Earlier today, Allison Tant of Tallahassee publicly declared her candidacy for Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Tant is an excellent fundraiser and has written many checks herself for Democratic candidates over the year. This past year she gave $10,000 to former Rep. Loranne Ausley’s CCE, Project New Florida, a committee that partakes in electioneering communications. But Tant is essentially a Tallahassee socialite, comfortable and effective on the insider driven cocktail party circuit Democrats must get away from in order to rebuild the infrastructure of a once proud but long decrypt party.
Tant would be an excellent head of a Finance Committee for the FDP but is not chairperson material. But once again we have found a situation where the party “elders” namely elected officials like Senator Bill Nelson and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz are more concerned about party fundraising and possibly keeping access and employment for party staff & consultants than rebuilding a party that has lost a greater percentage of races for statewide (non-Federal) office than any other Democratic Party east of the Mississippi since 2000.
Several elected officials have continued to show an arrogance and condescending attitude to the will of the party activists. They have maintained that they know what is best for the party, despite a continued losing streak that is threatening to reach two decades on the state level.
By all accounts, Tant’s candidacy is about raising money, protecting certain high priced staff/consultants (some of whom have a woeful record in statewide and state legislative races) and keeping the party Tallahassee-centric and weak on a statewide level. We need to rebuild the party and take full advantage of the sweeping demographic changes throughout the state not simply anoint another Tallahassee insider.
Tant’s husband Barry Richard is one of the top lawyers in the state, and among the most prominent Floridians in national legal circles. He is an accomplished attorney, who represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Election Recount using his immense legal skill to ensure that every vote was not counted in Florida, thus denying Al Gore the Presidency. Tant herself has contributed to a few Republicans over the years but that may very well be a non-issue when you consider how much money she has effectively raised for Democrats, including President Obama recently.
Should Tant become the Chair of the party, she would be fourth consecutive head of the FDP spanning a decade that is from north of Orlando. This has come at a time when Democrats have become an urban-centric party based around the three major metropolitan areas in the state. Yet, the Tallahassee centric party insiders continue to look to leaders from outside the I-4 corridor or southeast Florida in order to maintain their grip on a woefully inadequately built party.
For a party who finds itself in a helpless minority position in state government, Florida’s top Democratic elected officials certainly have a lot of arrogance to claim they know what’s best for the party. The Democratic Party needs a Chair that will work hard to build an infrastructure statewide, provide a permanent presence in the large urban centers of the state and bring some fresh ideas and thoughts to the job. Tant based on her social circle and those promoting her candidacy will not bring that.
It is critical that whomever is the next chair of the Democratic Party have a real plan to change the fortunes of the party and take advantage of what is becoming increasingly a blue state in national elections. Those serious about leading the party back to majority status in the state must provide a clear vision of where they want to see the Democrats go in the future.
Thus far in the race of Chair, only Alan Clendenin who is from Tampa, has offered a real vision and plan for where he would take the party. It is imperative that any candidate seeking this position offer a similarly detailed vision for the future.