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Is The Florida Democratic Party Even Redeemable?

Terrie and Juan almost reelected Trump-- thank God for... Georgia

Thomas Kennedy, founder and former chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Progressive Caucus, and William Byatt, current Miami-Dade Democratic Party treasurer and also a founder of the Miami-Dade Democratic Progressive Caucus, did an OpEd Friday for the Sun-Sentinel about the reforms so desperately needed by the worst state Democratic Party in America. (Is it too preposterous to wonder if it isn't the Republican Party that has been manipulating the selection of the leadership of the Florida Democratic Party?) Kennedy and Byatt underscored the disastrous election day orchestrated by party chair Terrie Rizzo and her criminal executive director Juan Peñalosa-- not just failures to make any headway anywhere, but losses of 2 congressional seats in solidly blue districts, a relatively safe state state Senate seat and 5 state House seats-- by coming right out and saying it: the Florida party's structure is rotted out and useless, run by a less-than-worthless consultant class-- like Peñalosa-- preventing the party from building infrastructure that can win elections.

They wrote that "the current leadership of the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) needs to resign and a complete audit of expenses needs to be conducted to determine what has been an efficient use of resources and which consultants need to not be hired again based on their performance and results. The current FDP leadership is morally and ethically bankrupt. One only needs to look at the Florida Democrats’ scandal regarding the Payroll Protection Program. In the summer, news emerged that the FDP raided funds intended for small businesses and used it to pay off costs associated with their Tallahassee building."

Their other two reforms:

  • The party’s arcane rules need to be reformed and the structure democratized to allow grassroots voices and leaders to participate and step into leadership roles. Right now, the FDP concentrates power in a handful of barely accountable party insiders who seem to care little about working Floridians.

  • Actual organizational infrastructure needs to be developed in-house rather than relying on firms, consultants and vendors. This will allow the party to begin competing year-round against Republicans and actually have a lasting impact in communities across the state. What we have now resembles a consultant cartel, a money laundering operation that lines the pockets of some of the most ineffective political operatives in the country, guilty of losing elections for two decades straight while cementing the trifecta stranglehold on power that Florida Republicans have enjoyed in the state House, state Senate and governor’s mansion.

This morning, Anselm Weber, a former state legislative candidate in the Ft Myers area and a bright hope for a future FDP, told me that "Biden won this election through incredible grassroots organizing in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. As much as centrists want to blame their losses on 'defund the police' rhetoric, voter registration for the Democrats skyrocketed after months of stagnation during the George Floyd uprisings over the summer. It should be clear that the consultant class-- whose members have no stake in the ongoing crisis low income voters face-- do not win elections. Simply being the not-Trump party won't convince voters facing eviction or unemployment to vote for you. We have to abandon the consultant class which has no interest in helping out the working class and has proven entirely ineffective in gaining Democratic support. It's going to take embracing popular working class policies while effectively organizing on the ground to win in this state."

Bob Lynch was also a state legislative candidate-- in Miami-Dade though-- and the FDP sabotaged his campaign... I don;'t mean they ignored him, the way they ignored other candidates. They went out of their way to destroy his campaign, much more harshly than the way they deal with Republicans and even Q-Anon candidates! No love lost, Lynch told me moments ago that "The Florida Democratic Party is a revolving door of some of the most adept grifters masquerading as useless consultants. In what other business do you take people involved in failure at a grand scale and elevate them to even higher positions? Well that’s what Florida Democrats did. After Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum ran some of the worst campaigns in the history of politics 2018, everyone involved should have been eliminated for consideration going forward. Instead, people like Luisana Pérez Ferndandez were hired by the FDP and then, along with Scott Arecenaux and Juan Peñalosa, were actually hired by the Biden campaign. The results were predictably disastrous."

Lynch is too smart for them and didn't take their bunk but they made the wrong enemy. Today he's suggesting that the FDP "follow the 90 for 90 model that Stacey Abrams implemented in Georgia and focus on registering new voters. The problem is that there is no money or an opportunity for grift in this so the FDP does not focus on it. I was shocked by the response I got when I started telling people I was going to publicly call for Juan Peñalosa to be fired after he defrauded the Federal Government. One of the leading Latino strategists in the state told me it was more important for Juan to stay in the seat because it meant that her network of consultants, strategists, and vendors finally had a place at the table. I was in the middle of a campaign focused on addressing the GOP’s corruption yet my own party refused to address the corruption within our leadership. It is clear that the prevailing attitude is that the ends justify the means. And in the end, Florida Democratic Party politics is about who gets to make money, not winning elections."

Both Weber and Lynch were recruited to run by a group of activists that included Dr. Janelle Christensen, president of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida. Many people, including myself, are urging her to run for party chair to replace Terrie Rizzo. I don't know if she will but today she told me that she thinks Juan Peñalosa "and others from lobbying backgrounds getting into these positions are the root of the problems we see with FDP. I believe that Terrie's mistake was trusting Juan and allowing him to make too many important calls." She told me that he Party needs to have a very focused mission to "create an environment where Democratic candidates can run successful, ethical, winning campaigns at all levels of Florida leadership." She said she doesn't think that is the current mission. Without that central goal, then "fair is worth fighting for" means very little.

I asked a member of Congress with a lot of knowledge about state parties around the country. He told me that the FDP will inevitably rely upon vendors for technical capabilities like voter files. (He might not know of it but he just described one of his colleagues, Debbie Wasserman Schultz's relatives, the most corrupt circle close to the heart of the Democratic Party). The real problem, as I see it, is that the party doesn’t stand for anything, and therefore it is not a credible alternative to the GOP. For instance, what is the FPD policy on COVID? It doesn’t have one. I asked him what they should have been campaigning on as their governor and GOP-controlled legislature was leading the state over the COVID-cliff. "Masks, including free masks for anyone dealing with the public. Social distancing, enforced when necessary. Fast, comprehensive and effective contact tracing, using the available technology. Free testing with immediate results. Universal community testing in hot spots. Universal, frequent testing in nursing homes. Enforced quarantine and free medical treatment/food delivery for anyone testing positive. Limits on gatherings. Elevated and explicit health standards for nursing homes, airlines, public transit, supermarkets, restaurants, hair salons, retail stores, hospitals, schools, etc. Extended and higher unemployment benefits, housing vouchers and food stamps. 'Lifeline' free basic internet service, electricity, water/sewer and trash pickup." Sounds like a winning program to me!

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