Florida Democratic Party Apparently Puts Its Own Interests Over Voters'

By: Brooke Knight | Posted: November 25, 2013 3:55 AM
Brooke Knight

Brooke Knight

In a Nov. 18 article, “Vetting Process is Clearly Nonexistent in Florida’s Democratic Party,” I discussed multiple questions that arose from my own and others’ personal accounts of meetings with Democratic primary candidate William Rankin who is running for state of Florida CFO.

Specifically, I questioned: Why is this candidate, who knows nothing about the job of the office of the state CFO, the only viable runner for the Democratic Party, and has he been thoroughly vetted?

The backlash for questioning the process of vetting their candidate has been rather extreme, and somewhat disconcerting. I imagine that the processes are the same for both major parties, equally as inept at screening individuals and as quick to place incompetents in office for the sake of the party name.

Needless to say, I’ve walked away from this week even more disillusioned and turned-off by a major political party that in one breath touts the protection of civil rights, and in another refuses to provide a voter (who has always voted for both major parties’ candidates based on qualifications) with answers that would help me support – or decline support – of their candidate. This is just frustrating … but I’m not ready to give up quite yet.

Though it’s unclear if it’s even up to the party leaders to vet the candidates they endorse as Democrats, it’s been made crystal clear that the state-level Florida Democratic Party leaders feel that the vetting of the background of their new Great White Hope is none of my business. Nor do they feel that their own local committee and club members for that matter, who have raised questions as well, have the right to ask about their own candidate’s background. I laughed when I heard the phrase “smear campaign.”

Since my initial article, few questions about Rankin’s alleged experience have been answered, and more material facts have arisen that have induced even more reason for inquiry. It’s been confirmed that Rankin was just a staff sergeant in the Army (I still love his line about his DD-214 being classified, by the way), and he was certainly not in a position to create policy as he touted at a Veterans Day caucus leadership meeting at which I was present. For confirmation of embellished military experience, please check this box.

It’s also been brought to light in the past 48 hours how Rankin is very possibly involved in the misappropriation of his campaign funds, which is now under a budding investigation. Sigh.

Determining if a candidate for the Democratic Party has been vetted, or that his past experiences have even been confirmed, is similar to playing that game of Telephone we used to play in kindergarten.

I’ve been told on the record that the Florida Democratic Party does not vet candidates by the Florida Democratic Party’s Communications Director Joshua Karp, and yet I’ve been told off the record that Rankin was in fact vetted thoroughly by the Florida Democratic Party in Tallahassee through the hazy and twisted grapevine of zone and county leaders throwing around the names of Chairwoman Allison Tant, Executive Director Scott Arceneaux, Chair Alan Clandenin, and John Ramos.

By the time the answer to my initial “call” in the game makes it back to me, it sounds more like, Don’t eat the yellow snow.

So which is it? Alas, still no real answers.

The reality is that, in their bylaws, the primary purpose of the Democratic committees and clubs is “to seek out Democratic candidates to run for public office and provide them with assistance and financial support when available” and “to elect Democrats.” There’s no process for vetting or any type of assurance that the best interests of the public voters are held as a standard listed anywhere in their governing documents. It’s just elect Dems, elect Dems, elect Dems. It’s the Party over the People.

That’s almost as haphazard as Rankin telling caucus leaders to “write anything you want about me.” Ugh.

On the heels of recent embarrassments such as Republican Rep. Trey Radel’s cocaine possession, the allegations of funds fraud on Democratic Rep. Darryl Rouson, and the bankrupt former Democratic flop-candidate for state CFO Allie Braswell, both the Democratic and Republican parties seem to need a better vetting policy to avoid any more egg on their faces.

The fallout from the lack of such a policy is certainly keeping them busy right now. Yet, in the case of William Rankin, not one person in local leadership is willing to stand up and demand a higher standard or change in Legislature for candidate selection, nor any other preventative measures that would ensure that the qualifications of the candidates endorsed by the Florida Democratic Party have been verified. It’s a sham process, and they will endorse and lend support to anyone that’s a Democrat, as long as they’re Democrat-ish.

In the face of an election that involves Rankin potentially getting selected for a job that would place him in charge of billions of dollars of funds, directing insurance policy, or providing oversight of over 2,000 staff members, it’s almost preposterous that the Florida Democratic Party leaders endorse candidates like him. I know. I get it. He’s simply all they’ve got.

I can’t really blame Rankin, as he’s bloated his military experiences, omitted his dubious business dealings, and told tall tales of his previous positions of responsibility to the voting public. The Florida Democratic Party is giving him full latitude to embellish, fundraise, and pocket those monies with their (relatively silent) support.

When I think about it … it’s quite the racket. Not one so-called leader of the Florida Democratic Party, in the wake of this year’s disappointments, has provided clear answers about their process, or this candidate’s background, to their own local committee and club members.

Not one so-called leader of the Florida Democratic Party has stepped up to the plate to take responsibility for misleading the public by personally not supporting, while publicly endorsing as a party, a completely unqualified man named William D. Rankin.

If they can’t even be honest with each other, how can we expect them to be honest with the voters?

Brooke Knight is a single mom and a U.S. Navy veteran honorably discharged after receiving an award for meritorious service. She is a South Florida freelance writer and investigator and describes herself -- among other things -- as a former professional musician, recruiter and headhunter in finance and tech and "Ops Ninja" for a social media firm. View all her imaconstitutionalist posts.

Comments (14)

tallahassee cipher
9:13AM DEC 22ND 2013
This title is the only thing correct about this article. Brook you might want to go back and do this novel thing called investigative reporting.
Richard Paul Dembinsky
10:37AM NOV 26TH 2013
Why are newspaper columnists determined to write untrue or twisted stories?

For example let's compare for a moment the following statement that was used to take out of the race from 7:30 AM

It's 10:13 p.m., do you know who your Democratic CFO candidate is? Well, just wait 60 seconds, then.
At 10:14 p.m., the oddest of all times for a political announcement, businessman William Rankin announced he'd challenge state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
A retired vet, businessman and former Ohio state treasury official, Rankin has a good bio on paper. So maybe the dark-of-night-campaign announcement forshadows a dark-horse campaign.
But already you have to wonder about the success of a campaign against a seasoned and well-funded pol like Atwater. Still, compared to the last Democrat running for the office, Allie Braswell, Rankin doesn't look as if he'll embarrass the party.
Here's the press release:



William Rankin was given Nasty names within a few hours of attempting to be a candidate for CFO; it is absolutely UNFAIR and surely a political thing with writers to take down the challenger.


Oh, he could be watching the ten o'clock news or sleeping or planning out what he will do if elected CFO.

Just look at all the stories about William Rankin and YOU quickly see the at newspapers were gunning for any democratic CFO candidate; it was a plan to allow Jeff Atwater to be on the ballot and win without having to spend his money before his next big campaign for Governor or U.S. Senate. See it is a plan to attack democratic candidates.


Anyone that wants to move to Tallahassee for the next 4 years could be a good CFO.

For example a civil engineer that has a wish to look at numbers;

A banker looks at numbers too, but it is rare for a banker dealing with billions,

My goodness, we have an inexperienced President that was elected and he apparently handled the spending of Trillions.

Now my point is that NO newspaper columnist should be allowed to take out a candidate wanting to be on the ballot.

Who ever wants to live in Tallahassee qualify for CFO during June only need $7738.32 plus or minus the cost of mailings.

So are we going to continue to allow newspaper columnist and newspaper writer (who work during the dark of the night to write stories about William Rankin)...............Absolutely NOT ....every article that these untruthful writers create will be challenged....join me with your real understanding of what the democrats have.

1. Allison Tant Richard....started the problem by so quickly giving A. B. a push down the road, well, the newspaper writers put him in the ditch in 4 days.
2. Now the weak democrats are pushing another candidate (William Rankin) down this slippery political road, unfortunately at 7:30 as noted above the newspaper writers were ready to take him into the ditch. While William Rankin has to determine if he wants to live in Tallahassee for 4 years longer than he lived in one place in Florida?
That is the only question....he could get back on the road to Tallahassee just to give it to the columnist and Nancy Smith, Brooke Knight and even Chaz Knight....PEOPLE that will vote for the next CFO simply want a new CFO or a re elected CFO that connects the dots...

Florida is NOT currently in big trouble financially, but how would YOU know? It could be just like Obamacare...we just don't know if the political leaders have over spent and failed to watch the actions of Jeff Atwater.

Look at the words in the above articles and YOU will see an evil tone from day one on William Rankin.
6:05PM NOV 25TH 2013
vetting candidates ? it's no one's job but the voters to decide.
besides what would useless talking heads and newspaper columnists have to do if all candidates were vetted thoroughly.
Richard Paul Dembinsky
6:32PM NOV 25TH 2013
YOU are absolutely correct the Voters surely between now and November 4, 2014 will know each candidate's weakness.

If someone wants William Rankin to be CFO well they can jump and hold signs but in the end the voters will decide if Honorable Atwater should live in Tallahassee for the next 20 years (seems typical).

Term limits is 8 years but then they just jump to another off.

Is it not time the Governor get brave and appoint Jeff Atwater to be the next Lt. Atwater a chance to Learn before he attempts to be Governor or move to the U.S. Senate race.

It is time Jeff Atwater step aside for another candidate.
Richard Paul Dembinsky
1:00PM NOV 25TH 2013
More to the statements above by Brooke Knight:

"Though it’s unclear if it’s even up to the party leaders to vet the candidates they endorse as Democrats, it’s been made crystal clear that the state-level Florida Democratic Party leaders feel that the vetting of the background of their new Great White Hope is none of my business. Nor do they feel that their own local committee and club members for that matter, who have raised questions as well, have the right to ask about their own candidate’s background. I laughed when I heard the phrase “smear campaign.”


guarantee equal civil and political rights for all.

So it would be totally improper for ATR (Chairwoman of the Democratic Party) to so early as she did to take out other challengers before qualifying week in June 2014.

It is also TOTALLY wrong for a newspaper columnist to demand that they see a military paper or whatever....YOU are NOT GOD and newspaper people including the artist C.S. just have NO right to demand that anyone no longer be a candidate for CFO....the more candidates the better selection the voters will have.

Yes, it appears W.R. does have issues but WHO gives the right to Newspaper Editorial boards or columnist or website owners to demand an answer on anything...Okay YOU can demand...but W.R. will have to sleep at night wondering if he made the right choice of words or did not fully under Florida Chapter 106.

Here YOU go "GREAT WHITE HOPE"....YOU are putting false words out for the public....YOU are not a true independent...YOU are working to keep the incumbent in office and prevent even a simple stupid person from challenging him.

Enough is Enough
Richard Paul Dembinsky
12:10PM NOV 25TH 2013
Ms. Knight:
YOU say:
"This is just frustrating … but I’m not ready to give up quite yet."

YOU have NO clue as to how many times a columnist or newspaper editorial board has damaged the civil and political rights guaranteed by the Florida Constitution.

Unfortunately Charlie Crist and RicK Scott and more importantly the Division of Election and their in house attorney...

says things like:

We are not allowed to look within the four corners of the Financial Statement provided by the candidate.

We are not allowed to verify that a candidate has 7 years of residency as required to be on the ballot for Cabinet Office.

We must charge these fees established by the republican and democratic leaders and then share the money with the political parties.....(the political parties quickly use the funds I paid to work to cancel out my effort)....

This is just frustrating … but I’m not ready to give up quite yet.

YOU and Chaz Stevens and Mike Lafferty and others just don't realize how extremely difficult it is to just complete the necessary forms.

Some of the writings by Chaz Stevens were over the top on reviewing a candidate; For example having never owned a property in Florida (it is not a requirement to own a property); he lived in 51 different places (SO); did he live in Florida for the last 7 years and what are you going to do about it if he does NOT? (the Division of Elections will not review);
the way W.R. came out into to the race was surprising and troubling; but having been cut up by newspaper people and website owners..

I want to go on record that I believe:

Enough is Enough

Especially since it will be extremely difficult to challenge the Honorable CFO; with his money and head start....oh, did I say his name will be on the top of the ballot? There is little chance a voter could miss his name.

There are things the CFO should be doing to protect the consumers...but seeing that he is the Honorable Republican CFO I fully understand why consumers are not his first concern.

NOW back to my point: YOU and other writers need to realize that not everything YOU say or do will stop ever challenger...YOU and Chaz Stevens need to visit Daytona Beach and get closer to the people to realize that NOT everyone is with question but if the person wants to be on the ballot....YOU or Chaz Stevens HAVE absolutely NO Right to stop W.R. or others....Let him learn by the is okay to question...but at times YOU and Mr. Stevens are sounding more like out to get him than understanding his DNA has never been tested in Florida....This is NOT OHIO....or NYC.

Enough is Enough ....Please stop being concerned about who the challenger will be to the Honorable CFO, and stop worrying about every detail....sooner or later someone will have to replace CFO Atwater and it will take YOUR understanding that just like any NEW job will be challenging...but Florida better NOT be expecting ANY one person to do all the checking and cross checking or WE are in big trouble...when the CFO goes to Japan like the Governor...who is running the shop?

Enough is Enough
the public vets best
11:42AM NOV 25TH 2013
Debinsky. The author shows Rankins lies. Why should she hide the truth. If you tell the truth then theres nothing to attack. I hope your background is better than your writing.
Richard Paul Dembinsky
12:41PM NOV 25TH 2013
I am stupid but a concerned citizen just like YOU....see beyond the candidate's faults as the columnist and website writers want you to believe.

Without taking a line by line look at W.R.; a first and second glance Brooke Knight and Chaz Stevens have gone too far; the election laws are managed by the Division of Elections and it will eventually be found what errors were made by W.R. and he will have to respond to the Division of Elections.

YOU cannot judge a candidate simply by looking at how poorly he responses to significant questions of his past and further more if he simply wants to be on the ballot it is HIS RIGHT and it is totally wrong for Brooke Knight or Chaz Stevens to take him out.

I have seen this before a newspaper or columnist thinking they know it all; true some people are very poor and should not run unless they can explain why they are taking the approach.....I put my name on to challenge the long time mayor of Port Orange.....Immediately the newspaper called me names.......I said it is a Civics Lesson....but actually I did not want to say a nasty word about the existing long term mayor.

See as a candidate I know what newspapers writers and website owners are capable.

But would it be something that eventually I get elected? It is not impossible for someone like W.R. to continue to be a you really believe very many people care who the CFO is?

I don't believe it is the responsibility to allow newspaper writers to take a candidate off the ballot; questioning him is fine; but if he fails to answer realize he has a reason.

Sorry, I am just tired of newspaper and website people having too much say when it comes to a candidate. Once I recorded a request to my answering machine demanding to have my social security number so the newspaper could investigate me? Hell, I am not applying for a loan. Who gives the power to newspaper columnist are truly stupid.

This is not directed at your comments completely but rather the overall difficulty to get passed unfair newspaper columnists.
Richard Paul Dembinsky
11:00AM NOV 25TH 2013
“…either diabolically clever,
hopelessly naive,
charmingly quixotic
deliberately flippant.
If you have an internet connection of historical statements read the total article
Richard Paul Dembinsky
10:47AM NOV 25TH 2013
Enough is Enough

The above article while informative and correct, just is not getting to the real problem.

See Florida Election Laws are Unfair and Unconstitutional.

Honorable Jeff Atwater, has tons of money to step on any challenger, but then someone must challenge him.

I have an established record of being on the ballot at times like this, no hope for the future.

Rick Scott, Charlie Crist both created the problem; the whole political party control of elections is the problem. It is impossible for the term Independent to be used. MUST have the title NO P A (NPA)...see this tells you that independents will not be allowed.

Only Republicans can be listed at the top of all ballots by LAW; so Honorable Atwater has a 10 percent advantage; (he won by 57%)

Years ago Florida did NOT have or need a CFO; the focus years ago I believe was tell me the last time you heard the CFO talk about unfair and costly insurance?

This discussion and burning of W.R. is not good for finding a democratic candidate; it is so bad I will likely have to jump to NPA because newspaper people, website owners are gunning for blood of the challenger of Honorable Atwater.

So, why are YOU working to make things better? NO.

See the messy democratic process is just as bad as the republican process; FACT, I attempted to run as a Republican in 2006 and my name was removed, then I questioned same, then it would be posted and then removed in a few days; SEE political parties are controlling the process of allowing the voters to select the best candidate to challenge (at that time Charlie Crist)

Enough is Enough

I have to say I am beginning to believe my $7738.32 would be a poor investment to run for CFO as a democrat.

this is not about is about the difficulty to get by the party bosses and go directly to the people....without the push and pulling of Obama, Biden, Clinton ATR ....

The fee to become a candidate in various races are intended to keep candidates off the ballot.

Forms and procedures are designed to trip up all first time candidates.


Enough is Enough on the topic of YOUR obsession with taking down W.R. and the FACT that he has responded is troubling.

As a candidate it is not proper for any negative comments about another candidate; but it does seem YOU and Chaz Stevens have gone out of your way to make it impossible for a democratic candidate to be on the ballot on November 4, 2014.

Look at what Mike Lafferty did to me in 2003, this action by YOU may be nothing more than take down the stupid or is more difficult getting past website bloggers who prevent posting to counter comments.

Newspaper and web writers are questionable too.
Brooke Knight
3:14PM NOV 25TH 2013
Mr. D.,
I appreciate your commentary. However, this quote:

"As a candidate it is not proper for any negative comments about another candidate; but it does seem YOU and Chaz Stevens have gone out of your way to make it impossible for a democratic candidate to be on the ballot on November 4, 2014."

I am not a candidate. I investigate individuals that are seeking positions as CIVIL SERVANTS, that want tax dollars as salaries, and oversight over billions in budgetary funds.

Your posts, should you decide to run, should be independent of the rants against reporters doing the public a service - VETTING political runners. I think we are all - especially in the GEN X-ERS range, tired of being lied to and fleeced by corrupt politicians.

I invite you to run. I will happily vet you as well, if necessary...along with every candidate that makes it across my radar. I don't vote for those I know nothing of.... and you shouldn't expect the rest of the voting public to do so, either.

You're a bit of a PR mess. If you intend to run, my best suggestion is - instead of lengthy article commentary hijacking posts - you begin an in-earnest campaign, and work with a firm that handles the legal and social media necessary for you to maintain your running.

Best of luck to you.
Chaz Stevens
4:21PM NOV 25TH 2013
Or a tin-foil hat.
9:38AM NOV 25TH 2013
Very disappointing. It happens in other states as well. Loyal Democrats have become voters only. Their input is not important to state committees, just their donations and their votes. Many state candidates are not vetted and it's left to opposition to dig up the dirt, which is very easy to find in most cases.
Chaz Stevens
1:21PM NOV 25TH 2013
I am not the opposition. I am a liberal.

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