Five questions for outgoing Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant:
As you prepare to leave office after four years, what would be your advice to next chairman and other leaders in the Florida Democratic party? Put another way, if could do anything to change or reform the party in Florida to make it more effective and successful, what would you do?
My advice would be to never take your eye off of fundraising. If I could change one thing about the party it would be to modernize and streamline the bylaws and governing structure to allow more people to enter the process. I think reforming the bylaws would go a long way towards improving our inclusivity and grassroots engagement.
Is the Florida Democratic Party today stronger than it was four years ago? Eight years ago?
Financially and organizationally we are in a much stronger position now than we were four or eight years ago. We’ve maintained a larger professional staff and managed to shatter all previous fundraising records. While building a bench isn’t a process that can be completed in one or even two terms as chair, but I’m confident the gains we’ve made will pay dividends in coming cycles. We’ve also managed to make strong inroads in Vote By Mail, data, and digital programs since 2013. The Municipal Victory Project has helped the FDP flip city council and county commissions as well as pick up seats in red areas.
With the growing importance of independent political committees, and with money-raising largely dependent on legislative leaders, isn't the party chairman's job becoming less and less relevant? Does it even matter much who the next chairman is, so long as competent administrative staff is in place? What would you hope to see in the next chair?
It’s certainly true that over the last 30 years the influence of parties has changed and that trend has only accelerated post-Citizens United. This isn’t a trend either state party chair can dramatically alter so the focus has to be on adapting to the new realities and figuring out how to compete for resources. The next chair must be able to manage the party, get our message out to Floridians, and successfully raise enough money to compete in as many races as possible.
Anything you would do differently if you could or wish Clinton and other campaigns did differently?
Obviously hindsight is 20/20 but I think we should have pushed ourselves to work harder in ex-urban and rural areas. There were certainly working class voters in ex-urban areas we could have held on to with more outreach.
Given the continuing GOP dominance in Tallahassee government and therefore in fundraising, do you expect another tough off-year election in 2018 when virtually every statewide office will have open races?
It remains to be seen how a backlash to Trump’s presidency could impact races down ballot. This will be the first off-year cycle with a Republican president since 2006, when Democrats won a cabinet seat and made strong gains in the legislature. I’m confident we will have some strong contenders for statewide offices in 2018.
--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times