Andrew Gillum keeps plugging away against Rod Smith
Most of the Florida Democratic Party activists we talk to say Rod Smith already has the votes locked up to win the state party chairmanship Jan. 9. At the same time, we're hearing plenty of grumbling about backroom deals and no sign of retreat from challenger Andrew Gillum, left, the Tallahassee city commissioner.
"We are on the phone really all day talking to the state committeeman and women and the people who have a vote,'' said Gillum, who says he has commitments from Leon state committeeman Jon Ausman and every candidate running for the Leon chairmanship to ensure he becomes the Leon chairman or state committeeman at the party's Dec. 6 meeting and thereby qualify for state chairman. "The reality is our party needs a shift, it needs a change, it needs in many ways to reinvent itself and get back in touch with the base. When we talk to our base and we motivate them and we include them we win elections. ... We need a strong messenger who is not gong to be Republican light."
Other candidates for state chair, including Hillsborough State Committeeman Alan Clendenin, outgoing state House Democratic leader Franklin Sands and Palm Beach Democratic chairman Mark Siegel, have withdrawn and thrown their support behind Smith. That has led to a good deal of grumbling about deal-cutting even from allies of Smith.
The unconfirmed and widely repeated talk among prominent party activists, operatives and fundraisers is that Smith has agreed to serve just two years, that he will support Siegel surviving as chairman of county chairs (positioning him well to run for chairman after 2012), and that Sands, who lost a fortune investing with Bernie Madoff, will get some kind of paid gig working out of a South Florida office.
"There's no deal about succession or anything else ... There was an agreement on ideas, that's all,'' said Siegel.
We haven't managed to talk with Smith yet.