electorate in Central and Southern Florida, continue to misfire on possible targets and where the Democrats can gain a foothold in current Republican held areas.
In the 1980’s Democrats used local issues to buck national trends and keep many Republican trending areas in the D column. Throughout that decade and into the early 1990s, the GOP took an incremental approach, building strong local parties with a network of statewide leaders that were tuned into local developments and ready to pounce in any district with a retiring or vulnerable Democrat. In time, the GOP turned the tables of the Democratic legislative hegemony and have continued to build an infrastructure that thanks to Democratic incompetence, renders the registration and party preference advantage the D’s have in the state meaningless.
Instead of challenging the Republicans or mimicking their approach, many Democrats have become complacent, ready to fight one another over scraps, and worse yet accepting a permanent Democratic minority. Rod Smith wisely challenged the GOP’s attempts to gerrymander legislative seats in both the courts and via the state’s media outlets. But unlike Smith, many Democratic officeholders, operatives and activists seem perfectly comfortable to sit with folded hands and retain “insider” status while the Republican hold on an increasingly Democratic state tightens.
Why are some Democrats so willing to accept this fate? Perhaps it is down to the people in power: those making the decisions for the past decade plus. Maybe it is a lack of understanding of how the state has changed politically. It could even be a denial of reality, a failure to appreciate and understand President Obama’s 2008 electoral legacy in the state and the awesome infrastructure his campaign utilized to turn out Florida voters. Or it could simply be a combination of comfort, complacency and sheer laziness.

31 thoughts on “Krishnaiyer’s Editorial: Democratic Legislative Prospects Should Be Far Better”

  1. This is so true. We love what it means to be a Democrat regarding what we stand for but it does seems that the party is pretty dumb about seeing the big pictures. I think it is due to ego ego ego and lots of $$$$. The party could win and fix the mess they are in on a state level if they were willing to get rid of a few “political players” that have little juice when it comes to mind power and people power.

    We know elected officials learn as thy go for most of them but without understanding many of the issues or having the knowledge it leads to the corruption of Eric Johnson. The funny thing is everyone wants to blame everyone else but Eric is the one who took this county down. Not Aaronson.

  2. I agree on Eric Johnson but I think the real trouble is everyone in Tallahassee running the party, calling the shots.

  3. Concerned Palm Beach Democrat

    Excellent article.

    A couple points here.

    We have systematically handed over all our previous advantages over the past two decades. We had plenty of liberal to moderate demos representing moderate to conservative areas but gradually became lazy and allowed the local level networks to be crumbled. The only factor we could not control was the registration and increase in Cuban Republicans and realignment of Panhandle districts after term limits.

    Our failure however to hold seats in the Tampa Bay area, Daytona and Space Coast owes itself to bad recruitment, lazyness, complacency from the leadership and a lack of imagination in how to run campaigns and turnout voters. The inability to pick up seats in Orlando and the coast in Broward & Palm Beach is embarrassing.

    We currently have 38 house seats in House and should if we just held seats we should have be around 48 or 50. As your analysis states if we took the seats where we can win we would be at 69. So look at it this way. Is it mathematically even possible for the Democrats to have fewer seats than we have had in the last decade plus? Are our consultants who double as lobbyists just throwing elections on purpose to stay in good with the Republicans? You really have to wonder.

  4. nice article.

    we have great leaders locally but the state does nothing but interfere and not know the terrain.

  5. Eric Johnson could help the party if they involved him statewide. He knows how to run campaigns and takes no prisoners unlike the meek Dens running things now.

  6. Eric has never won a tough race. Just ask Kelly Skidmore. He is deeply in bed with Aaronson (pardon the bed reference) . Everyone here in PBC knows there is a glass ceiling that is almost impossible to penetrate. Look at what they did to Slossberg 6 years ago. With Wexler gone and Aaronson on his way out things should gradually change here.

  7. Exactly Concerned PBC, Johnson has been running things since he was Wexler’s staffer (from the office in DC) ..why do you think we have been losing. lol This article is spot on. I am in St. Lucie and I can tell you the whole party knows Johnson is the problem with the head of the local PBC party.

    I am volunteering for Murphy and EVERYONE knows how bad Johnson is. He is hoping that he wins this or I think Patrick will end up leading our party on his own.

    They have no guts to do anything about it Johnson….just like the rest of the state.

  8. Concerned Palm Beach Democrat

    Little Eric is bad news but far from the only person creating problems. His influence is far more limited than some others. He’s swarm worthless one but far from the biggest problem.

  9. This is unfair to Eric. He has not lost to a single incumbent Democrat race unlike the party hacks in Tallahassee. He almost beat Domino in 2008, a six year incumbent with the fantastic Bryan Miller. The state party lost us that race, as did Obama’s unpopularity locally.

  10. Wow, a good analogy….. petty childish behavior doesn’t win a primary or elections. There is something to say about the Republicans, they walk in lock step….(Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell)……The Democratic Party needs an attitude adjustment, and a leadership style that sets an example for many dedicated folks who believe and fight for Democratic values…..

  11. A lot of good content on this site but this is the best editorial yet. I’m speechless. What are some of these seats we could go after where we don’t even try?

  12. Brian Miller ??? That guy had no chance, he couldn’t get arrested standing over a dead hooker with a smoking gun. Rick Ford is the guy who should have been the candidate. Problem was he did not kiss Wexler’s or Aaronsons ring. If you blame Obama for that loss you are nuts. That was another good old boys lousy candidate. Anyone see Brian after that election ??? Try looking under the bus. Welcome to PBC politics….

  13. Great editorial. Best yet on this site. One omission to go along with your premise. Considering we have term limits and these seats are open at a minimum once every 8 years the mere fact we cannot flip any substantial number of seats in a 50-50 state should beyond a reasonable doubt prove the party’s ineptitude. Not that you needed any further proof.

  14. In 2006, Rick Ford with a lot less cash came closer to beating Domino. Also Obama actually carried that district the very same day so blaming him seems a little silly.

  15. Too many to list offhand ( I will later) but many Tampa Bay area districts and East Central Florida districts could be flipped with effective campaigns and decent candidates.

  16. Very true. These seats being consistently open every six to eight years makes the situation even more unacceptable and pathetic. Every single one of these seats has been open in the recent past and either the Democrats have lost or not even bothered.

  17. As an “outsider/non-activitist” reading this article and the subsequent comments…’s pretty easy to get an understanding of why the Democrat Party in Florida has failed so badly in local legislative and statewide races…..ALL THE ENERGY IS DIRECTED TOWARD FIGHTING INTERNAL TURF WARS AND TRY TO FIND SOMEONE TO BLAME! Grow up folks and focus on the end game of ORGANIZING & WINNING ELECTIONS!!

  18. So basically in about half the potential Dem seats in the House we either field bad candidates or lose voters as they go down ballot? Why is this? As someone new to all this it seems obvious how to fix it!

  19. It is obvious to most of us, except the leadership that is entrenched in power and does not allow any new people to rise to the top. They want us to make calls and stuff envelopes but after that little use for the rest of us. The real idea is to keep voters active all cycle long. These elected officials do not care. Just keep them in power. The concept of the Democratic Clubs is also dying on the vine. If loosing the state as we have is not enough of a shock to the system I’m at a loss for words as to what to do next.

  20. Florida Democrat

    This article is quite honestly very offensive to those of us who are hard working Democrats. We have worked hard to flip this state, It takes a great deal of talent and creativity to lose a net of 24 House seats in 3 election cycles which we did in the 1990s. This past decade we have continued our amazing work by losing all but one statewide race. The author of this article fails to give credit where credit is due. It is almost impossible to lose as much as we lose with so many Democrats in the state. Party registration and preference only matter if you actually attempt to turn out voters. But we have our own model. Don’t recruit, don’t raise money and don’t even try and fight back. Obama carried the state but we still fell massively short of a legislative majority. Again, that takes talent.

    You may criticize us but but you wish you were us. No other Democratic Party in the nation has our track record. No one else comes close.

    Support Florida Democrats!

  21. Some of these consultants and interest groups have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. I will just leave it at that.

  22. The is no plan with the Ds. They are just as corrupt as the Rs. There is not infighting…it is Eric Johnson threatening individuals if they run. You get these scum because no one has any guts. Why did Wexler resign again????? Exactly? Do some homework people. When we lose it all you can thank South Palm Beach County, the local DEC and Eric Johnson working with Mark Siegal.

  23. Pingback: Sunburn for 6/5: A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics | Saint Petersblog

  24. Delray Democrat

    Rader is an idiot. A total windbag office shopper. Clemens is a joke also. Bernard wins that. Laxer should still run for State House or Senate. She is independent and will get tons of support from activists.

    Krishnaiyer is running a great blog here. Nice to have him back in the game! Keep up the good work!

  25. Delray Democrat

    You are wrong bashing the party.

    I am incredibly impressed with some of the young dem candidates that have stepped up to the plate this cycle. I saw an incredibly inspirational young house candidate today at a forum that made the 60 year old opponent look like peanuts. Lord knows we need some good new dems up there. My only regret is that Clemens wont serve full terms in the house and senate, but i’m not complaining!! Dems in 2012! And Rader, wouldn’t hurt you to show up to the DEC meeting once in awhile. Many of us can’t vote for you because we do not live in the district, but we have friends and family.

  26. It is incredible how disconnected the party really is with the activists that voluntarily give up our time and do all the work. We are tired of losing and being treated like garbage by a state party completely disconnected from reality.