Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Democrats' infighting escalates with firing of two staffers

TALLAHASSEE — Just what the Florida Democratic Party needs: more disarray, firings, infighting.

Chairwoman Allison Tant fired two high-ranking staff members late Thursday, the same day it was reported she discovered the existence of a fundraising committee that could be controlled only by incoming House Minority Leader Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.

The shake-up is just the latest sign that as the party heads into next year's elections hoping to win back the governor's office and gain a few more seats in the Legislature, leaders are mired in bitter turf wars.

Gone are Jeff Ryan and Chris Mitchell, the party's chief staffers behind financing and strategy of House races. The pair helped set up the committee with Rouson without Tant's consent.

"This is an overreaction by the party and retaliatory in nature," said Mitchell, 29, who served two years as chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party before getting tapped by Rouson seven months ago to serve as political director. "I'm a little disappointed."

Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, said Ryan's fundraising acumen will be missed, but Tant had no choice.

"I hate to see Jeff go," Fullwood said. "He's been a great resource, but he should have known better. He had a responsibility to give Allison a heads-up. This is a move she had to make."

The personnel decisions provide an increasingly not-so-rare glimpse of internal strife within a party that's struggling to compete statewide against Republicans.

Tant took over as state chairwoman in January after defeating Hillsborough County Democratic state committeeman Alan Clendenin in a close campaign. Rouson and Mitchell publicly supported Clendenin's bid.

The following month, Rouson narrowly defeated Rep. Mia Jones of Jacksonville to be House Democratic leader for the 2014 and 2016 campaigns. Since then, Rouson, a former Republican, has had his leadership openly challenged by other Democrats.

Tant, meanwhile, has had missteps, including quickly endorsing a candidate for chief financial officer last month, only to see him drop out after his personal bankruptcies were made public.

Rouson said he opened the committee to better raise money for candidates. Although Democratic leaders say Rouson has agreed to close the committee, Rouson hasn't confirmed he will.

Rouson slammed Tant for sending a letter Thursday alerting all Democratic House members that the party preferred the existing committees that it controls. Party spokesman Joshua Karp said the letter was intended to inform members that Rouson was making changes to current fundraising practices, and that Tant prefers existing practices.

Many Florida Republicans tweeted in glee over the backbiting. On the quality of Rouson's leadership, Republican strategist Rick Wilson tweeted, "That reminds me I need to send him a check."

Contact Michael Van Sickler at (850) 224-7263 or

Florida Democrats' infighting escalates with firing of two staffers 09/06/13 [Last modified: Friday, September 6, 2013 10:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump to skip Kennedy Center Honors awards program


    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Acknowledging that he has become a "political distraction," President Donald Trump has decided to skip the festivities surrounding the annual Kennedy Center Honors arts awards later this year, the White House announced Saturday amid the continuing fallout over Trump's stance on last weekend's …

  2. Bucs' annual Women of RED preseason party attracts nearly 2,000


    TAMPA — Theresa Jones is primarily a college football fan, but she wanted to get a taste of the Bucs. So the 46-year-old Tampa resident bought a ticket for the team's Women of RED Ultimate Football Party at Raymond James Stadium on Friday.

    Lee White of Seminole tries on a helmet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers female fans descended upon Raymond James Stadium for the ultimate football party, the 2017 Women of RED: The Takeover, supported by Moffitt Cancer Center. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times

  3. Bucs' Ali Marpet: Move to center could pay off big


    TAMPA — No player works as closely with Jameis Winston as the center. Only those two touch the ball on every play. Together they make — if you will — snap judgements about defensive alignments.

     Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ali Marpet #74 warm up prior to preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) 700069805
  4. Inside the Rays continuing historically bad slump


    The numbers tell the story of the Rays inexplicable ongoing offensive slump, and the words detail how tough it has been to deal with.

  5. How Rays' Chris Archer is branching out on Twitter

    The Heater

    Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer (22) leans on the railing of the dugout during the All-Star game at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times