Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Generational challenge brewing in vote for state Democratic party chair

The November election is over but another is heating up in the Florida Democratic Party.

Andrew Gillum, considered a rising figure in the party, said Tuesday that he is challenging establishment favorite Rod Smith for the job of state chairman.

"Our party has to pivot toward the future," the 31-year-old Tallahassee city commissioner said in an interview.

Gillum began the campaign Monday and has been calling Democratic committee members, party fundraisers and union leaders, pitching himself as a fresh alternative, who also as someone with experience with state and national politics.

He helped raise money for Barack Obama in 2008 and serves as national executive director of the Young Elected Officials Network, an arm of the People For the American Way Foundation.

But Smith responded Tuesday with the endorsements of several top Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings and Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich.

"Certainly new direction is needed and that's why I'm offering myself," Smith said, noting his experience with fundraising and statewide network.

Gillum was careful to praise Smith, who was Alex Sink's running mate in her unsuccessful bid for governor and ran his own unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2006. But in selling himself as an energetic, new face, Gillum implied Smith, 61, represents the past.

"This last beating really hurt us and at the end of the day, I have to believe Florida Democrats want to win elections," Gillum said. "We have to put in the infrastructure to make that happen."

Karen Thurman announced shortly after the election that she would step down as chairwoman.

Gillum said Democrats failed to engage voters early enough and allowed the GOP to paint them as the reason for the poor economy, despite Republican control in Tallahassee. "There's probably plenty of blame to go around about what happened," he said. "My focus is how to make sure we start early, we're engaged."

Gillum's backers say he has the right profile: He's young, African-American, was the first of his family to attend college and is charismatic. He was elected to the city commission at age 23.

But Smith is a veteran of state politics, including a stint as state senator from the Gainesville area.

Aside from the late start, there are some logistical hurdles. Gillum would need to become a state committeeman or a county party chairman to be eligible for the job. Gillum is neither.

There is wrangling behind the scenes among Leon County Democrats to change that.

The state chairman will be elected in a vote — probably in January — of nearly 200 Democrats who make up the party's executive board. The group includes committeemen and committeewomen from all 67 counties, along with eight county party chairmen, eight legislators, seven members of Congress and Sen. Bill Nelson.

Generational challenge brewing in vote for state Democratic party chair 11/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 10:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Charlie Crist sees turning point with GOP and Trump

    Blogs

    Rep. Charlie Crist was at his St. Petersburg condo building today when a painter suddenly said, "Can you believe what he said yesterday?"

    John McCain and Charlie Crist
  2. Lefty quarterback's task? Make sure nothing's lost in translation

    College

    GAINESVILLE — When Florida receiver Brandon Powell first met new quarterback Malik Zaire this summer, he was struck by the Notre Dame grad transfer's enthusiasm and outgoing personality.

    Florida quarterback Malik Zaire talks with the press during the NCAA college football team's media day in Gainesville. Zaire is a lefty quarterback, just like Tim Tebow. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP, File)
  3. Obama's post-Charlottesville message most-liked tweet ever

    Nation

    The Lincoln Memorial is seen in the early morning light on the National Mall on June 30, 2017. The National Park Service says someone defaced the memorial with an anti-law message early in the morning on Aug. 15, 2017. [Associated Press]
  4. Bail hearing underway for woman accused in Selmon crash that killed three

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Amber Nicole Perera sobbed and hung her head at the defendant's table Wednesday as prosecutors displayed photos of the charred remains of a Tampa family who died in a flaming crash that Perera is accused of causing Thursday on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

    Angela Perera, charged with DUI manslaughter in a crash that killed three on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway on Aug. 10, 2017, bows her head as she appears in court on Aug. 16, 2017. Circuit Judge Margaret Taylor tells Perera to compose herself or she'll be removed from courtroom. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
  5. Trans-Siberian Orchestra to tour, play Tampa's Amalie Arena after death of founder Paul O'Neill

    Blogs

    Four months after the death of founder Paul O'Neill, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has announced it'll resume touring this fall, with a stop in O'Neill's home base of Tampa.

    Trans-Siberian Orchestra