26 April 2005

Maddox's Democrats: The Fix Is In

On May 7th, Florida Democrats will elect a new state chairman, since the current office holder, Scott Maddox, is resigning with plans to run for governor. With his resignation taking effect after session, one would believe that those eligible to vote for the new chairman would actually be able to choose the best possible candidate to lead the party.

The Florida Democratic Party has an outdated rule in its charter, which only allows members of the FDP Central Committee to run for the state party's top position. The Central Committee, not unlike the College of Cardinals in Rome, is composed of party elites. Unfortunately this rule places strict limitations on eligible candidates, creating a "good ole boy" network of power brokers and influence peddlers within the party. This archaic rule essentially denies Florida Democrats the ability to find the best qualified man or woman to lead their party.

The leading candidates for the top post have been former Congresswoman Karen Thurman and longtime party activist Jeff Ryan. Thurman was elected to the state committeewoman position in her home county last year in order to be eligible for the state party chair position. Ryan does not hold a party position that will make him eligible. Rumors hold it that Ryan had an agreement with the leadership of the Leon County Democratic Party to assume the position of state committeeman to validate his eligibility as a state party candidate. The rumor also holds that Maddox, who chairs the Leon County Democratic Party, would resign his local position, and the current Leon County State Committeeman would step down from his post. The committeeman would be bumped into the chair position, and Ryan would then become state committeeman. This game of musical chairs is similar to the one Maddox played in 2002 to be eligible for the chairman post.

Maddox apparently no longer wishes to play these political games, and yesterday, he unilaterally decided to cancel the Leon County Democratic Party's monthly meeting. While one may not infer his true motives, it can be inferred that since the meeting was the only opportunity for Ryan to be elected state committeeman, Maddox's timing is certainly suspect. His action essentially hands the state chairmanship to Ryan's only real opponent, Karen Thurman.

Upon first glance, it is hard to determine the motives behind Maddox's decision to cancel yesterday's meeting, since he stands little to gain from helping either candidate. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, on the other hand, has been a strong backer of Thurman and has been campaigning on her behalf throughout the state. A cursory analysis of the relationships involved draws few conclusions other than this was a backroom deal between an ambitious young politician and an embattled United States senator who will be fighting for his political survival next year.

Regardless of who one might have favored to the next state chairman, all Florida Democrats were dealt a serious blow yesterday. Anyone who believes that the Democratic Party is truly the party of the people should be outraged that democracy was trounced by cronyism.

Unfortunately, the Democrats' current leader acted with heavy hand and decided to pursue a forgone conclusion similar to that in Rome last week. Of course, when the new chairman is elected, don't expect to see white smoke. You can expect, however, Chairman Maddox to be blowing smoke like he's been doing for the past two years.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a ridiculous rule. Why would the Democratic Party do that? Considering the lack of leadership in the Party, they should be letting anyone run who is qualified.

I hope they can change it soon.

8:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a stupid rule, granted, but all the players knew the rules going into the process. Thurman had to make herself eligible, as did Morales when he considered a bid for Chair.

As for Nelson, I tend to support the argument that the Party needs to have a strong Nelson focus in '06, because if we lose Bill Nelson, friends it will be a long road back. At this point in our Party history, I am not sure I want a Chair that lacks Nelson's confidence. All that does is set up an unnecessary level of organizational bickering that will lead to uncoordinated efforts and all the other disasters of the last five election cycles.

11:24:00 PM  
Anonymous gator78 said...

But why does Nelson oppose Ryan as chair? That doesn't make any sense. I think that whoever the chair is that person will work as hard as they can to help Nelson. I think he is dividing the Party, and this could end up hurting him more in the long run than having his handpicked candidate.

I hope for the best, but unfortunately this type of petty infighting is what kills the Party every time.

8:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what is worse - Maddox's abuse of power or the party members that are so busy sucking up to him that they don't care the party is going down the tubes.

11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One reason why the R's always beat us--they keep this kind of infighting behind closed doors, always showing a unified front.

11:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem I have with all of this is as follows: Anyone in the party with half a brain knew back in December that Maddox was likely to step down to run for office. Why then did they re-elect him? Those who voted for him must have known what a disruption this inevitable event would be -- yet they proceeded to set themselves back anyway. Dems should be 4 months into party building by now. Instead, they are behind in fundraising, membership building, media attention, etc. Maybe Nelson figured that Ryan was another Maddox (WRT future political aspirations), and wanted to stop the staggering ineffectual performance of the FDP going forward?

As far as becoming eligible for the position - kudos to Morales and Thurman who took action earlier to become eligible and to give themselves time to start campaigning for the position. As alluded to by earlier comments, everyone knows the rules going in. Waiting to qualify when there is less than two weeks before the vote is in my opinion, a little too manipulative, and frankly, kind of dumb.

3:46:00 PM  
Anonymous tdog said...

I would agree with you except that you forget that these local parties have people that have held onto the important positions forever and refuse to give them up. Morales and Thurman frankly got lucky that those positions were vacant in their counties.

In Jeff's case, he had no opportunity. Jon Ausman has been the state committeeman for a long time and doesn't intend to resign anytime soon. And Maddox is going to hold onto his local chairmanship throughout his governors campaign so he can use soft money. They were really no chance for Jeff to get a position that would make him eligible.

The rule is horrible and needs to be changed. Its times like this that you almost have to agree with the Rs when they say the Democratic Party is run by elitists.

6:31:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I don't want to go on record as saying anything against the party...that's not the way to fix things. But as for the rules as they stand, they protect the very same people who led us down the road to ruin. Twelve years ago we were on top. Now look at us...a minority party still in full retreat, too scared to challenge the GOP in their own districts, and too scared to tell anyone in the power structure that reform is needed to re-energize this party.

If the party leadership, and by that I mean every DEC Chair, Committee-person, and even rank & file memeber, if they do not begin to share the power they have accumulated, there will soon be too little power worth sharing. Maybe the R's are right when (as Tdog said) they say Dems are "liberal elitists". I could certainly point to several examples if I were so inclined.

It is also no wonder Conservatives say the Dems are headed the way of the Whig party. I just wish the GOP would go the way of the "Know Nothing" party of the 19th Century.

7:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'd disagree a little with your first paragraph...I am not so sure that the Fla Dems are a party to scared to challenge or in full retreat---instead, I think they are a party too disorganized to do either. I am sure there are enough nice folks at the Party, but their complete silence during this session is true proof that they need help.

Our party structure has never been focused on long-term objectives. Turnover at the Chair level and among staff has led to an election to election view---rather than one that looks five, ten, and even twenty years down the road.

We need a centralizd political operation, much like the Republicans, with a Chair that is empowered to get things done and with staff that stays around long enough to change our state's direction

9:08:00 PM  
Anonymous anonymous8 said...

Good points about having other ways to qualify…

However, as it stands now, the DECs are dependent upon the membership and the members taking responsibility. Chairs/Committee members are elected by the membership, not appointed (correct me if this is wrong).

More questions (inspired by tdog’s comment about giving up power)...but I think it might be a completely different discussion... or not. How many incumbent Chairs and Committee people were challenged the last time around? When changes occurred, why (or why not)?

Even more (rhetorical)questions…. How many times do people complain about their leadership, but never step up to call them to account for their actions/inaction by challenging them?

Guess the point I’m getting at is that it sounds like a membership problem, as much as a leadership problem.

9:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see here... The meeting of the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee will soon be rescheduled.... So there is still time for us to do this by May 9th and get Ryan eligible.

However, why?

Personally, as a voting member of the LCDEC, I would oppose Ryan getting any position in the local LCDEC.... One reason is I am support Karen Thurman, another reason is I truly do not know what advantages would be there for someone who has helped the party in the past but has never held office within the party before.

So, it could still change but I wouldn't support the rule...

Also, if the State Committeeman, Jon Ausman, and the Chair, Scott Maddox, resigned, even if Ryan was elected State Committeeman, support would go elsewhere for Chair.

Monica O'Neal, who serves us well as Vice Chair, would have my support to be chairperson, over Jon Ausman, anyday.

We follow the rules... we do not change them.

Oh and the top 2 candidates is Thurman and Glisar, who has a big base in South Florida and his already the Vice Chair of the party. Ryan would be in 3rd place at the moment.

4:33:00 PM  
Anonymous ourflorida said...

As far as the previous comments about the Leon Democratic Party not playing these types of games, that is not truly correct. I believe that the last user said that the Leon Party always plays by the rules. Well this implies that the switch for Jeff Ryan would violate the rules, and this is totally incorrect. It would be exactly what was done for Scott in 2002.

In 2002 Scott was not the chair of the Leon Party. The chair at the time resigned so that Scott could take the position and be eligible for state chair.

So, it is safe to say that the Leon Party has the most recent history of playing these political games.

I frankly don't have any preference among the candidates, but I do have concerns about the party keeping good candidates from even running. Still, it comes down to this stupid eligibility rule. I hate to say it, but it does reek of elitism.

8:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I said earlier, the rule is stupid. But it is there, and everyone has to play by them. We should change the rules, though I would not necessarily support changing them just for Ryan. He knew the rules getting in---just like Thurman, who did get herself qualified.

Personally, I like Thurman because the Party needs a new voice. Even as a former Congresswoman, she is a bit of an outside. A fresh perspective would be welcome.

Ryan seems like a great guy, but he has been with the Party for a long time, and under his guidance, legislative democrats have lost a ton of seats, despite the extremism of legislative republicans.

Glasser is also more of the same, I fear. People say she deserves it because she is a longtime loyal activist. That is not a good enough reason for me.

I've never heard of the other guy, Dough Curtney (?).

But I don't get a vote.

8:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nelson and the rest of the Tamany Hall Democrats can just go have sex with themselves. Nelson can never be forgiven for voting for the odious Bankruptcy Bill (only his latest outrage). With Democrats like him, who needs republicans? We will continue to get flogged by the opposition as long as we support the old regime and those that rule it. Let's tear down the walls . . .

9:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a LCDEC member I must state that Jeff Ryan is not the outstanding choice as many have stated here, he has never shown any interest or support for the local DEC and has only done anything for the State because he is an overpaid staffer. Also, a correction Scott Maddox was twice elected unopposed as chairman by the LCDEC, the first time after the former chairman did not run for reelection and supported Scott.

11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous comment that Karen Thurman is the fresh new voice that we desperately want. What our party needs is someone who is not looking at the position of chair as a stepping stone to further a personal career. Karen Thurman has already proven herself to be an effective, collegial "can do" person, who has never betrayed our trust. Like Howard Dean, Karen Thurman would break the mold of the “same ‘ol, same ‘ol” leadership that has not served us well. Go Howard! Go Karen!

12:03:00 AM  
Blogger Robert C. said...

Don't count Glisar out! Remember that it is a weighted vote system based on several criteria, mainly having to do with the party's performance in each county. That gives the South Florida counties a huge advantage, especially Miami-Dade/Broward/Palm Beach if they vote as a bloc.

Right now it looks like Thurman is the top choice, but don't count that South Florida bloc out.

12:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous8 said...

Interesting article about this subject in the Democrat today:


4:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting...let's hope that Thurman and/or Glasser can stop Maddox from signing that $100,000 contract for his friends before he leaves the Party.

6:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This recent article is really bad. I guess Scott will be leaving on a very low note next week. Can't say he doesn't deserve it?

2:27:00 PM  

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