Bernie Sanders Archives - Page 3 of 63 - Florida Politics

Beyonce, Tim Tebow for prez? Invalid votes spiked in Florida

Beyonce, Tim Tebow or the Norse god Thor for prez? Those were some of Florida’s more unusual picks for president this past election.

And the number of Florida voters who didn’t cast a vote for either Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other valid contender spiked in 2016, apparently in protest over the ballot choices.

A report released by state officials Wednesday showed more than 161,000 Florida voters who took part in the elections either at the polls or by mail didn’t cast a valid vote for president.

The “non-valid votes” include those who wrote in such names as Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders and others who simply left the ballot blank. It also includes those who voted for more than one candidate.

All told, the invalid ballots outnumbered Republican Trump’s margin of victory over Democrat Clinton of nearly 113,000 votes to clinch Florida’s 29 electoral votes.

And the rate of invalid votes for president in 2016 — 1.69 percent overall — was more than double the rate it was in 2012 and 2008 when President Barack Obama won the state each time.

“There were some people who were very disgruntled,” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, giving the read of some fellow election officials on the report.

Independently, he compiled a list showing his own Florida county had write-in votes for president including Beyonce, the former University of Florida quarterback Tebow, Thor of Norse mythology and even one vote for “We Can Do Better.”

There also were a number of write-ins for Sanders, the senator who lost the Democratic nod to Clinton as well as for other Republican or independent candidates.

“I think it was a reflection of the election,” said Cowles, who tracked the names and number of invalid write-in votes even though he was not required to.

Florida’s report — compiled from data collected by all 67 counties — is required after every major election. It got its start after the chaotic 2000 presidential election, which hinged on a contentious recount in Florida famously involving “hanging chads” and more.

In the latest report, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner‘s office concluded the spike in “non-valid votes” was not the result of voter confusion or problems with voting equipment.

The report found nearly 65,000 Florida voters left their ballot blank, also known as an “undervote,” while more than 82,000 wrote the name of someone who did not qualify to run for president in Florida.

All told, more than 9.5 million Floridians voted in the election. The total of “non-valid votes” didn’t include nearly 13,000 provision ballots that were also rejected.

Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley echoed the view of other local election officials who said the invalid vote spike showed a segment of the electorate was unsatisfied with the two major candidates.

“I would attribute the spike in invalid undervotes to a highly combative presidential election with two polarizing candidates,” Corley said. “I suspect the voter who wrote in an invalid write-in did so deliberately.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Activists protest Donald Trump’s inauguration in downtown Tampa

While the major Tampa Bay area protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump is scheduled to take place on Saturday in St. Petersburg, approximately three dozen activists gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Tampa on Friday night to express their dissent about the most powerful man in the free world.

The sentiment among some of those gathered wasn’t anger, but ambivalence. While fear felt for the most vulnerable in society was expressed by several people interviewed, there also was excitement about the possibility of how a newly formed opposition movement could manifest itself in the months and years ahead. At least that was the feeling of Tampa resident Wendy Babcox, who said she was felt “conflicted.”

“On the one hand, I feel energized because I feel that are only a few people right here now, but right now around the country there are people organizing in ways that they hasn’t done for, I don’t know, maybe 30 years or so?” she said. “And I think we need to do that. We needed to do that, anyway,” agreeing with the notion that progressives have become too complacent in the Obama years.

Tampa resident Heather Henry is Muslim and wears a hijab. She says she worries less about what Donald Trump might do in office that could be deleterious to her own freedom, and is more concerned about the impact of his electoral success with his more xenophobic supporters.

“People approached me in a very negative way today,” she recalled. “People feel more emboldened, because they see that their opinions have been validated.”

While protests will dominate this weekend across the country, the question some activists are already posing is: What’s next?

“The first thing we do is to be in solidarity with the people who are also fearful, ” said Jason Lazarus.“This is the first response. I’m here. I’m visible. It’s about how we galvanize our energy to become better citizens over the next four years.”

A man who only wanted to be identified as “Glen” said it was all about awareness. Not just for the general population, but for those in power.

“Donald Trump has to know that we’re watching him all the time, that he is responsible to us and that we’re going to keep him responsible to us,” he said. Assuming that Trump’s actions in officer will be viewed as so egregious to the norms of the more of the nation, he predicted Democrats will rally in the 2018 congressional elections.

Wearing a Bernie Sanders t-shirt and acknowledging that the Vermont socialist was his candidate of choice, Glen is the embodiment of how divided the Democratic party was when it came to their candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. His face showed disgust upon the mentioning of her name, instead telling me he proudly supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein in November.

Jason Lazarus mused that if Clinton had selected Sanders or Elizabeth Warren as her running mate last summer, the combination of a centrist and more liberal Democrat on the ticket could have been the winning ticket. “That would have been a very powerful signal that she would acknowledge and open up the platform to a lot of people,” he’ said, calling her choice of Tim Kaine to being “safe and uninspired.”

Babcox espoused another sentiment that others interviewed agreed with.

“I don’ think any of us know how he’s going to do anything,” she said. “Which is very worrying. Not just for us, but for people around the world.”

 

As Donald Trump takes the oath, many voters still can’t believe it

On the morning 19 months ago when Donald Trump descended the escalator in his glitzy Manhattan tower, waving to onlookers who lined the rails, many Americans knew little about him beyond that he was very rich and had a thing for firing people on a reality television show.

No one can plausibly say they knew that the man who launched his candidacy that day would be elected the nation’s 45th president. As Trump prepares to take the oath of office Friday, many Americans still can’t quite believe that a presidency that still seems almost bizarrely improbable becomes a reality on Friday.

“I thought it was a joke. He’d run, he’d lose early and he’d be out,” said Christopher Thoms-Bauer, 20, a bookkeeper and college student from Bayonne, New Jersey, who originally backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Republican candidacy.

Then, Thoms-Bauer recalled, came the night in November when he joined friends in a diner after a New Jersey Devils hockey game and watched, stunned, as Trump eked out wins in key states.

“Having this realization that he was really going to become president was really just a surreal moment,” said Thoms-Bauer, who gave his write-in vote to Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent who ran as a conservative alternative to Trump. “It still doesn’t make sense.”

For all the country’s political divisions, plenty of people on both sides of the aisle share that disbelief.

“I thought there was no way he could win,” said Crissy Bayless, a Rhode Island photographer who on Thursday tweeted a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding her face in her hands, despairing over Trump’s imminent inauguration.

“How am I feeling? Wow.. disgusted. nauseous and honestly like I’m in a nightmare,” Bayless, 38, wrote in a conversation via email.

When Barack Obama won the White House in 2008, the election of the nation’s first black president felt to many like one of the most improbable moments in the nation’s political history. The idea of the election of a white billionaire born of privilege feels implausible to many in very different ways — and that may say as much about the country as it does about Trump.

When Trump announced his candidacy, Kayla Coursey recognized him as the developer who had tried and failed to build a golf course she’d opposed in her hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. She recalled him as stubborn and resistant to pressure from local residents and officials. That, she said made his candidacy for president feel like a joke. Trump’s election felt downright surreal, she said.

In the weeks since, “there was always the hope that things will somehow magically become better. However, now we know (Friday) at noon we’re going to be welcoming President Trump, which is surreal in and of itself,” said Coursey, a college student in Roanoke, Virginia.

David Sawyers, a 42-year-old truck unloader from Grindstone, Pennsylvania, who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary before voting for Trump, said the big crowds that turned out for the candidate’s rallies convinced him the billionaire could win. But he never felt certain, not when he recalled how Al Gore had won the popular vote in 2000, but lost the presidency to George W. Bush.

“You follow history,” said Sawyers, who’s happy with the outcome, “and there are some points where you definitely know history is being made and tomorrow is one of those times.”

Sawyers will be working during Friday’s inauguration, so he plans to record it and watch it later. But others said they remain so stunned by Trump’s election it will be best if they turn away.

Tyler Wilcox, a 23-year-old musician in Riverton, Utah, has been dreading inauguration day. He lists his location on Twitter as “Not My President” and is planning to avoid all coverage of the ceremonies.

“I just feel like it’s, I guess you can say, the beginning of the end,” he said.

And Coursey, who identifies as “queer” and is deeply worried by the threat she believes Trump’s administration poses to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, said she would avoid joining other students in the dorm television lounge to watch the inauguration.

“I’m concerned that I’d be just a crying mess in the corner, or that somebody would say something and I wouldn’t hold my tongue or I’d end up getting in some kind of a physical argument,” she said.

Instead, Coursey said, she plans to search for a recording of Trump’s speech once it’s over, when she can watch it in private That way, she figures, she can pause it in uncomfortable moments when the presidency she never imagined becomes a little too real.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Obama’s electoral legacy: After 8 years, we get a Donald Trump

(Part 2 of the Obama legacy)

With the inauguration of Donald Trump, it is a good time to review the electoral impact of eight years of the Obama White House. One of the impacts is the election of Trump which surprised the entire political universe.

Whatever Obama may have achieved in public policy, it is that policy which is in great part responsible for setting “the post-World War II record for losses by the White House party,” according to Larry Sabato. Democrats lost over 1,000 seats at the state and national level.

However important the Obama policies may have been, it is fair to argue that those policies contained the seeds of Democratic losses. The Wall Street and big bank bailouts led to the creation of the Tea Party. The Tea Party became a primary vehicle to organize disaffected Republicans against bailouts for Wall Street and not Main Street. Combined with opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), mobilized Republicans took over control of both the House and Senate, and effectively denying Obama the needed votes to carry out the rest of his agenda.

After the 2016 election, Democrats held 11 fewer Senate seats than they did Jan. 20, 2009, a 16 percent decrease. Democrats hold 62 fewer House seats than in 2009, a drop of 24 percent. They also lost control of the White House giving Republicans complete control of the national government.

At the state level, the number of Democrat governors fell from 28 to 16, a 43 percent decline. In 2009, Democrats controlled both houses in 27 states; after 2016, the number dropped to dual control of only 14 states, a 48 percent drop. On top of this, Democrats lost 959 seats in the state legislatures, weakening them for years to come.

These losses mean that Democrats will have a difficult time in passing their agenda at the state and national level. It also means that the Democratic bench of future leaders has been wiped out, making it difficult for them to find and finance competitive candidates. Finally, since Democrats foolishly changed the filibuster rules in 2013, cabinet nominees and most court appointees will need only 51 votes to be confirmed. This creates the possibility for more extreme nominees to win confirmation.

One of the few positive thing for Democrats is that it is difficult to imagine them losing many more seats. The out-party normally makes gains in midterm elections. Unfortunately for Democrats, they must defend 25 of the 33 Senate seats up for election in 2018, and Trump won 10 of the 25 states that Democrats must defend.

If the Democrats could pick up only two Senate seats in 2016 when Republicans had to defend 24 of the 34 seats, it is hard to imagine them doing better in 2018 when they must defend two out of every three Senate seats up for election.

Without Obama on the ballot in 2016 and 2018, fewer young and minority voters will turn out at the polls. Although Democrats have dominated among young voters, few of them turn out, especially in off-year elections.

Democrats have complicated their problem with young voters by having an array of senior citizen leaders. Nancy Pelosi has been the ranking Democratic leader for 6 terms, as has second-ranking Democrat Steny Hoyer. Third-ranking Democrat James Clyburn has served five terms as leader. Pelosi is 76, and Hoyer and Clyburn are 77.

Although Democrats have been devastated during Obama’s tenure, he is not solely responsible. Obama is only the third Democratic president to twice win a popular vote majority, along with Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt.

Democratic National Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Congresswomen from Florida, was widely viewed as an ineffective spokesperson for the party and was eventually ousted for what many Democrats viewed as her favoritism for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries. Obama appointed Wasserman Schultz to become chair of the Democratic Party and, critics contend, for standing by her for far too long.

Politics is a strange beast. Six months ago, almost everyone believed the Republican Party was on its last legs, and the Trump nomination would doom them forever. Today the Republicans control all three branches of the federal government, and it appears that the Democrats are on life support.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Dwight Bullard lays out plans to lead Florida Democratic Party

Dwight Bullard has released key parts of his platform for Florida Democratic Chair, and it includes a bold proclamation to replace at least half of its fundraising with donors who give less than $100 annually.

The 39-year-old former state legislator says that uniting the party is essential to his agenda.

“Inspiring our folks across Florida, awakening their hearts and minds to what is possible, and re-engaging the people with their Democratic Party: that is my priority,” he said in a statement Wednesday night.

Like some other candidates in the race, Bullard is also talking about a 67-county strategy, which he says includes the 12 counties in Florida that currently don’t even have a Democratic Executive Committee.

The only candidate of color in the five-person field for chair, Bullard says it’s time to “dramatically increase the diversity of our leaders,  including the representation of young people, communities of color, and the working poor in the leadership ranks of our state & local party organizations.”

Bullard has been endorsed by Our Revolution — the political organization launched by supporters of Bernie Sanders, and like Sanders, he’s encouraging the party to welcome smaller financial contributions, and less “from corporations who don’t reflect the values of the Democratic Party.”

Specifically, he’s calling for the FDP to replace “at least” 50 percent of its fundraising with donors who give under $100 annually.

Bullard lost to Coconut Grove developer and major Democratic Party fundraiser Stephen Bittel in the race for Miami-Dade County committeeman on December 20. Like Tampa’s Alan Clendenin, Bullard then relocated to a different county — in his case, Gadsden — and was voted as a committeeman there, making him eligible for the party chair position (a complaint has been filed with the FDP regarding Clendenin’s move).

Bullard says he wants to build a party where its members and officers “are no longer influenced by threats from people in powerful positions, nor motivated by promises of personal gain.” And he says that candidates who’ll be chosen who are most likely to win in general elections “by ensuring our candidates participate in fair primaries that are not rigged by the voices or resources of Democratic organizations or officials.”

Bullard has created a new website touting his candidacy called DwightUnites.com.

Bullard served in the Florida House representing Southern Miami-Dade County from 2008 to 2012. He then won in state Senate District 40 in 2012, but after the district was redrawn a year ago, he lost his bid for re-election to Republican Frank Artiles in November.

There are five candidates in the race for FDP Chair, with the election set for January 14. In addition to Bittel and Clendenin, Bullard is also running against Duval County Committeewoman Lisa King and Osceola County Democratic Chair Leah Carius.

Americans say Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton most admired in 2016

President Barack Obama is the man most admired by Americans 2016.

In a new Gallup Poll, 22 percent of respondents mentioned Obama in response to the open-ended question. Coming in second was President-elect Donald Trump at 15 percent. This marks Obama’s ninth consecutive time at the top of the most-admired list, but with a margin of only seven percentage points, it was his narrowest victory yet.

Often, incumbent presidents are ranked highest — in the 70 times Gallup asked the question, the president has won 58 times. Twelve exceptions came mostly when the sitting president was unpopular, such as 2008, when President-elect Obama was named over sitting President George W. Bush. The only other president-elect was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, later finishing first 12 times, more than any other man in history. Gallup notes that Obama is now second all-time with nine first-place finishes.

Rounding out the year’s top 10 most admired man list: Pope Francis, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Rev. Billy Graham, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Dalai Lama, former President Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Americans also named Hillary Clinton as Most Admired Woman, her 15th consecutive year and 21st time overall. Her first one was in 1993 as the first lady, after which Clinton has topped the list every year but 1995 and 1996 (finishing behind Mother Teresa) and 2001 (Laura Bush). Eleanor Roosevelt holds the second-most No. 1’s among women, with 13.

First lady Michelle Obama finished second this year on the Most Admired Woman list. The remainder of the top 10 includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former and current talk-show hosts Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, Queen Elizabeth of England, human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The poll — taken since 1946 — was conducted Dec. 7-11 with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The sample includes 60 percent cellphone users and 40 percent landline users. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

U.S. election voted top news story of 2016

The turbulent U.S. election, featuring Donald Trump‘s unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, was the overwhelming pick for the top news story of 2016, according to The Associated Press’ annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The No. 2 story also was a dramatic upset — Britons’ vote to leave the European Union. Most of the other stories among the Top 10 reflected a year marked by political upheaval, terror attacks and racial divisions.

Last year, developments related to the Islamic State group were voted as the top story — the far-flung attacks claimed by the group, and the intensifying global effort to crush it.

The first AP top-stories poll was conducted in 1936, when editors chose the abdication of Britain’s King Edward VIII.

Here are 2016’s top 10 stories, in order:

1. US ELECTION: This year’s top story traces back to June 2015, when Donald Trump descended an escalator in Trump Tower, his bastion in New York City, to announce he would run for president. Widely viewed as a long shot, with an unconventional campaign featuring raucous rallies and pugnacious tweets, he outlasted 16 Republican rivals. Among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton beat back an unexpectedly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders, and won the popular vote over Trump. But he won key Rust Belt states to get the most electoral votes, and will enter the White House with Republicans maintaining control of both houses of Congress.

2. BREXIT: Confounding pollsters and oddsmakers, Britons voted in June to leave the European Union, triggering financial and political upheaval. David Cameron resigned as prime minister soon after the vote, leaving the task of negotiating an exit to a reshaped Conservative government led by Theresa May. Under a tentative timetable, final details of the withdrawal might not be known until the spring of 2019.

3. BLACKS KILLED BY POLICE: One day apart, police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, fatally shot Alton Sterling after pinning him to the ground, and a white police officer shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in a suburb of Minneapolis. Coming after several similar cases in recent years, the killings rekindled debate over policing practices and the Black Lives Matter movement.

4. PULSE NIGHTCLUB MASSACRE: The worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history unfolded on Latin Night at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. The gunman, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people over the course of three hours before dying in a shootout with SWAT team members. During the standoff, he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

5. WORLDWIDE TERROR ATTACKS: Across the globe, extremist attacks flared at a relentless pace throughout the year. Among the many high-profile attacks were those that targeted airports in Brussels and Istanbul, a park teeming with families and children in Pakistan, and the seafront boulevard in Nice, France, where 86 people were killed when a truck plowed through a Bastille Day celebration. In Iraq alone, many hundreds of civilians were killed in repeated bombings.

6. ATTACKS ON POLICE: Ambushes and targeted attacks on police officers in the U.S. claimed at least 20 lives. The victims included five officers in Dallas working to keep the peace at a protest over the fatal police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana. Ten days after that attack, a man killed three officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In Iowa, two policemen were fatally shot in separate ambush-style attacks while sitting in their patrol cars.

7. DEMOCRATIC PARTY EMAIL LEAKS: Hacked emails, disclosed by WikiLeaks, revealed at-times embarrassing details from Democratic Party operatives in the run-up to Election Day, leading to the resignation of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other DNC officials. The CIA later concluded that Russia was behind the DNC hacking in a bid to boost Donald Trump’s chances of beating Hillary Clinton.

8. SYRIA: Repeated cease-fire negotiations failed to halt relentless warfare among multiple factions. With Russia’s help, the government forces of President Bashar Assad finally seized rebel-held portions of the city of Aleppo, at a huge cost in terms of deaths and destruction.

9. SUPREME COURT: After Justice Antonin Scalia‘s death in February, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, to fill the vacancy. However, majority Republicans in the Senate refused to consider the nomination, opting to leave the seat vacant so it could be filled by the winner of the presidential election. Donald Trump has promised to appoint a conservative in the mold of Scalia.

10. HILLARY CLINTON’S EMAILS: Amid the presidential campaign, the FBI conducted an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private computer server to handle emails she sent and received as secretary of state. FBI Director James Comey criticized Clinton for carelessness but said the bureau would not recommend criminal charges.

Stories that did not make the top 10 included Europe’s migrant crisis, the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and the spread of the Zika virus across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Darryl Paulson: Selecting party chairs: The Florida experience

(Part 2 of 2)

 In the first part of this series, I discussed the process and candidates used by the Republican and Democratic parties to select their national party chairperson. We will now look at the process and candidates used to choose the Florida Republican and Democratic chairs.

After a disastrous showing by the Florida Democratic Party in the 2016 election, a fate which has become all too common for the party, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party decided not to seek a second term. Like recent Democratic Party chairs, Allison Tant agreed that “one and done” was the proper course of action.

Given Donald Trump‘s Florida victory, as well as a better than expected showing by Republicans in the Congressional and state legislative races, one might have expected incumbent party chair, Blaise Ingoglia, to be a cinch for re-election. That is not the case. Ingoglia faces opposition from Christian Zeigler, a Sarasota County Republican State Committeeman.

The race pits House member Ingoglia versus Senate Republicans who do not want the House and Speaker Richard Corcoran to control the supply of money. It also pits Gov. Rick Scott against party pragmatists.

Scott was incensed in 2015 when his choice to lead the party, Leslie Dougher, was defeated by Ingoglia. This rare rebuke of a governor’s prerogative to select the party chair, resulted in Scott telling donors to give money to his political action committee, Let’s Get to Work, instead of to the Republican Party of Florida. Senate Republicans pulled $800,000 out of the GOP account.

Twenty years ago, the Florida Republican Party, under the leadership of Tom Slade, was considered to be the premier state party organization in the nation. Today, after the fiasco of the previous chair Jim Greer and the efforts of Scott to decimate the state Republican Party, it more closely resembles the Keystone Kops.

At the very least, it more closely resembles Democratic Party operations (and that is faint praise).

Although the Florida Republican Party operations have been a mess for a number of years, the Democrats are approaching its third decade as a nonfunctioning party organization. The Democrats, due to their poor showing, have had a difficult time recruiting quality candidates and raising sufficient funds to support their efforts.

The Democrats lack of success at the polls has accelerated party squabbles. Every Democrat is looking for someone to blame for their poor showing, and the party chair is the easiest person to blame. The pettiness of Democrats can be seen in the 2016 election, where several potential Democratic candidates for chair were defeated in internal elections.

Alan Clendenin, Susannah Randolph, and Annette Taddeo were all defeated in races they needed to win to run for chair. The winner of the battle for state committeeman between Stephen Bittel and Dwight Bullard in Dade County will determine which candidate will run for party chairperson.

After losing the race for state committeeman in Hillsborough County after a controversial ruling by the county chair, Clendenin has moved to Bradford County in North Florida and was sworn in as the committeeman for Bradford County, making him once again eligible to run for state party chairperson.

Clendenin lost the election for the Democratic chair four years ago when he lost to outgoing chair Allison Tant by 139 votes.

It appears that Bittel is emerging as the last man standing, although there is still sufficient time for his campaign to be torpedoed. Bittel has been a major Democratic donor, which has led some Democrats to accuse him of trying to buy the position of chair.

Sen. Bill Nelson, the only statewide elected Democrat who will be up for election in 2018, says: “I think Stephen Bittel would bring that type of professionalism to the organization. We need a professional to run the organization and raise money.”

Bittel received a surprise endorsement from Keith Ellison, who is running for National Democratic Party chair. Ellison supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential primary, while Bittel was a backer of Hillary Clinton. One Revolution, an organization of Sanders supporters, has announced its support for Bullard, saying that “An extremely wealthy donor wants to buy his way to lead Florida’s Democratic Party and the only thing between him and control of the party is our political revolution.”

Bittel also won the endorsements of the Florida Educational Association and the Florida Service Employees Union, two important constituency groups within the Democratic Party.

Ingoglia, the incumbent Republican Party chair, is backed by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Sen. Marco Rubio and Susie Wiles, who managed Trump’s campaign in Florida. Wiles said that “I can say that the organization built under chairman Ingoglia’s leadership was a critical element in our success.”

With that backing and the Republican success in 2016, Ingoglia should be favored. But, with Scott sitting on the sidelines, he is really encouraging Republicans to back Zeigler.

On the Democratic side, no one should be foolish enough to predict what Florida Democrats will do. After all, they seldom know what they are doing.

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Darryl Paulson is Professor Emeritus of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

Darryl Paulson: Selecting the national party chairperson

(First of two parts)

The state and national elections are over. At least most of them are over. Still to be decided is the person who will chair the Florida and national party organizations. Is it much ado about nothing, or do party chairs make a difference?

Selecting the party chairperson is normally easier for the victorious party. Whoever wins the governorship or presidency usually can handpick the leader of the party. This was not the case in 2015 when Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s choice to head the Florida Republican Party, Leslie Dougher, was defeated by challenger Blaise Ignoglia.

After winning the presidential race against Hillary Clinton, President-Elect Donald Trump selected Ronna Romney McDaniel to head the Republican Party. McDaniel, the niece of Mitt Romney, replaces party chair Reince Priebus who was chosen to be Trump’s chief of staff. McDaniel served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and played a key role in Michigan voting for the Republican presidential nominee for the first time since 1988.

McDaniel will become only the second woman to chair the Republican Party, the other being Mary Louise Smith, who was appointed by President Gerald Ford to head the party in 1974. The 168 members of the Republican National Committee will confirm McDaniel at their January 2017 meeting.

With the surprising loss of Hillary Clinton, the race for party chair is wide open. As the outgoing president, Barack Obama can influence, but not select the incoming party chair. As the losing candidate, Clinton will have no voice in picking the new head of the party.

The last Democratic Party Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, left the position in the midst of widespread controversy. Bernie Sanders supporters accused Wasserman Schultz of blatant favoritism for Clinton. The scarcity of Democratic presidential primary debates and the scheduling of those debates at non-prime viewing times was a major criticism of Wasserman Schultz.

The final straw occurred when WikiLeaks released emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) showing favoritism for Clinton, led to Schultz’s resignation at the close of the Democratic convention. Her fate was sealed when Schultz was loudly booed after addressing the Florida delegation and agreed not to gavel open the convention.

Donna Brazile was selected as interim chair of the Democratic Party until a permanent chair is elected by the DNC at its February meeting. The selection of a new party chair may help mend divisions within the party, or it may further divide the party and lead to an internal civil war between the establishment and progressive forces. Three months ago, everyone thought this would be a battle that Republicans, and not Democrats would be facing. Brazile warned Democrats that they need to “pick ourselves up” and not “pick each other apart.”

If an establishment candidate wins, the progressives will be angered that their views have been once again neglected by the party and some may seek to form their own political movement. If the progressives win, the Democrats run the risk of moving too far to the left and moving even further away from voters who gravitated to Trump. A similar problem confronted Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s when Republicans effectively branded Democrats as “San Francisco Democrats” who moved too far to the left.

Among the potential Democratic Party Chair candidates are South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison and New Hampshire Party Chair Ray Buckley, along with Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison.

On December 15, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced his candidacy for party chair, and many believe he is the preferred candidate of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Ellison is backed by the progressive wing of the party and has the endorsement of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. He is also supported by the outgoing Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, as well as the incoming leader, Chuck Schumer.

Critics have several concerns about an Ellison candidacy. As the only Muslim member of Congress, some are concerned that Dems will be accused of engaging in identity politics with a group that is not trusted by many American voters. Ellison’s writings have been critical of Israel and supportive of Louis Farrakhan and the Black Muslims. Ellison supported Farrakhan after he was attacked for his racist and anti-Semitic views, as well as his support for a separate state for blacks.

Another problem for Ellison is an issue that faced Wasserman Schultz. Can a sitting member of Congress have the time for both jobs and doesn’t that create conflicts of interest? Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, among others, has said the Democrats need a full-time chair. As a result of this criticism, Ellison has vowed to resign his congressional seat if selected as party chair.

Former presidential candidate and former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean flirted with serving as chair before backing away. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm‘s name was often mentioned for the job, but she has announced that she is supporting Perez, the most recent candidate to enter the field.

Where Romney McDaniel has the race for Republican Party Chair all wrapped-up, the Democratic field is wide open, and some of the announced candidates may drop out before the February vote of the DNC; others may enter the race if they see all of the current candidates unable to attract widespread support.

Also, Democrats have had a dual chair system before, so it is possible that both an establishment and progressive candidate might emerge. Wouldn’t that make things fun?

(Part 2: Selecting the Florida party chairs)

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Darryl Paulson is Professor Emeritus of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

 

Alan Grayson: Florida Democrats need someone with a message

Imagine a populist Democrat who not only bucks the party but has to battle against it, funded only by small donations and passionate followers lured to a message about what’s in it for THEM.

Bernie Sanders? Alan Grayson? The party’s only hope in Florida if it wants to elect someone statewide, other than Bill Nelson? Or just another dreamer who mistakes popularity for electability, and goes down in flames in a party primary? Or Donald Trump, had he been a Democrat this time?

Grayson is wrapping up his third and, for now, final term as a Democratic congressman from Orlando, a never apologetic liberal lion with perhaps as much name recognition in California and New York as he does in Florida.

While looking ahead to his announced plans to run a legal or Florida constitutional amendment campaign to restore civil rights for felons, Grayson also  reflected on his own accomplishments, his collapsed campaign for the U.S. Senate, and his opinions for what it would take for the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee,and other Democratic establishments to win.

Grayson got crushed in the Aug. 30 primary, losing to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy by more than 40 points,. That was just a few weeks after many polls had the race fairly tight and an occasional survey even found Grayson ahead.

A lot contributed to Grayson’s pummeling, including renewed, ugly reports about his personal life, and his stubborn refusal to ever acknowledge that either his personal or business controversies were anybody’s damned business, or that he ought to address them. But so, too, did a late advertising blitz by Murphy and by various Democratic groups in support of Murphy or nasty opposition of Grayson, which the small-donors-only Grayson campaign couldn’t dream of matching.

Yet the lesson Grayson seemed to take from it was the one he’d expressed all along, that the Democratic Party wanted to back a safe, moderate, mainstream and, if possible, self-funded, candidate; and that such a candidate would surely lose big in Florida’s general election, like almost all the similar safe, moderate, mainstream, self-funded candidates the party had backed for a couple of decades. And Murphy did.

And so once again Grayson is calling, really wishing, for a new approach.

“Unless there is substantial structural change, the Blue Dogs will continue to make the argument that a populist Democrat, or for that matter a progressive Democrat, which is not exactly the same thing, has no chance of winning – because that’s the way they continue to dominate the statewide machinery,” Grayson said. “Even though they’ve been proved wrong in every single race except for Alex Sink’s race for CFO, every single race for a quarter century.”

Grayson said the party needs to stop relying on identity coaltion-building politics – black, Hispanic, gay etc. – and focus clearly on basic issues people can believe will improve their lives, and which can be delivered. In the senate campaign, his was “seniors deserve a raise,” which referred to his plans to expand Social Security and Medicare. Trump and Gov. Rick Scott won populist campaigns on bringing back jobs.

“There are populist issues that would actually bring the whole state together and galvanize the groups that we did extremely poorly with in the national election, for instance high school dropouts, where the Democratic Party got wiped out,” Grayson said. “The polls showed Bernie did 40 points better than Clinton with high school dropouts. 40.”

A populist campaign, he argued, that focuses on those issues as Sanders did, while paying little attention to issues that have only regional support in Florida, could win.

“There are a number of issues that play just as well in the Panhandle as they would play in South Florida and the polls show it. For instance, increasing the minimum wage. There’s basically majority support all around the state except for Fort Myers,” Grayson said. “There are certain issues, actually, that you do see regional differences like for instance gun control, like abortion, and not the way you might think. Abortion is not that popular in South Florida.”

He also railed against what he called “the commentariate and the political industrial complex” for writing off attempts to appeal to certain segments of voters, like much of the working class, because they don’t vote. This year they voted, for Trump.

“I think if the Democratic party stopped ignoring them, they might vote,” he said.

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