Rebuilding the Florida Democratic Party: Part III – Local Parties

A Hillsborough County DEC sign.

Sorry it took me a while to get to the next part of my series up. My internet was down all day, and I had to pick my father up at the airport, so I couldn’t do anything. But I will today.

So, today’s topic, local DECs. Of course, there has already been a lot of talk about problems at the state level. But are the local DECs any better off than the state? Well, some might be and some might not be. It is really a case-by-case basis.

But even so, there are a few fundamental changes that we can institute in our local DECs to help them become more productive, besides the obvious idea of getting all the DECs technically up-to-date.

It has been the practice of DECs to have precinct committee members. Of course, these are the rules of the party and we have to have these members, and I am all fine with that. The problem is that the DEC tells these people to go “walk their precinct” and to get their specific precinct to vote on Election Day.

Ok, that sounds nice, but here is the problem. When I lived in Orange County, I lived in a precinct in Windermere, a very Republican precinct. Therefore, if I “walked my precinct”, it wouldn’t have made a difference. On the other hand, I am sure that there are vital precincts in Orange County that don’t have a DEC member. Do those precincts get ignored?

Instead of telling people to target their precincts, we need to come up with a better plan that would include a larger area, more precincts and more volunteers. If we were to use political subdivisions in some of these counties (like county commission seats), it would be easier and more productive to organize Democrats. Some counties have already done this, but not all.

In fact, relying only on precinct committee members to target only their precinct really only helps in a large, Democratic county, like Cook County in Illinois, where nearly every precinct does have a precinct committee person.

A second issue that I feel needs to be addressed is the communication between the State Party and the local DECs. Going into each election cycle, the Florida Democratic Party should work with the local parties to see what they need, which races they are targeting, and so on. The FDP should also let the DECs know which races that they intend on targeting, so that resources for those races on both the county, state and campaign level can be maximized. Again, this happens in some counties, but not all.

Third, we need to make sure that we have transparency between the DEC’s officers and the membership of the DEC. In recent years we have seen some DEC chairs involved in lobbying efforts that sometimes contradicts what they are supposed to do as DEC chair. For example, there have been some stories of DEC chairs working with, lets day, County Mayors who are Republicans on certain issues. And time after time, the local DEC would fail to produce a quality candidate to run against that GOP Mayor. I wonder why?

Therefore, I feel that we need to put into our bylaws tough disclosure rules regarding the political lobbying activities of these DEC officers. As far as I am concerned, the only people who these DEC officers should be lobbying for are Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party.

Fourth, we need to change the rules that all officers of the DECs are elected to only two-year terms. A four-year term for a county party position is just to damn long. And if we have an election cycle like we just did, it is wrong to force a DEC to do the messy work of removing and replacing officers instead of just electing new leadership. This process should make it easier and less painful to all parties involved.

There are many other small issues that can be addressed as well, but I think that most of those are on a county-by-county basis. Still, there are some people who even have more radical ideas on how to change our political structure at the local level.

In a recent post by Mario Piscatella (which was also a response to one of my earlier posts), he advocated having Democratic Party staffers for each of the 67 counties in the State of Florida. While this sounds like a good idea, it is both fiscally and logically reckless. First, the cost of this program for the next two years, if we were to pay staffers $2,000 a month (which is pretty much the industry minimum for staffers), would cost the Florida Democratic Party $3.1 million.

In addition to the cost, I feel that there would be some larger counties that would feel highly insulted that they are getting the same amount of resources as, lets say, Lafayette County. Therefore, the FDP investment in a staffer in Pinellas County would be $.08 per voter. On the other hand, the investment per voter in Lafayette County would be $11.78. I’m sure that Pinellas would not be too happy with the FDP by giving them the short end of the stick over a county that voted 56% for Rick Scott, while Pinellas vote 51% for Alex Sink.

Therefore, what do you do? Do you continue to upset Pinellas County by only having one staffer per county? Or, do you risk increasing the bill for the program to total over $5 million (or a lot more) by adding additional staffers to larger counties? Also, in larger counties, how many more staffers do you add? Do you add one per 100,000 people? More? Less? It is just a big mess.

Still, even with other ideas out there, which helps us debate the future of the Democratic Party, we do need to make some chances nonetheless. While some think that the local DECs are fine, I think they are just part of the problem. Reforming the party needs to take place on all levels, not the just FDP Chair.

2 thoughts on “Rebuilding the Florida Democratic Party: Part III – Local Parties”

  1. Pingback: Quick Hits » Florida Progressive Coalition Blog -

  2. We have some DEC officers in Broward that have their own little “political consulting” businesses and have run campaigns on behalf of Republicans. We need more than transparency !