Debbie Wasserman Schultz Archives - Page 6 of 31 - Florida Politics

Debbie Wasserman Schultz accuses HHS nominee Tom Price as another of Donald Trump’s ‘swamp’

Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, is poised to be grilled by Senate Democrats when he appears Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The six-term Georgia Republican congressman has been one of the leading opponents of the Affordable Care Act in Congress, and an advocate for the restructuring of the Medicaid and Medicare health entitlement programs. Democrats have vowed to fight the nomination of Price, an orthopedic surgeon.

Undoubtedly, Price will be asked about his stock holdings in more than three dozen companies, including health care related agencies like Aetna, Biogen and Zimmer Biomet Holdings.

It’s his purchase in that latter stock that may get him in some trouble with the committee.

CNN reported that in March, Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device manufacturer, before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company. That news comes after The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in health companies while pursuing legislation that could impact them.

Democrats pounced on that revelation.

“With what we have recently learned about his apparent conflicts of interest — including filing legislation to benefit a medical device company in which he recently bought stock — it’s clear that he’s also another swimmer in President-elect Donald Trump’s ‘swamp,'” declared South Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz Wednesday.

“No Member of Congress or Cabinet secretary — or president for that matter — should be creating the appearance of lining their own pockets on the taxpayers’ dime. Unfortunately, President-elect Trump, whose own record is rife with conflicts of interest, has tapped a number of Cabinet appointees that fit this alarming pattern. Congressman Price’s appalling record on health care policy should be reason enough to reject his nomination, but it should be withdrawn if these allegations prove to be accurate.”

Wasserman Schultz also is criticizing Price for his opposition to the ACA and repeatedly proposing “draconian legislation to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care.”

“He is committed to dragging American health care back several decades with his proposed cuts to Medicare, our social safety net, and would callously ensure that 129 million Americans who live with a pre-existing condition like me — a breast cancer survivor — will be denied coverage based on our medical history.”

Wednesday’s hearing is being called just a “warm up,” because, in fact, Price faces confirmation by another committee — the Senate Finance Committee, and not the group of senators he speaks to Thursday.

 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says Betsy DeVos will take U.S. schools down a path of failure ‘Florida knows all too well’

In an interview last week with FloridaPolitics.com, Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, blasted Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary.

Weingarten compared DeVos’ zeal for school-choice vouchers on par with what former Gov. Jeb Bush was all about during his reign in Florida.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz agrees.

Hours before DeVos is scheduled to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the South Florida congresswoman lashed out at DeVos, saying in a statement that “based on her long record of activism, she will take our nation’s schools back down a path of proven failure that Florida knows all too well.”

Critics like Weingarten have accused Trump of effectively campaigning on a pledge to dismantle public education as we know it, referencing his (little known) campaign vow to spend $20 million on school choice, which would come from “reprioritizing federal dollars.”

“President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Education Secretary has displayed one consistent value: an open hostility toward public schools and teachers,” Wasserman Schultz said Tuesday. “Betsy DeVos champions ‘reforms’ that basically defund, undercut and privatize public education, with a goal of turning it over to loosely-regulated, for-profit charter schools. She’s spent millions of dollars and decades pushing this cause, the same one that’s failed in Florida.

“Former Gov. Jeb Bush touted the same voucher-happy, test-crazed ‘reforms,’ and they have largely been abandoned,” the past DNC Chair adds. “The billionaire Republican fundraiser that Trump wants to lead our nation’s education system has been one of the biggest proponents of these ‘accountability’ reforms in her home state of Michigan, saddling public schools with burdensome mandates that private schools are mostly free to ignore.”

Bush has been effusive in his praise for DeVos, saying she was an “outstanding pick” by the president-elect.

 

Florida Dem. congressional members to hold rallies for ACA this Sunday

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote Friday on scrapping the Affordable Care Act, two days after the Republican-led Senate voted to do so after hearing from President-elect Donald Trump that they should act quickly to repeal the law.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said earlier this month that repealing President Barack Obama’s signature health insurance law in its entirety would cost roughly $350 billion over the next decade. Republicans say a good Obamacare replacement strategy would reduce government spending, but they have not agreed on a consensus plan.

Democrats are planning rallies on the ACA Sunday, including many of Florida’s most prominent members of Congress.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch will be hosting a rally Sunday at the Sunrise Civic Center in Sunrise at 2 p.m.

In St. Petersburg, Charlie Crist will hold an event at Advantage Insurance Solutions at 833 22nd St. South at 12:30 p.m.

And in Tampa, Kathy Castor will be headlining a rally in front of the Tampa Family Health Center at 7814 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.

Castor held a press event in Tampa earlier this week, where she told reporters that she does believe that Democrats can work with Republicans in Washington on making some improvements to the ACA without throwing it all away. She mentioned working on controlling the costs of pharmaceuticals and bringing greater competition in those areas of the country that have seen exponentially large premium increases as two viable examples.

But while some congressional Republicans are publicly expressing concern about moving too fast on repealing the law without an adequate replacement, the new president made clear during his news conference Wednesday that he wants the GOP to act swiftly, as per his campaign promise.

We will be filing a plan,” Trump told reporters about his Obamacare replacement. “It will essentially be simultaneously.”

That statement “just killed” GOP leadership’s “repeal and delay” approach to the ACA, said the head of Families USA after Trump’s statement.

“This presumably ends the Republican congressional leadership’s irresponsible attempt to repeal the ACA without any guidance about what would replace it,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. “This no doubt reflects the growing concerns among many people, including a growing number of Republicans, about the dangers of the ‘repeal and delay’ approach.”

Castor also wrote to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week in an attempt to rebut some claims Gov. Rick Scott made to him about how the ACA is working — 0r not working — in the Sunshine State.

Nearly 90,000 people have signed Tim Canova’s petition to stop Sabal Trail Pipeline

A large protest is being planned this weekend at the Suwannee River State Park against the construction of the Sabal Trail Pipeline. Activists fear that the $3.2 billion, 515-mile natural gas pipeline that is intended to run through North Florida into Central Florida will create a huge environmental calamity and contaminate the state’s drink water supply.

Construction on the pipeline began in November and is scheduled to be completed and operating by this summer. But not if citizens concerned about the impact on the state’s water supply and endangered species are successful in getting the government to stop it.

That’s what happened last month in North Dakota, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blocked the continuing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, where thousands of activists had descended in near freezing temperatures to stop the project from advancing.

Also helping to organize against the Sabal Trail pipeline is Tim Canova, the Nova Southeastern law professor who ran an insurgent campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz last summer before falling short in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

In his role as the head of the political action group Progress For All, Canova announced a petition drive last month to oppose the pipeline. More than 89,000 signatures have now signed on to petition at Change.org.

“It’s not a question of if this pipeline will leak, but when,” Canova wrote to members last week. “And when it does, it will undoubtedly pollute one of the world’s largest aquifers which provides 60 percent of drinking water to the nation’s third most populated state. “

Canova says that when he began querying members of Progress For All on what was the top issue that they cared about, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership topped the list. But following right behind was opposition to fracking and the pipelines used to transmit natural gas through fracking.

The petition now has 89,390 signatures, which Canova says will soon be collected and shown to Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

Local bans against hydraulic fracking have been passed in 80 Florida cities and counties, and GOP state Senator Dana Young from Tampa and Democrat Gary Farmer from Fort Lauderdale are proposing legislation in the upcoming session to ban the practice throughout the state.

Florida Democratic congressional delegation overwhelmingly opposes President Obama on U.N. Israeli imbroglio

With just a couple of weeks before President Obama leaves the White House, Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation apparently has no qualms in not standing by him when it comes to the issue of Israel and their settlements in the Palestinian territories.

In a vote Thursday night on a resolution condemning a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at Israel settlements that the U.S. notoriously abstained on last month, not one Democratic member of the Florida Democratic House caucus backed the president, with all 11 Democrats – Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Fredericka Wilson, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Kathy Castor, Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy, Val Demings, Ted Deutch and Al Lawson -supporting the resolution from Texas Republican Ed Royce.

The measure declared unwavering support for Israel and insisted that the United States reject any future UN actions that are similarly “one-sided and anti-Israel.” It passed, 342-80.

That includes recently freshman lawmaker Charlie Crist, who showed up late and didn’t make it to the House floor on time to cast a vote. He later issued a statement saying that he co-sponsored the resolution, but was not able to officially make his voice heard on the issue.

“As a cosponsor of this measure, I believe it is vital that the United Nations Security Council be sent a clear message that biased, one-sided resolutions targeting Israel are unacceptable and only make it more difficult for negotiations to resume between Israelis and Palestinians,” Crist said.

Wasserman Schultz, who received some heat from her constituents for backing President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, strongly supported the measure, saying in a statement that, “I voted for and cosponsored tonight’s resolution to reaffirm our unbreakable commitment to Israel, our most true and dependable Middle East ally. This resolution rightly acknowledges the United States’ longstanding policy that direct, bilateral negotiations are the only viable method for achieving peace, and that our country must reject any attempt to internationalize the peace process. We cannot allow Israel’s enemies to use international organizations like the UN to undermine and attack it. Instead, we must continue to support Israel by building on the historic Memorandum of Understanding regarding security assistance and standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel as we undertake the difficult task of obtaining a long and lasting peace.” 

Tampa Representative Kathy Castor also voted for the measure. She did not issue out a statement after her vote.

 

Dennis Ross says he opposed original GOP vote to gut ethics office

(UPDATE) Following the uproar Tuesday morning over a private vote by House Republicans to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, the GOP conference voted to restore rules that have been in existence for the past eight years.

However, the PR damage has been substantial.

A spokesperson for Polk County Republican Dennis Ross says the GOP Representative opposed Monday night’s vote to gut the OCE, created in 2008 after several members of Congress were convicted of crimes and sent to jail. The office has the power to conduct investigations of House members and employees who have been accused of violating laws, rules or congressional norms.

“Rep. Ross opposes the change to the rules. Conference is meeting now in a special session. I suspect it will be stripped,” emailed Jodi Shockey, Ross’s communications director, late Tuesday morning to FloridaPolitics. As she predicted, the House Republicans reversed their vote shortly afterward.

The Florida Democratic Party said they wanted to know which Republicans did vote to support gutting the OCE.

“Floridians deserve to know which of their Republican members of Congress voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics last night,” said spokesman Max Steele. “If they would like to offer any justification whatsoever for why they feel there should be no ethics oversight for members of Congress, we’re all ears. After turning a blind eye to Trump’s historic corruption and conflicts of interest, it’s no wonder Republicans want a piece of the action.”
The Miami Herald reported that Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen did vote in support of killing the OCE on Monday night. Later in the day, Curbelo released a statement saying he supports referring the matter to the House Ethics Committee.
“The House ethics process needs to be reformed in order to better investigate allegations of misconduct,” the CD 26 Republican said Tuesday afternoon. “I support referring this matter to the House Ethics committee where Republicans and Democrats can work together on bipartisan reforms that would ensure Members of Congress are‎ held accountable while given due process to address accusations.”

Tuesday’s reversal came after President-elect Donald Trump tweeted his disapproval, as did Democrats and even the head of the conservative-leaning group Judicial Watch.

The House GOP vote on Monday night effectively killed the OCE, stripping it of its independence. It would have reported to the House Ethics committee, meaning that Congress would ultimately control the investigations of its own members.

The office would no longer take anonymous complaints and would not be authorized to make public statements or hire a “communications director or press spokesperson” to speak with news outlets. And it’s name would change from the Office of Congressional Ethics to the Office of Congressional Complaint Review.

Two members of the Florida Democratic Congressional delegation blasted the move earlier in the day.

“Shameful move by House GOP on first day of new Congress” tweeted Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor.

In a similar vein, the move was blasted by South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who tweeted: “Day 1 & wants to gut the ethics process. Governing under a cloak of darkness is not how to .”

 

 

Blake Dowling: Hacking, weaponized artificial intelligence, ransomware and other fun just for you

Breaches, hacking, ransomware, cyber threats, weaponized AI, smart toothbrushes are but a few examples of scary tech out there to make your day less than fantastic.

Weapons systems that think on its own are in production, with governments racing to catch up on how to regulate these fast-paced advancements.

Police and military already use drones and robots to eliminate threats, but (as far as we know) it’s hardware controlled by humans.

For example, in the Republic of Texas, police this year loaded a robot with explosives and — in true Lone Star State fashion — blew a sniper from whence he came. Who knows how many lives this effort saved?

That robot was controlled by a human. What happens when the robot can think on its own?

Maybe it decides it does not identify with being a robot, turning off the explosives?

Even if governments of the world (minus North Korea, Yemen, California, and Russia) enacted bans on this type of tech, what would stop rogue nations from creating their own? What vicious circle will we see here?

If such rouge nations start deploying them, we might have to implement them ourselves as a countermeasure.

Around and around we go. Scary stuff.

Maybe Stephen Hawking knew the 411 when, back in 2014, he said: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Moving on to ransomware.

The first CryptoLocker threat was devious. Click on a fake UPS or American Express site, and your files are encrypted. The originator of the threat then offers you the encryption keys — if you pay a ransom.

Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

The latest version of ransomware, however, moves from devious to “Emperor Palpatine” mode. This one is called Popcorn Time.

Popcorn Time follows the same pattern as CryptoLocker, but with a twist.

In a true Dark Side manner, Popcorn Time creators also want to recruit you to become a loyal member of their version of the Sith. Once your files are encrypted, they ask you to pay the ransom or send a link containing the same virus to two people that you know.

If those people download the virus, they will give you the keys to unlock your files.

Whoa.

Talk about playing on people’s dark side (the trail of puns just keeps coming).

Security is only as good as the weakest link in the chain; generally, users have weak chains (who hasn’t come across a phishing email ever?). Ransomware is resolved relatively quickly, by relying on data backups.

It should go without saying, although you may be shocked by how many people fail at this.

Backups should also be redundant, copies of anything important both in the cloud (though a lot of malware can look for any drive associated with your computer, even Google Drive) and burned to a disc (surefire method).

Or you can go BC and chisel it into rock tablets in cuneiform (Moses knew what he was doing).

Cyber threats are out there, and if backed by a nation state with almost unlimited resources (like Russia), they will get you. Just ask former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

It’s like hitting the town with Johnny Manziel — sooner or later, the cops are going to get involved.

As mentioned above, backups are essential. Make sure they are redundant, keep passwords long and complicated (like a letter from the IRS); use two-factor authentication with financial institutions, and don’t send anything in an email you don’t want people to see.

Also, keep your anti-virus and anti-spam solutions up to date; have an enterprise-level firewall deployed at your office. We set ours (and our clients) to block any traffic not coming from the U.S. This is a great front line of security as so many cyber threats originate in Africa, Russia, China, etc.

Be safe out there, and Happy New Year!

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Blake Dowling is CEO at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology column is published monthly. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com.

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.

 

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