The Florida Democratic Party Couldn't Be Any Worse If The GOP Was Picking Its Leaders

Adam Christensen is worried about the Democratic Party's future viability

The Florida Democratic Party wasn't always useless. In fact, it was once dominant. But it's basically a worthless junk heap now, at least in terms of running and winning statewide elections. It's about as dysfunctional as the Ohio Democratic Party, the worst in the nation. How did this happen and is there any way to turn it around?

Adam Christensen will be 29 years old next month. He was 25 when he launched his campaign for Congress in the 2020 cycle in Florida’s Gainesville-centered district (FL-03). It’s a pretty red district with an R+6 PVI. Tea Party extremist Ted Yoho was retiring and one of his staffers, Kat Cammack, was the pre-ordained Republican Party candidate. In the end, Christensen took 42.9% of the vote on the same day that the district gave Joe Biden 42.8%. In fact Christensen ran ahead of every Democratic presidential candidate in the district going back 2 decades.

The reason he out-performed Biden in the district, albeit narrowly, wasn’t because of the big blue county, Alachua. It was because he managed to appeal to crossover and swing voters outside of Alachua where there are basically no functioning Democratic organizations. He did better than Biden in all 5 of the red counties in the district:

  • Bradford- Biden 23.2%, Christensen 24.9%

  • Clay- Biden 30.8%, Christensen 31.1%

  • Marion- Biden 36.6%, Christensen 37.1%

  • Putnam- Biden 28.9%, Christensen 30.3%

  • Union- Biden 16.9%, Christensen 18.8%

Until Democrats start campaigning and winning in these kinds of rural, suburban and exurban areas, their support in urban counties like Alachua isn’t going to add up to statewide victories, not in Florida or states like Florida.

The Clay County Republican machine helped Cammack raise over a million dollars. She spent $1,090,334 to Christensen’s $219,108. Outside Republican groups spent another $374,432 bolstering her campaign. Christensen had $16,568 worth of outside help, Blue America the biggest single source of independent money. The national and state Democratic parties spent exactly nothing on the race. I should add that Christensen also raised 10 times more money than the previous congressional candidate, Yvonne Hinson, who is now a state Representative.

Today, after managing a state Agricultural Commission campaign for J.R. Gaillot, Christensen seems less ebullient about the prospects for the Democratic Party in Florida than in the 4 years I’ve known him. He’s still working on helping to resucitate the state party... but last night he wrote a Twitter thread that worried me about his future in the Florida Democratic Party.

“3 years ago,” he wrote, “I was an idealist who thought that the world could change if good people ran for public office. Now I know that the reason good people don’t run is because organizations don’t want good people; they want crooks that can keep the money/donations flowing their way. Most of politics is a get rich quick scheme run by a political insiders. They see good people and candidates as a threat to their way of life. The worst offenders in Florida are on the Democratic side. It’s one of the biggest reasons Republicans own the state. It’s why organizations don’t endorse in primaries and everyone acts like that’s normal. Most big orgs, unless there’s a quid pro quo, aren’t going to endorse the better candidate. They only endorse if there’s money in it for them. The unions are the same way.”

“Politics,” he continued, “is an insiders club and the Dem side in Florida are the worst offenders. Republicans refuse to push or sway orgs in primaries, they also make sure their candidates are equipped to run with data and software. Democrats treat candidates like revenue sources. Many DECs extort candidates who want to speak to their members. They don’t say so explicitly, but it’s implied that if you come to an event you have to give money to the club in order to speak. The worst offenders are in south florida and the panhandle. Honestly, it’s criminal. They intentionally make it impossible for working class candidates to run for office. They claim that they want people’s lives to get better and they care about “representation”, but they don’t. They only care about the amount in your campaign bank account and personal wealth.”

“I’m not an idealist anymore,” he admitted. “I know that the reason Dems overlook and make excuses for corruption and criminal behavior is because they all live in glass houses. And the tiniest stone or jolt to their foundation will bring it all crashing down. That’s why they are all scared of people like me. Because when it’s time to throw stones their houses are gonna break way before mine does.”

I gave him a call this morning after I read the thread. I’ve spoken to plenty of Democrats— from grassroots activists to members of Congress— who feel similarly to the way Christensen does, namely that “anytime that there’s an organization or a couple dollars to be made the same jackals show up and wiggle their way in to make it. And the reason that it keeps happening is because there is a direct line of graft that flows from these consulting firms to everyone within the party at these organizations. Basically, if an organization has money in its bank, the leader of that organization will find a way to get a cut of whatever consulting fees or services are done.” I got the impression from him that he thinks there in Florida of the biggest offenders is MDW, a Dem consulting company run by Michael Whorley.

He sees the endorsement process as corrupted and seems to feel that the only way to reform any of this is for elected officials to take back control of the Democratic Party and remove the consultants and lobbyists who have been exerting undo— and self-serving— influence for so long.

“Republicans,” he told me, “don’t treat their candidates like revenue sources, Dems do. It’s all a money making scam on the Dem side. He told me he heard the tax collector of a blue county tell a candidate for state House in a 50/50 district that the party wasn’t there to help get him elected; it was there to “turn out the vote” and the party wouldn’t help financially because she (the tax collector) hadn’t seen him (the candidate) raise money for the party in the last year. “The Republican Party,” he said in conclusion, “exists to win races; the Democratic Party exists to make money. That’s the difference.”