Florida Democrats ponder their fate
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11/21/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

Although Barack Obama won the state of Florida and key bay area counties like Hillsborough and Pinellas, he carried few local candidates on his coattails.

The Florida Democratic Party won a total of one legislative seat in the 2008 elections, and there has been talk that Chairwoman Karen Thurman may be challenged for her job next month.

Jon Ausman, a member of the Democratic National Committee, based in Tallahassee, says the problem with Democrats not making larger inroads in Florida is because of the way the Senate and House Districts are drawn to favor incumbent Republicans.

Florida Democrats picked up a total net gain of one new member to the Legislature this year. In ’06, seven Democrats picked up Republican House seats.

That’s anemic compared to how Democrats did around the rest of the country in state legislative seats. Nationally, in the last two election cycles, Democrats picked up 72 state senators and 350 state represenatives, in addition to their better known gains in the House and Senate.

An Associated Press study of the Florida election showed that more Floridians voted for John McCain than Barack Obama on Election Day, but the Illinois Senator essentially won the state in early and absentee voting, beating McCain by 11 points in those categories.

Ausman says there are definitely aspects of the Obama campaign in Florida from which local and state Democrats can learn. Ausman is urging the Florida Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee to get more involved in targeting legislative seats and recruiting high quality candidates to run in those seats. But he says things won’t get better for Florida Democrats unless they can control re-districting of legislative seats the next time that happens, in 2012. And that’s why he says though Democrats don’t seem to be aggressive in defeating Charlie Crist in 2010, they should fully think of the consequences.

The St. Petersburg Times reported today that possible challengers to Karen Thurman include Miami-Dade Democratic chairman Bret Berlin and Flagler County Democratic chairman Doug Courtney.

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