Are Florida's political parties even relevant anymore?
There's an old saying among university faculty members that politics in academia are so vicious because the stakes are so low.
The expression came to mind watching the impressively Machiavellian maneuvers of assorted Democratic and Republican activists vying to become the next leaders of their respective state parties. These races seem to grow increasingly heated just as the parties become less and less relevant.
The Democrats have been particularly ruthless and conniving, as activists in assorted county parties stealthily worked to knock out of contention several top candidates to lead the beleaguered state party. Victims included Alan Clendenin of Tampa, vice chairman of the state party; former congressional candidate Susannah Randolph, one of the state's leading political organizers; former state Sen. Dwight Bullard of Miami-Dade; and former lieutenant governor nominee Annette Taddeo of Miami-Dade.
On the Republican side, state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, is trying to hold his $115,000-a-year party chairmanship from Sarasota state Committeeman Christian Ziegler, who insists the state GOP needs a full-time chief. Underlying fissures represented in that race include friction between Republican state senators and state House members, Donald Trump loyalists versus Republicans skeptical of him, and an unprecedented split between the state party and the state's most important Republican, Gov. Rick Scott, who is widely expected to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.
Ziegler is a serious contender, but I would never bet against a former professional poker player like Ingoglia. He has the backing of Marco Rubio and a host of other key Republicans. Plus he's coming off an excellent election cycle for Florida Republicans.
Yet the Florida GOP under Ingoglia's chairmanship is Exhibit A for why the job doesn't mean much anymore.