Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

Romano: Democrats' handling of District 13 race is an epic failure

Just so we're on the same page here:

It is neither accurate nor fair to Democrats to call what occurred in the District 13 congressional race a blunder. I wouldn't even say it was a mistake.

No, in the reflection of what is now a Democrat-less race, it is best described as an epic failure. Or if you prefer colossal failure, I won't quibble.

For just a moment, forget the details and the explanations, and consider it from this big-picture point of view:

When a special election was recently held for this seat, it was so evenly matched, so critical, so down-to-the-wire close that the entire nation was paying attention and calling it a harbinger of things to come in Congress in 2014.

And now, two months later, your local Democrats don't even have a candidate who has qualified for the general election in the fall.

Losing is one thing, self-immolation is another.

Somehow, in a largely purple district, Democratic leaders maneuvered so slowly and ineffectively that David Jolly will essentially run unopposed eight months after winning by less than 2 percentage points.

Now, to be fair, there are some extenuating circumstances that contributed to this goof parade. (Even if contributing and excusing are two different things.)

For instance, Alex Sink did not do Democrats any favors. There were 52 days between her loss to Jolly in the special election and the deadline for filing for the November election. Sink burned 35 of those days before announcing that she wouldn't run again.

The Democratic Party had already invested a ton of time and money in Sink in the buildup to the March 11 election, so it made sense to give her the first crack again. But leaders should have been working a lot harder behind the scenes once it became clear that she was not going to be eager to jump right back onto the campaign trail.

With the clock suddenly a factor, they tried recruiting Obama administration adviser Eric Lynn and state Rep. Dwight Dudley, but both decided the time wasn't right.

"It's always flattering to have people talking to you about doing an ever-bigger job," Dudley said. "But I felt like I still had unfinished work trying to repeal the utility tax, and I didn't want to make Duke Energy happy with the idea that I might move on."

There was also the clumsy and foolish way local Democrats handled the brief candidacy of the Rev. Manuel Sykes, no matter how much of a long shot he would have been.

Not to mention the complete lack of vetting when it came to quasi-Democratic candidate Ed Jany, whose campaign didn't survive the scrutiny of a single Tampa Bay Times story that raised questions about his resume.

But those are mere details. Humiliating, humbling and infuriating details, but details nonetheless.

The greater issue is how Democrats found themselves in this bind in the first place.

Where is the next generation of candidates? Where is the vision? Where is the leader who has the first clue how to defeat Republicans in a state that tilts slightly left?

This can't be excused as a mere blunder. It is much larger than that. It is substantial, and it is alarming.

Who shows up at the Kentucky Derby without a saddle? Or the Daytona 500 without fuel? Who thinks it is okay to pass on a winnable seat in Congress because someone forgot to pick up the candidate on the way to the polls?

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