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Races Lost Across the State Again, Florida Democrats Look for Answers, and a Leader

| November 15, 2016

florida democrats

Among Florida’s most endangered species. (senjazzygeek)

After losing the state’s presidential and U.S. Senate races and failing to make major gains in the Legislature, Florida Democrats are groping for a way forward as the 2018 elections loom with battles for governor and all three state Cabinet seats.


The immediate issue is who will lead the Florida Democratic Party and its 4.87 million voters, with the announcement Friday that Allison Tant, who has chaired the party since 2013, is stepping down in January.

Tant, a former Tallahassee lobbyist who was known for her ability to raise money for Democrats, led the party through two difficult election cycles as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost last week in the state and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist lost in 2014 to Republican incumbent Rick Scott.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who could face a challenge from Scott in 2018, defended Tant’s leadership Monday.

Nelson, who is the only Democrat holding a statewide office in Florida, called her “a strong and dedicated leader.”

“I hope the energy she brought to our party will stay with us for years to come,” Nelson said in a statement.

With the stinging election defeat less than week old, several names have emerged as potential Tant successors including former state Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach; Alan Clendenin, a state party vice chair and Hillsborough County state committeeman; Annette Taddeo, a former Miami-Dade County chair and a 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor; Dwight Bullard, who lost a re-election bid last week for his Miami-Dade Senate seat; and Susannah Randolph, a former aide to U.S. Rep Alan Grayson and a longtime Orange County party activist.

“I think we will hear more names. I don’t think you’ve heard all the names you’re going to hear,” said former state Sen. Steve Geller, who was just elected to the Broward County Commission.

As for the election outcome, Geller said: “When you’re on the losing side, the question is always the same.”

“Did you lose because you didn’t go enough to the center under the theory that the majority of voters are in the center or did you lose because you didn’t go enough to the extreme (and energize the base)?” he said.

In Clinton’s case, Geller said the Democrats relied too heavily on the Obama “coalition,” which was weaker without the incumbent president on the ticket, and the Democrats were hurt by outside factors, including the FBI reopening an investigation of Clinton-related emails shortly before the election.

Geller said it was too early to speculate on how this year’s defeats, including U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy’s loss in the U.S. Senate race, will impact the 2018 elections, including the race for governor, a post the Democrats have not won since 1994.

“This week, people are still in shock,” Geller said.

The Florida Democrats will regroup in county-level elections next month, where the 67 party organizations will select county chairs, vice chairs and state committeewomen and committeemen.

Out of that group of local Democratic leaders, the state party will meet sometime in January to select Tant’s replacement, who would serve as the state chair for the next four years, including the 2018 elections as well as the 2020 presidential race.

Clendenin, who was narrowly defeated by Tant in the last party leadership election in 2013, said he is seriously considering running for the party chair again, but has not made a final decision.

“It’s a long road we’re facing,” said Clendenin, who lost a bid for a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board this fall. “And I think everybody in this party is doing some soul searching right now.”

If he runs, Clendenin said he would emphasize the theme he used in his previous leadership bids that the Democrats have to refocus their organization on a “grassroots” approach rather than “top-down driven” effort.

He said that was one of the lessons of this year’s elections, where the Democrats managed to turn out large numbers of voters in major urban areas but were overwhelmed in other areas of the state.

“You can’t possibly get enough votes out of our heavily Democratic areas if we completely ignore two-thirds of the state,” Clendenin said.

Although he was longtime Clinton supporter, Clendenin said he favored the shared approach of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump who both had “a bottom-driven movement that percolated up from social media and then was implemented into a grassroots movement that was real and in the field.”

With many names circulating as possible party chairs, Clendenin questioned whether some of the candidates will be eligible since they must first be elected as a county precinct committeeman or committeewoman to be eligible for a county leadership post and then the state chair.

Clendenin said it was possible for some of those candidates to maneuver their way into eligibility, but it would likely draw more controversy after the clash between the Sanders campaign and the national Democratic Party in this year’s presidential primary.

“I don’t think they’re going to be able to withstand that type of scrutiny this time around,” he said.

Bullard, who was defeated in his re-election bid last week by state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, said he is interested in the party leadership position.

Bullard said he would emphasize “a recommitment to our grassroots political ideology, putting everyday working families before special interests.”

“People want to know there is a party out there working for them and that it represents their voices,” Bullard said, pointing to issues like protecting Social Security, raising the minimum wage and protecting individual rights “regardless of sexual orientation.”

Bullard said Trump was more successful with voters based on a campaign strategy of “fear.”

“I would say the antithesis of that would be an atmosphere of positivity,” Bullard said, saying the party needs a message that appeals across the racial and economic spectrums.

“They all want better health care, a better education…a positive economic outlook,” he said.

–Lloyd Dunkleberger, News Service of Florida

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15 Responses for “Races Lost Across the State Again, Florida Democrats Look for Answers, and a Leader”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice ass!

  2. DaveT says:

    “”“This week, people are still in shock,” Geller said.”” I guess it depends on whom you ask, if your a politician sure maybe as your job is on the line and that gravy income could go away along with the status of being “somebody”. But for others, no shock, just expected.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Looks like you guys got the butt of this one…or the ass rather. Make America Great Again

  4. IndoRepubliCrat says:

    Trump and the Republicans didn’t win this election really. The Democrats LOST this election because of their policies. The working class taxpayers are tired of paying for mostly democratic minorities to sit on their collective asses, while the rest of us work to support them, in a higher living standard, then the working class taxpayer can afford to live a lot of the time! It was the economy that working class taxpaying voters have to suffer with, while people on the “Permanent relief” payrolls live in better housing, get free food, free medical, grants for free education, and free childcare while they are not working. The Democratic leaders are still wanting to bring into this country more refugees and immigrants for us to support on permanent relief, and increased chances of importing more terrorist with in the immigrants flooding into the US.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The people have spoken and have made the statement that they are tired of jack-asses in office. Welcome revolution…welcome Mr. Trump….welcome change. It is time to restore America for what it once was…GREAT!

  6. CJ Vetere says:

    A Donkey…appropriate for the Dems. Make America Great Again!

  7. YankeeExPat says:

    53 percent of eligible voters in the U.S. cast ballots in 2012

    65.25 percent of eligible voters in Russia cast ballots in 2012

    “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

    ― Winston S. Churchill

  8. #Bernie2020 says:

    It is time for payback by the Democratic party.

    Block every and all Republican bills, filibuster any new legislation and use lawsuits to fight any and all executive orders and laws signed by Trump and push it to the Supreme Court.

    Also open committees to VET each and every cabinet picks and fight like hell to hold up the vote for a new Justice.

    For the next 2 years the Republican Party shouldn’t be able to even name a Post Office.

    It should be the goal of the Democrats to make Trump a 1 term president by any means necessary.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’ll be standing over here in the corner. Waiting for the reality to set in on all you lumpen-proletariat who think he’s going to bring jobs back… yada yada.. Make America Great Again??? When were we not great?? I’ll await your answers but I suspect that may tell us all something as well…

  10. RickG says:

    I’ll be standing over here in the corner waiting for reality to set in… The Jack Asses you mention have been a Republican controlled Congress since 2010. Not to mention the State Legislature… If everything sucked so much one should probably look at home first. How many of you lumpen-proletariat out there really believe this guy will bring back manufacturing jobs to the US??? How many of his companies manufacture goods here in the good ole USA. And lastly when was it when America was great because I always thought we were? I bet answers given will probably say a lot about those that have responded.

  11. c;s says:

    Susannah Randolph would be good. Alan Grayson would be better. There needs to be major shakeups of democratic leaders here in Florida. However Flagler County’s democratic leader is a good man, decent and honest. Let’s see the 4 years of republican rule, see the fees and taxes rising despite all they say, see the jobs go away – typical republican strategies to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

  12. c;s says:

    Look at that beautiful cross on that donkey – Jesus rode on one into Jerusalem (not the elephant) and it is said that marking started and became common on the donkey after that.

  13. Ws says:

    They still can’t figure out why the Republicans are winning?? Gimme a break. Make America Great Again! GO TRUMP!!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Maybe just maybe the Ds will once again be fore the working class NOT the far far left nutjobs.

  15. Ben Hogarth says:

    Thanks FlaglerLive.. you put a picture of a jackass up and half the jackasses on these comment forums come out of the woodwork. I’m not referring to Democrats – just people with no substantive comments, just nonsensical opinions. What’s that old cliché on opinions again?…

    More on topic however, the Democratic Party in this state needs a major shakeup and perhaps even shakedown. I have watched the advocates in Tallahassee and realize how weak of a leadership team we have at the helm. While the Republicans are entirely to blame for their terrible messaging, “slander-esque” attacks, and long history of deceitful news and proliferation of lies… we will fail to address all of the problems that exist within the Democratic Party.

    While a third of the voters in this nation will always vote “R” because they have been brainwashed from birth to do so, we at least have the opportunity to reach the rational 66% of Americans who may normally associate as “Democrat” or are simply more moderate voters. But having watched the Democratic leadership in the Capitol, it is high time we clean house and put young men and women in office who will change our message to a winning one; and who will enable more young voters and currently inactive political participants to become more active.

    The Republican Party becomes more and more a party of division everyday… we need to be the party of inclusion and that means admitting our faults and admitting the flaws of the system that need change. We have to have a backbone and show the American people we are willing to take losses and sacrifice political Capital for what is right.

    We have a corrupt system and the people have demanded change. Trump’s ilk will bring terrible change and the people’s wishes will go unanswered. Then that’s where we come in to actually advocate for them.

    That’s where we win

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