Is Allison Tant Hurting Florida Democrats' Chances in 2014?

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: September 10, 2013 3:55 AM

Allison Tant

Democrats had a great year in Florida in 2012. Barack Obama carried the state over Mitt Romney and Bill Nelson easily defeated Connie Mack to keep his Senate seat. Democratic challengers defeated two Republican congressmen and cut down on the GOP majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. While Rod Smith’s gubernatorial bid in 2006 and his role as Alex Sink’s running mate in 2010 may have left him a loser as a statewide candidate, his stint as Florida Democratic Party chairman has to be considered a success.

But Allison Tant, Smith’s successor, has had major problems in her time leading the party. Tant was front and center when Allie Braswell announced he was running for state CFO. When Braswell pulled out of the race a few days later after revelations that he had filed for personal bankruptcy numerous times, she was left holding the bag.

Tant is now engaged in a heated public dispute with Darryl Rouson who will -- unless a new vote is called and he is defeated -- lead House Democrats after the 2014 elections. Rouson is leading an affiliated party community for House races which is outside of Tant’s control. When she found out about it, she fired Jeff Ryan and Chris Mitchell who were respectively handling House fundraising and strategy. Rouson fired back, sending an email about his disappointment with Tant for going public instead of keeping it an internal matter. Complicating things is Rouson’s close relationship with Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor expected to be the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate next year.

If he enters the race, Crist starts off as the favorite to beat Rick Scott in 2014. But Crist’s lead is shrinking as Scott gets credit for the economy recovering. Looking down ballot, Democrats haven’t impressed with their efforts to recruit candidates for state Cabinet offices. No major Democrats have filed for attorney general, CFO and agriculture commissioner besides Braswell, who turned out to be a disaster for Tant. While the election is still 14 months away, Tant hasn’t impressed so far on that front.

Nor do things look better for Democrats at the legislative level. So far, no major Democratic challengers have filed to run against any Republicans in the Florida Senate. Granted, no Republicans have jumped in against Democrat incumbents but the GOP controls the chamber. There are a handful of Democratic opportunities to pick up House seats, including a special election in Pasco County next month. But Republicans are already lining up to defeat Democrats in the House like Mike Clelland, Mark Danish, Karen Castor Dentel, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Joe Saunders, Linda Stewart and Carl Zimmerman.

Democrats have their chances to pick up some congressional seats at least, though even that seems to be a mixed bag as the likes of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) should be a larger player than Tant and the Florida party. Gwen Graham has a good chance against Republican incumbent Steve Southerland, and Jessica Ehrlich is in good shape to win a seat for Democrats if Bill Young retires. But Democrats like Joe Garcia and Patrick Murphy can expect major Republican challenges next year. Some Republican incumbents who were top targets in 2012, like Dan Webster and Vern Buchanan, have so far dodged major Democrat opponents. Republicans control 17 of Florida’s 27 congressional seats. If Democrats are going to win the U.S. House from the GOP in 2014, they need to ramp up their efforts in Florida.

To be sure, Democrats have their chances to win big in Florida next year. If Crist wins, he will be the first Democrat to win a gubernatorial election since 1994. But, so far, Tant’s leadership hasn’t impressed and Florida Democrats can be excused if they miss Rod Smith.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.

Comments (3)

Richard Paul Dembinsky
9:38PM SEP 17TH 2013
Even from 1,100 miles away I can see the meltdown of the leadership of the democratic party in Florida. While the weather is cooling here at our Tecumseh, Michigan summer home; I will do my best to be sure that who ever A.T.R. picks as a gubernatorial candidate will be defeated by the Honorable Governor Rick Scott, because the Florida constitution states: "guarantee equal civil and political rights for All." then considering that to put a D behind my name for CFO will require a $7738 of unfair fees and as we see A.T.R. has already damaged my chances because she did not let the voters select the democratic candidate during a balanced approach primary; my only hope is that since Edward Braswell has not officially thrown in the towel (his name is still active on the Division of Elections listing of candidates); I am running but I would have a reasonable chance if A.T.R. was not the party chairwoman.

Charlie Crist get out in front of the garbage truck known as the Democratic Party of Florida ...demand that Obama apologize for the very poor Navy Yard statement yesterday and then tell YOUR democratic friend noted above that when Richard decides to work against the Democrats in will be Honorable Rick Scott again in 2014.

So, leading democrats it is time YOU lead and demand that A.T.R. apologize and then withdrawal as democratic party chairwoman.

Mr. Crist, YOU surely remember the Florida Constitution..."guarantee equal civil and political rights for All.,,, it is NOW time for YOU to officially decide to run so those of us that want to debate YOU will know we have an opportunity to challenge the big democratic party leaders to be sure that YOU are NOT elected. YOU had your chance as a republican so please consider announcing that YOU are not going to be a candidate for governor as a democrat.

I am running for CFO against Honorable Jeff Atwater, but if YOU (Charlie Crist) become the pick by A.T.R. I will do everything in my power to see YOU do not become Governor in Florida as a democrat.

It is time someone with New ideas has an opportunity to debate Honorable Rick Scott.

Oh, if A.T.R. is no longer the chairwoman of the democratic party; I will fully support whoever the people select as the best candidate the democrats can advance by the primary process. Keeping money off the table to balance name against NO name candidate...Florida needs new ideas.

Don't bad mouth Honorable Governor Rick Scott because that will not work on the Florida voters...democrats need a new candidate and New ideas on how to get Florida out of the "soft depression".

These are my opinions as of this date and I apologize if the tone was too nasty but maybe nasty words will get the A.T.R. removed NOW.
11:46AM SEP 10TH 2013
John Morgan Should run against Pam Bondi He would win
10:40AM SEP 10TH 2013

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