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During conference call, House Democrats divisions revealed over leaders’ decision-making

“This was done in the dark.”

An emergency conference call among Florida House Democrats devolved into accusations about mishandling on consultants with Florida House Victory.

The content of the call was relayed to Florida Politics by several members of the caucus who requested anonymity in order to continue participating in internal discussions

The discussion took place following the controversial parting of ways with consultants Reggie Cardozo and Janee Murphy.

The consultants had worked on a contract and expected to stay on through the 2020 elections. But new leaders have stated they want in-house services.

Several revelations about the decision came to light. Among them:

  • Incoming House Democratic leaders Evan Jenne and Bobby DuBose, who co-lead the caucus after 2020, and Ben Diamond, set to lead after 2022, made the decision to cut ties with the consultants without consulting current Leader Kionne McGhee.
  • Jenne asserted the contract with one of the consultants was not legal because it was never signed by Florida Democratic Party chair Terrie Rizzo. McGhee, though, believes the contract would be enforceable as all parties believed it to be binding at the time. “It’s contract law, not election law,” McGhee said.
  • Some Democratic members learned of the termination on consultants first through reports in the press. This incited some members to demand better communication, and for members to be told in advance of such personnel decisions.
  • No new finance director has been put in place to handle fundraising in the immediate future, though DuBose said talks have already begun as far as a new hire.

But until a new hire gets in place, leaders said Dubose, Jenna and Diamond would handle fundraising responsibilities.

Some members were reluctant to discuss further information, like ongoing talks about payouts for consultants or revealing the amount of fundraising taking place at House Victory over the past two months.

But some members, particularly freshman blindsided by the personnel shift, took umbrage at the lack of communication.

“We have not had any conversation,” said state Rep. Anika Tene Omphroy.

“This was done in the dark,” said state Rep. Dianne Hart.

Many of the upset members suggested the conference call served as a good venue to bring everybody up to speed.

But all sides of the argument agreed the discontent expressed in press accounts hurt the party.

“This needs to be positive and private,” McGhee said.

Leaks, he suggested, will hurt the entire Democratic caucus, and the party must publicly support leadership even amid disagreement.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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