Scrambling to raise money headed into the 2018 midterms, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo last week asked county-level Democratic leaders for financial assistance to pay for the salaries of eight newly-hired regional staffers.
Since that request, only six out of the 67 county committees have made a donation.
While FDP officials paint this request as a fundraising effort, the move is a clear sign that the party, fresh-off two pricey victories, is struggling financially.
“Unfortunately, it appears Terrie has inherited a mess, and FDP’s funding is strained,” Leon County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Andy Janecek wrote to steering committee members last week after his call with Rizzo.
Janecek said members of his committee were mostly confused. Some did not understand why money was needed for positions that had already been budgeted for as part of the 2018 election plan. Janecek’s committee has not yet contributed money.
Out of the executive committees that were asked, six have agreed to give money, FDP spokesman Juan Penalosa said. One of those was the Palm Beach County Executive Committee, which Rizzo still chairs.
After consulting members, Rizzo donated $10,000 on behalf of the Palm Beach committee.
While the financial aid request to county-level leaders revolved around the need to fund the regional positions, Penalosa said there is enough money to pay them.
“We have the money to pay them, they are not going to be let go,” Penalosa said.
The fundraising effort was pitched as a “grassroots approach” to fundraising, which Rizzo campaigned on. Asking everyone to give what they can, when the can, in order to not rely solely on big donor money.
But as Democrats head into a busy election year, it already finds itself in financial disarray at the federal level. The account used to fund federal campaigns is out of money, and is thousands of dollars in debt, according to the latest filings with the Federal Elections Commission.
At the state level, campaign records show that between July 1 and September 30 more money was spent by the party than what came in, but those campaign filings do not give a clear indication of the current state of the budget in the non-federal account.
In an email, Alachua County Democratic Party Chair Cynthia Chestnut told members that Rizzo was asking for money because “a substantial amount of money was spent” on getting state Sen. Annette Taddeo and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman elected.
Records show the party spent at least $400,000 on both those races. That included more than $200,000 in three-pack ads, which allows the party to exceed the $50,000 expenditure cap for a single candidate. In this case, that candidate was Kriseman.
The state’s party also transferred $125,928 to Priorities USA, the largest Democratic Party-aligned super PAC, to help Taddeo win a seat in the Florida Senate.
“The Florida Democratic Party invested heavily in races that were important to our end goal of turning Florida blue, and the investment paid off — with major wins in a special Senate election and a come-from-behind Mayoral win in St. Petersburg,” Penalosa said.