Isn’t It About Time For A Female House Democratic Leader?

Two weeks ago, Darryl Rouson, who was a registered Republican up until he qualified for the Special Election in his House seat claimed he had enough pledges to be selected as Minority Leader for the 2014-2016 term. Rouson wanted to call an election last week for leader which was within his rights, but current leader Perry Thurston has concerns and did not convene a caucus meeting for this purpose. Interestingly, after thinking about the House Caucus historically I realized we as a party have an absolutely embarrassing record of promoting progressive women into leadership and seem to always default to men “whose turn it is” to be leader. This is very troubling to say the least.

It is absolutely unbelievable to think about the fact that over the past eighteen years (counting the 2012-2014 as having taken place since we already have our leadership team for the next two years) approximately half the members of the Democratic House Caucus have been women, yet in those eighteen years we have had a female Minority Leader for just two years. It is also no coincidence in my mind that Lois Frankel, the one women leader we have selected was arguably the best leader we have had since falling into the minority after the 1996 election.

We are coming off an FDP election where the party discussed new ideas and honestly confronted the almost two decade long losing streak we have encountered. Alan Clendenin who earlier today was defeated narrowly for Chairman brought several ideas and plans to the forefront that need to be acted upon by new Chairwoman Allison Tant. However his candidacy was attacked by some women’s groups because they felt the FDP should have a female chairperson and because of the action of some Clendenin supporters. But in fact, the FDP has a very good track record for having female leaders; over the past twenty years the FDP has had female chairs for a longer period of time than male chairs. By contrast,  the House Democratic Caucus on the other hand has a shameful record on this front.  It is a record of gender discrimination (even if unintentional) that simply cannot be allowed to continue.

The idea that our caucus continues to promote male leaders, some of which like Ron Saunders simply serve as an agent of accommodation to a reckless and arrogant Republican majority is shocking. Perhaps men make better deal cutters with the Republicans while the women in caucus actually promote and protect progressive ideas and causes. Obviously we have had some excellent male leaders like Dan Gelber, but some like Saunders and Les Miller seem to have been employed more to cut deals and be friendly with the out of touch, directorial GOP leadership than anything else. Promotion of progressive causes and women’s issues have suffered under these regimes.

Jacksonville Democrat Mia Jones is running for Minority Leader and she would be the first African-American female to lead the Democratic Caucus. She would also be the first Democratic Leader in either chamber from Jacksonville in several decades. In the early 1980s, Dempsey Barron unseated President designees from Jacksonville in successive sessions, but that is a story for another day.

In the coming days and weeks, I will more closely examine the legislative and public record of  both Rouson and Jones on critical issues to progressives. Rep. Alan Williams, a third declared candidate for Minority Leader is irrelevant to this discussion. While some readers of this site base who they support for party chair, caucus leader and governor on what consultants are aligned with whom, I base my support on progressive and organizational principles.


25 thoughts on “Isn’t It About Time For A Female House Democratic Leader?

  1. Fantastic article. Lois was the only minority leader in recent House history to actively recruit women. Would love to have another woman working towards equality for us in the House.

    Did you know while we have had 2 women Senate Presidents we have never had a Madam Speaker?

  2. While it may be true that a woman has only been Minority Leader once in the past 20 years, many progressive House Democrats who are women care more about the candidate and what they bring to the caucus then what gender they are. If a female member is more qualified and brings more to the caucus then by all means they can run for the position just like anyone else. However, I think in this election Rep. Rouson brings much more to the table in terms of fundraising, messaging and on-the-ground experience working for House candidates.

    During the 2012 elections, did Rep. Jones go down to Orlando, or Tampa, or Miami-Dade to help out candidates running in tough races ? No. Did Rep. Rouson ? Yes. Did Rep Jones actively raise money for House Victory and individual candidates ? No. And in fact, Rep Jones wasted 20,000 dollars from the party in the general election against a Libertarian candidate in a safe Jacksonville seat.

    People need to understand that the Democratic Leader has 2 main responsibilites: raise money and recruit/ campaign for candidates. And so far, Rep Rouson has shown he can do both while Rep Jones has been unimpressive.

  3. Rouson message is the same as the Republicans-Sanders,Maria-while in the house, Crist, Abruzzo… forget it. Jones is awesome. This is why the womens groups and the party need to look at the policy and not just the gender.

    Mia knows what she is doing while Rouson is AWFUL. Rouson will not do much because he does not know who he is pushing hence the candidates will suck even more than they do now.

  4. I agree that it’s time for a woman. The even more important thing here is that Rouson is TERRIBLE even if he were a woman. He has been funded by “All Children Matter” – a group backed by Rich DeVos the trillionaire owner of the Orlando Magic and whose son-in-law runs “Blackwater”, notorious for its work in Iraq and Afghanistan. ACM is also heavily-backed by Wal-Mart and the Walton Family who fight minimum wage, paid sick leave and other important middle class and working class issues. Not to mention their TERRIBLE treatment of their women workers. Their agenda is to break the teachers’ union.

    We MUST get this out to the new members. He simply CANNOT be leader.

    Here’s the link to the ACM funding he has received and that has been spent on his behalf:

  5. First off I don’t see the relevance of gender.

    Secondly, WHY do you always harp on school “choice” as you call it? I agree on the issue but I am a white suburban middle class liberal. African-Americans feel differently about it and they have every right to. It’s not an issue we should emphasize. Other issues unite us.

  6. Why should gender matter? Rouson is beatable by not playing the gender card. He was a hard core REPUBLICAN. That is more important.

  7. Jeff,

    I respectfully disagree completely about vouchers. Through the years lots of African-American politicians have opposed them, and some who supported them have cooled on the idea after seeing them implemented.

    Democrats have REJECTED vouchers in the other 49 states. No Democratic Party in the country is filled with as many voucher advocates and no state has passed as many voucher programs as Florida. Many Democrats in this state have sold out time and time again to a voucher lobby who gives money hand over fist backed by one of the Walton heirs and as Wynn says Rich DeVos the proprietor of Amway and primary funder of the “Reagan Revolution” era right-wing think tanks. He is on par with Richard Mellon Scaife who of course funded the “Arkansas Project,” against Bill Clinton.

    Every public opinion poll and ballot initiative proposed in this state even vaguely related to vouchers has shown the public’s disdain for it. Yet Democrats still vote for it because of this money. I have pointed and must point out again soon about how many Demos switched from an anti-voucher position in the early 2000s to a pro-voucher position by 2010 thanks ACM funding. I will run a piece in the next few days exposing this once again.

  8. He was never a “hardcore” Republican, he was the former President of the St Petersburg NAACP and was very much liberal for a Republican. And for that matter, hes been a Democrat much longer than he was a Republican, having switched back to the Dems 6 years ago.

    And for everyone who keeps saying how hes not progressive, look at his record in the House besides the voucher issue: big supporter of LGBT rights including adoption, employment non-discrimination, domestic partnerships, leading voice on protecting minorities during redistricting last year, criminal justice reformer, supports state employees, etc, etc, etc.

    Honestly, Rouson is a great Democrat and would make a great leader if people actually researched his record.

  9. I’ve said Rouson has a good record on other issues other than vouchers, but it is about time the Democrats drew a line in the sand on that one. At one time many Florida Republicans opposed them also- heck even up until last year many members of the Florida Senate GOP caucus did. Also it is instructive to look at the voting record of CONSERVATIVE DEMS in southern states on vouchers. They have by and large opposed them. The culture in Florida is different because the school choice groups correctly gauged the lack of moral compass and desperation of Florida Dems for cash and exploited it. Hopefully Allison Tant is the superstar fundraiser claimed because then we can start raising real money from those who believe in progressive causes and NOT from right-wing interests, big business and polluters. I have high hopes that she will change this immoral culture despite my support Alan Clendenin in the chair’s race.

    What is the point in having two Republican parties on some issues? That’s what has happened by and large on the environment and education. Republicans and Republican lites registered as Ds against true progressives. And it has ONLY happened here in Florida.

  10. Please people! Let’s not be so drunk from Obama’s victory in Florida that suddenly we are stupid enough to believe that Florida has somehow become a “Liberal” state.

    After the Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Scott Arceneaux “theft” of Saturday’s election by using the LGBT an Progressive Caucuses (among stuffing the ballot and not counting Alan Clendenin’s votes) to hand their “puppet” progressive woman Allison Tant chair over the more pragmatic and bigger fundraiser Alan Clendenin and now we want to give the leadership to a woman because she is a “progressive” woman.

    Get Real People!

    It’s easy to criticize Ron Saunders, Les Miller and others Democratic Leaders for compromising with the Republicans so now you want to go from getting something done in Tallahassee to absolutely nothing done in Tallahassee.

    Brilliant Strategy!!!

    It’s easy to sit at the back of the room and shout our “super liberal” platform to laughing Republicans, but that is not leadership.

    If Darryl Rouson and Charlie Crist want to be Democratic leaders, after decades of scared Democrats fleeing to the Republican Party, as former Governor and US Senator Bob Graham has said repeatedly, “we must welcome them with open arms” .

    It would be wise to listen to Bob Graham. Those are very wise words.

    Democratic State Representative Carl Zimmermann is another perfect example of another former Republican who has won in a very Republican north Pinellas district. Do you think for a second he won by saying, “hey, look at me, I’m the most liberal Democrat on the planet”?

    If Democrats ever have a prayer of getting back to any relevance and not continue to be outscored two to one in Florida, then we must be PRAGMATIC”.

    I’m not asking to compromise you principals, just not to continue down this road of destruction by dreaming that the Progressive Caucus is the smartest bulb on the planet.

    That’s why I was so disappointed Saturday in the loss of any real change at the top of the party leadership with the same loosing Tallahassee power structure and the same loosing consultants on the Tallahassee gravy train.

    Saturday was a very sad day for the Democratic sheep in Florida who were led by the noses and backroom deals by Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Scott Arceneaux’s continued failure to win races while the staff and loosing consultants laugh all the way to the bank!

    And now you want to find the most liberal woman we can find that can’t raise money to help other Democrats to lead us down to more destruction?

    Obviously liberals can’t read, because if they could, they would have seen that Rep Rouson led every newspaper in the state a couple of days ago in ripping Gov Scott a new one in their Black Caucus meeting on every single point that liberals are most proud of fighting for.

    Most importantly, Rep Rouson and Gov Charlie Christ can raise the millions and millions and millions of dollars that we need to do battle with the Republicans!!

    That is the most important issue of them all!!!

    It’s great to sit in the back of the room and talk trash, but if you can’t buy a PA system big enough…no one is going to hear you!!!

    Unless you are happy sitting in the back of the room…and continue to be powerless…and not be able to help the average Floridian who really needs help!!!

  11. Florida may not be a liberal state but Democrats cannot win without an energized and excited base. The state has gone Republican the last decade because Democrats have poorly organized, and have tried to moveto middle on issues like education, health care, pro-choice, labor, consumers, insurance etc. These repositionings of the Florida Democratic brand has served to benefit the Republicans and Tallahassee lobbyists and not our party as a whole. That is why as this site loves to point out that despite being centrists we have lost 13 of the last 14 statewide elections. Burn your base, those who willwork for your candidates and that is what happens.

  12. If you think being a “flaming progressive liberal” is going to win you back the Governor’s mansion, the Cabinet and the House and Senate in this State, then please tell me what you are smoking!

    News Flash! Most people ARE in the Center, that’s what decides elections, not the “tax and spend liberal” moniker that the Republicans have so successfully beaten us with.

    Remember being PRAGMATIC wins! You got to get in the door first before you can make any changes.

    Be smart! Win elections first!

  13. I agree with Kartik on this one. Also, because this is the Florida Legislature and not Congress, so issues regarding public school funding, such as vouchers and parent trigger, are a larger part of the agenda. Therefore, how they stand on this position is quite important.

  14. I think you are being thoughtful in your approach but most voters are not this complicated and thoughtful which is a big reason we Democrats still lose.

    I actually believe voters are not in the middle despite public opinion polling. Voters vote on one or two critical issues and they are either liberal or conservative on those issues. They don’t think like lobbyists or political insiders and say “I support a women’s right to choose half the time” or “I support gun rights sometimes,” or “I support clean water sometimes if it doesn’t affect this industry,” or “I’d like government funded health care but I fear it may effect the insurance companies ability to provide coverage,” Voters simply are not trained to think with that complexity or depth about the hot button issues that effect them.

    Moderates tend to be people in the political process itself, lobbyists, political consultants, government relations specialists etc. Those people get things done in Tallahassee and DC, but part of the reason the Tea Party was so effective is because Republican voters are conservatives. Part of the reason OFA was so effective is because Democratic voters are liberals.

    We need to be a progressive party. I think the GOP has benefited in Florida from ideological purity and consistency. They win elections largely because of this. No confusion exists about what the Florida Republican brand entails. We continue to have problems defining the Florida Democratic brand since the death of Lawton Chiles and defeat of Bubby MacKay. You may think of them as “moderates” by they had a clear set of priorities and action points that differentiated themselves from the Republicans at the time and rallied the Democratic base both financially and activist wise.

  15. You are seriously misguided….If Crist is the future of the Democratic Party..then the Republicans have two parties based on this guy’s record of making Florida what it is….for 2 decades:

    During a local TV interview on Aug. 27, Crist said he would have voted for President Obama’s health care reform bill had he been in the Senate at the time.
    drill, baby, drill” and the possibility that Crist might be John McCain’s vice presidential pick. By June of 2008, Crist was joining hands with McCain to call for a lifting of a federal ban on offshore drilling. “Not having that blanket moratorium and letting states’ rights be recognized is certainly appropriate,” he said. State Senate President Jeff Atwater says as late as the spring of 2009, Crist was lobbying him to help pass a bill allowing near-shore drilling.

    When Crist left the party, he took Republican donors’ dollars with him. Needless to say, that didn’t sit well with party stalwarts. When asked about it on April 30, Crist told an MSNBC audience that he would, “Ah, probably give it back to them. I mean, it’s not that big a deal.”
    No dice. “People gave to a good cause and we’re going to spend it on a good cause,” Crist said on May 12. “That’s why I’m going to keep it.”
    Then, after refunding a donation from indicted Florida GOP ex-chairman Jim Greer, Crist was pushed by CNN on Aug. 29 whether he would extend the courtesy to other donors. “We’ll give it back to people who had asked for it,” he said.
    Why, then, are Republican donors suing you?

    When running for governor in 2006, Crist called the pro-choice label “a lie” and said he was pro-life, with the caveat that, “I don’t think that politicians ought to put themselves in the place of physicians.” But he also said he would sign a state abortion ban if one made it to his desk as governor, provided it made exceptions for rape and incest

    $9.7 million in state funding for Shands at the University of Florida will dramatically impact the hospital’s ability to care for under-insured and uninsured patients,

    Crist Opposed Both the Assault Weapons Ban and the Brady Bill. “Graham voted for the ban on assault weapons and for the Brady Bill, which imposed a waiting period for handgun purchases. Crist opposes both. “I believe citizens do have the right to bear arms,” said Crist, who is a hunter.” (Orlando Sentinel, 10/11/98)
    Former Florida NRA Chairman Marion Hammer: ‘You Can’t Get an A+ Unless You Have a Strong History on Our Issues.’ “Hammer said Crist earned an “A” rating as a political newcomer, the highest grade bestowed to a rookie candidate by the NRA, and subsequently received an “A+” in future years based on his voting record. “You can’t get an ‘A+’ unless you have a strong history on our issues,” Hammer said.” (Politifact, 7/14/10)

    startling 77%
    cut in AIDS nursing staff for the lifesaving
    signed a $66.5 billion budget including about $2 billion in tax and fee increases

    Crist restored the funding for the gun program but didn’t patch up other trust funds, like those for transportation or affordable housing

    Nothing pragmatic about this. Crist can join the party…he can’t run it.

  16. We need to embrace party switchers like Rouson, Crist and others to build a majority. At the same time we cannot let them run the party just yet.

    I actually think you are shortchanging Alan Williams. He is not irrelevant as you claim but a potential compromise choice.

  17. Okay, I need to know if there are numerous people who don’t know how to spell losing, or just one person who posts far too much.

  18. Multiple insiders say he only has the vote of 1 member of the Caucus: himself. If you can’t even get someone else to support you, you have no business running in the first place.

  19. Rouson is the only logical choice. Being a Republican means zero. A lot of our top talent both from a consulting and candidacy perspective were once Republicans. This site and your ilk is going to lose us an election we would otherwise win.

  20. I agree with the general premise of this article but must say given the events yesterday we need Rouson because the crowd that Mia Jones is connected to controls the party and yet DOES NOT HAVE THE SUPPORT OF THE GRASSROOTS. Rouson actually has traveled the state and spent time with those who need help on the local level and whose hopes for a radically reformed party were dashed yesterday in the cloud of rules violations, unsigned ballots and proxy votes not properly notarized and cleared

    I hope people understand that going into an election we are about to lose a big chunk of party activists thanks to the heavy handed behavior of the Tant faction particularly Christian Ulvert

  21. 1. You assume that Mia Jones would keep Ulvert.

    2. You assume that House Victory will continue to exist separate from the party.

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