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Pinellas County Democratic Party Shows Need for New Model

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Regarding the September 17, 2006 St. Petersburg Times Editorial, "Helm drives Democrats into a ditch"

I spent the better part of four years involved with the Pinellas County Democratic Party also called the Pinellas DEC or Democratic Executive Committee in Florida, at least half of which was in a leadership position on the board. I worked with so many talented and well-intentioned people. I think the vast majority of members and leaders fall into this category. Unfortunately, there have also been a handful of people whose priorities and/or sanity are/were seriously in question. These people also seem to be quite committed (pun intended) to whatever goals they were seeking to accomplish. If you have ever tried to fight a battle to accomplish something against someone who is obsessed or insane or a control freak (or some combination of the three), you know that such a battle is extremely draining and discouraging. Many people faced with these sorts of issues at the local county level of their party quit rather than have their lives consumed by the level of energy expenditure needed to keep fighting or prevail.

What I think the state and national party has to decide is whether the current model still makes sense. The current model consists of letting local counties completely run their local parties without the benefit of any substantial guidance by political professionals. I do not think this works anymore. This model results in interpersonal conflicts over choice of nominees in the primaries and elections to leadership positions on the board, chair people and other board members who do not understand how to manage people properly or exhibit unhealthy levels of controlling behavior with regard to the work of the people who report to them and various other issues. If you look at the recent 10 year history of the Pinellas DEC, the DEC has been too distracted by these issues to do an effective job of advocating for positions or candidates. Since the I-4 corridor of Florida of which Pinellas is a part is the key to winning the state of Florida for either statewide or Presidential candidates, anything that detracts from the mission of the Pinellas DEC has massive statewide and national implications.

The current chair is one of the people that I and several other people spent considerable time and effort attempting to prevent from attaining any sort of leadership position in the DEC because of a fear of exactly what we see happening now among other things. One of the cornerstones of the rules of DEC operation is that the DEC is not supposed to appear to support one candidate over another in a Democratic Primary. Obviously, the chair is supposed to lead the DEC by, among other things, exhibiting the best possible adherence to DEC and state party rules and regulations. I think we can all see that this is not happening now and it requires immediate corrective action by the state party.

The state party should take control of the Pinellas DEC and return order by placing a strong leader from the state party in charge who has excellent people management and political skills. Going forward, the state should consider scrapping the current model with one that gives the state more positive control over county activities. The state should discuss how to implement this with the DNC in accordance with the national party's fifty state strategy. Winning or being competitive in fifty states necessarily means being competitive in or winning a majority of each state's counties. This will not happen if things like are currently happening in Pinellas occur with any sort of regularity around the country.
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A political blogger for the International Business Times, Steve Leser is a hot national political pundit. He has appeared on MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Russia Today's (RT) Crosstalk with (more...)
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