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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nepotism alive and well among Democrats

In a state with Castors, Meeks, Bushes, Bilirakises, and Diaz-Balarts, we probably shouldn't be surprised to see nepotism popping up in the FDP's elections of wanna-be delegates to the Democratic national convention. But with interest stonger than ever in becoming delegates - even with all the uncertainty - there's a growing Buzz of discontent over the deck being stacked for relatives of party insiders in big south Florida counties that dominate the state Democratic executive committee. Among them: Lori Glasser, daughter-in-law of Diane Glasser; and Jared Moscowitz, son of Mike Moscowitz.

There's also grumbling about Miami-Dade Chairman Bret Berlin pushing for his mother to be elected to one of the 40 at large delegate slots that nearly 400 people are vying for. But Democrats being Democrats, they have big time affirmative action guidelines, and Berlin tells Buzz he's actually not voting for his mother and is discouraging others from doing so. Why? Because mom's not black, Hispanic, native American, Asian, disabled, a vet, gay, lesbian, bi or transgender and thus doesn't fit the affirmative action plan.

"Especially on Mother's Day, it's not easy to have that discussion with your mother,'' Berlin said of opposing his own mother's candidacy. Below is an e-mail making the rounds of Democratic activists. The header: "Broward and Miami-Dade party leaders abusing the system for their own special interest"

The e-mail: "At the recent State Executive Committee meeting to elect Party Leaders and Elected Officials (PLEOs), delegates were elected by a weighted-vote formula. This puts almost all the power to elect our entire state's PLEOs in the hands of a few people who represent the largest Democratic populations. In theory, this may be fair, but in practice it invites abuse of power.

The reason for this letter is because the evidence of such abuse was rampant at the meeting. I could cite many examples, but here are four that make my point:

A delegate was elected whose main qualification was that she is the daughter-in-law of her county's State Committeewoman.
Another delegate elected was the son of the same county's State Committeeman. Yes, he's an elected official—a small-town vice mayor representing a population of 23,000 that's 91.4 percent white. Is this a PLEO who is representative of the Florida Democratic Party at large?
A recently elected City Council member John Dingfelder was elected a delegate.
Also elected was Frank Williams, who is neither a Party Leader nor an Elected Official and should have run for an at-large seat. His election has also incited the Unions because another delegate Mike Williams, president of the Florida Building & Construction Trades Council, which represents unions in the Florida AFL-CIOwas denied for Frank Williams, a contractor who uses non-union labor.

Meanwhile, six important and deserving PLEO candidates—State Senate Democratic Whip Dave Aronberg, State Legislature Democratic Whip Franklin Sands, Representative Arthenia Joyner, Representative Terry Fields, Tallahassee Mayor John Marks and Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan were denied places in our delegation. In fact, only 25 percent of the PLEOs elected were Florida House and Senate leaders and big-city mayors.

These elected officials are the public face of the Florida Democratic Party, and their faces should be seen at the convention. We often hear that our elected officials don't always respect our efforts. Maybe that's because we do not show them the respect they've earned.

Remember, too, that PLEOs are supposed to be elected in accordance with our diversity goals. I challenge anyone to defend on that basis the PLEO slate that was elected. 

One person did attempt to defend the PLEO election by saying that "in politics there are tradeoffs." Yes, of course tradeoffs and compromises are a part of politics, but when we trade away our party's principals we betray the trust of every member of the Florida Democratic Party, and that is shameful. 

Lest anyone think this matter is of no consequence outside the "inner circle," think again. Many Democratic activists and party supporters are not happy, and some are showing their disgust already. Martin County's 2nd Annual Golf Tournament was put on indefinite hold because Union support for it dried up after the spectacle of the PLEO election—and this was not an isolated reaction—Okeechobee County also felt the slight at a recent JJ event.   

On May 17th, we meet again to vote for 40 at-large delegates and 6 Alternates. Let's resolve to end the same old cynical game of horse-trading, currying or repaying favors, rewarding friends and punishing rivals, or building a power base as the basis for selecting delegates. Let's put an end to the hypocrisy, cronyism and nepotism we witnessed at the PLEO vote. At the very least, let the names of those who present slates be clearly identified, and let claims of broad support or the Chair's support not be made when not true.

The 2008 Democratic National Convention will be the most important in recent memory, perhaps the most important in our lifetimes. Unlike recent conventions, the nominee may not be known beforehand. There may well be a floor fight over the seating of the Florida and Michigan delegations. We may even see the torch of leadership passed to a new generation. We owe it to the future of our party to choose delegates who are responsible, dedicated, deserving on merit and—above all—representative of the Florida Democratic Party at large.

Celeste Bush, Chair
Democratic Executive Committee of St. Lucie County

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:57am]


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