Pinellas DEC chair Molinaro out; thank Ed Helm
Toni Molinaro is credited with rallying a fractious local party into an actual political force. The newfound might - based on focus, cooperation and fund raising prowess - was to have its debut in November.
Now, Molinaro appears out in December and party members are blaming maneuvers by former chair Ed Helm, a polarizing figure in the local party.
"It's like building a sand castle and some little spoiled brat coming along and stomping on it," observed Bonnie Agan, Democratic overseer of all precints in House District 55. "It's all for his gratification. That's all it is."
Under state law, Agan said, local parties are reorganized every presidential election year. In order to run for chair, you must be an elected precinct committeeperson.
Tuesday, Molinaro lost her precinct 109 committee seat in St. Pete 88-40 to Blanche L. Ganey. According to Agan, Helm recruited candidates like Ganey in key precincts to establish a powerbase from which to run for a state committee seat in December.
Agan said some members are combing bylaws, but it appears that come the December reorganization, Molinaro will be unable to run to keep her position as party chief.
"He's very destructive," Agan said. "It's not about the party. It's only about Ed Helm."
Neither Helm nor Molinaro could be reached. Local political consultant Mitch Kates said that if Helm and his backers are in fact behind Molinaro's ouster, they have no place in the party, particularly now when a Democratic resurgence appears possible.
It's important, Kates said, to keep perspective on what happened to Molinaro.
"I'm not thinking about that right now," Kates said. "And I bet Toni's not thinking about that right now. We have to focus on waging war effectively. It's all about Nov. 4."
-Will Van Sant, Times staff writer