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Alan Clendenin details how he will attempt change in Florida Democratic Party culture

With the Florida Democratic Party chair election slated for the middle of this month, jockeying for the position begins this week.

On New Year’s Eve, Alan Clendenin sent a memo to Florida Democratic Party State Executive Committee members on immediate reforms he would implement if elected to succeed Allison Tant.

Clendenin lost to Tant for the party chair position four years ago, and the Tampa Democrat (who relocated to Bradford County two weeks ago to make him eligible to run this year) is determined to take the top spot this time around.

And with the party having lost 17 of the last 18 elections for statewide cabinet or Governor, there is plenty of work to be done.

Since moving from Tampa to Hampton, Florida, last month, Clendenin says he’s spent considerable time listening to the concerns and frustrations of party leaders across the state and has determined that “it’s clear that the FDP’s leadership culture needs to change.”

The longtime DNC and state committeeman says that while state committeemen and committeewomen in each of the state’s 67 counties are the elected leadership of the Florida Democratic Party, those members have “virtually no influence on decisions related to resource allocation, hiring practices or vendors. Most members feel ‘out-of-the-loop.'”

“This is unacceptable,” he asserts.

To change that direction, Clendenin is vowing to work with the State Executive Committee to have them become more empowered and engaged.

“As Chair, I will provide State Executive Committee members with regular opportunities to participate in the processes of setting policy, strategic planning and oversight,” he writes.

He says that means holding monthly meetings of the State Executive Committee that will be held via conference call and online. That’s in addition to the quarterly in-person meetings currently taking place.

Clendenin says that if he’s in charge, the FDP will provide regular training for State Executive Committee members on communications and fundraising.

He vows to also provide Finance Committee members with copies of budgets in advance of the meetings at which they are submitted for approval.

“I will open meetings of the FDP’s Finance Committee to any State Executive Committee members that wish to attend,” he writes.

Clendenin says he will ensure that Committee members be given access to all FDP budgets, not just the operating budget.

Regarding the party’s relationship with outside vendors, Clendenin says that upon taking office, he will order an immediate review of the FDP’s relationship with outside providers and issue a report to State Executive Committee members. Clendenin vows that he and his staff will create a request-for-proposal process for future vendors that rewards contracts based on electoral results, “not relationships.”

Furthermore, he says that he’ll institute an immediate ban on staff and contractual vendors from receiving commissions or kickbacks from other vendors for work done on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party, and prohibit staff from participating in outside employment or contractual work that “presents a real or perceived conflict of interest.”

Clendenin is one of five candidates vying for the FDP position. Others are Stephen Bittel, the Coconut Grove developer who some media outlets described as a leading candidate; former state Sen. Dwight Bullard (who, like Clendenin, had to move to a different county become eligible for the position), Duval County Committeewoman Lisa King, and Osceola County Democratic chair Leah Carius. 

The election takes place January 14 in Orlando.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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