Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Never Forget Why

When you're building any organization, much less a DEC, you will undoubtedly run into frustration and stress. If not, you're probably not changing anything.

There are setbacks, mistakes, arguments, etc. which can bring you down. However, in times like these, just remember one thing: why you're working hard in the first place.

Read More at Build Florida's DECs...


Monday, July 30, 2007

"Better Know" Who?

Is there an elected official or candidate for office at the state or local level that you think the public ought to know more about?

Submit your suggestions in our Better Know Survey and we may use your suggestion in an upcoming profile. The survey ends Tuesday August 7th at Noon.


Blogging Florida Roundup

What the blog is going on in Florida?

Susan S asked if there will be any Florida Kossacks at YearlyKos, so if you're planning to attend please give her a shout out.

Florida Republicans offer 24-hour service to $100,000 donors; Residents still await tax relief - by Michael Calderin

On Change in Tallahassee, you can vote on the Florida Straw Poll - should we have one at the Florida Democratic Party Conference in October?

Gatordem at Florida Kossacks points out that an article in the Bradenton Herald about Vern Buchanan is Not the Vern Buchanan We Know.

There's a new blog on these here internets: Praxis by Vrej Esphanian.


Friday, July 27, 2007

FDP Chair Karen Thurman Answers Your Questions

Last week, I put up a notice to the Netroots that we had the opportunity to interview Karen Thurman, the Chair of the Florida Democratic Party and invited you to submit your own questions. So here is our Q&A:

Q. Will Rogers famously quipped, "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." How is the Party building a better organization here in Florida and what can the Netroots do to help?

A. First, I can say that the Party has increased efforts to reach out to more like-minded groups, outside of the traditional county structure. These include the Netroots, Democratic Professionals Council, progressive religious leaders, and Democracy for America. We’re building infrastructure with regional organizers in the off-year, thanks to the DNC’s State Partnership Program. These staffers are working with the county parties to build the ones that need help and grow the ones that are established. They also work on special elections and municipal races so we have a Democratic bench for the future. We’re actively recruiting candidates in State House, Senate and Congressional races across the state, giving them guidance and helping to set up winning campaigns.

Where the Netroots can really help is with communication, by serving as watchdogs, and providing an outlet for more people. On the communications front, if you see something that works in Pinellas, you can communicate that to people across the state and spark a discussion in a way that has never been done before. No longer do Democrats from Escambia and Miami have to wait till a major Party event to exchange ideas.

As watchdogs, you can help Democrats in Tallahassee, where the overabundance of Republican spinmeisters lull reporters into assuming what they are saying is the mainstream view, and any disagreement on party lines becomes an immediate, “Dems say this, GOP says this” story, when the reality may be that the GOP is just wrong. That’s when people outside the Party offices can really make a difference. When the Netroots stir up an issue and keep it going, it can spill over into the mainstream – like it did in Virginia with the George Allen/macaca controversy, which probably delivered the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. You guys got Kottkamp to fess up to editing his Wikipedia page, and I think that’s just the scraping the surface of your potential in a state that has produced the likes of Katherine Harris, Mark Foley, Rhonda Storms, Ken Pruitt, Ralph Arza, Tom Feeney and Bob Allen. The Party doesn’t have the money to put a tracker or researcher in every Congressional district, but the Netroots, in everybody’s spare time, can contribute by keeping an eye on the GOP in your local area, both in person and online. You never know what you might turn up.

And thirdly, I think the Netroots can help channel the energy of people who aren’t comfortable with the DEC structure and who may be willing to give their time to phone bank from home, like MoveOn did in the last election, instead of at the local DEC office. This is an area where I think there is amazing opportunity as well, so we need to keep the discussion going. I urge everyone who considers them a member of the Florida Netroots to brainstorm ways in which you can turn online activism into votes for Democrats. Many of you have met or talked with Phil Perry, our IT Director, and he continues to work on ways the Party and the Netroots can work together to accomplish our joint goals.

Q. Eddie asks: What steps is the party taking to get more young people active and involved in Democratic campaigns and causes? Do you believe the contributions of young people have ever been undervalued in the past, and if so, how are you changing this?

A. The Florida Democratic Party has always led the way with youth-driven programs and never undervalued our young voters, but outreach costs money and there hasn’t always been the funding to do what we want. We’re trying to change that, working to strengthen the Florida Young Democrats with a “hand up, not a hand out” as Bill Clinton would say. We’re giving them space and the resources to hold a fundraising breakfast at the State Convention to help raise dollars and their profile. The YDs have a great new leader in Alan Brock, the Chair of the Wakulla County Democrats (a little county south of Tallahassee). They’ve got our full support, and we’re expecting big things from them soon.

In the past the Party has spearheaded organization on college campuses with the Donkey’s Rock tour, aid for the creation of College Democrat chapters through out the state with ad buys in local college newspapers, grants for supplies and more. In the fall and throughout 2008, we hope to do ramp up these types of activities.

We believe that we are on the cusp of truly capturing the youth vote and finally awakening the sleeping giant in Florida. As you may have read in the newspaper, youth voter turnout in Florida is one of the lowest in the nation. We believe that by using new technologies to foster two-way communication, building on past successes with the Young Democrats, College Democrats and new initiatives like the 20Twenty Futures Program and the Democratic Professionals Council, we will develop long lasting relationships with young voters in our state who will actually go to the polls and help Democrats win.

Q. Vrej asks: Do you consider Gov. Charlie Crist's image as a moderate Republican an opportunity or a challenge for Florida Democrats?

A. I think that the Charlie Crist we see today is not the Charlie Crist we saw during the campaign, and that’s what we have to keep in mind when we examine his record. We also have to remember that the initiatives that he has partnered with Democrats to push (namely climate change, stem cells, paper ballots and insurance reform) should never have been partisan issues in the first place. They’re just common sense, and against the backdrop of the Bushes and other extreme Republicans, pretty much any common sense action is going to stand out.

Also, the Governor really hasn’t extended himself as much as the media has made it seem. He supported stem cell research, but not the most promising embryonic stem cell research. He supported insurance reform, but didn’t propose a plan to make it happen. He held a climate summit, but used executive orders to make change instead of forcing the Legislature to get to work on this pressing issue.

But, when we look back at the past six months, we see that all of the Governor’s major initiatives have long been supported by Florida Democrats. Now, is that a challenge for us? I think it’s great for us – and the people of Florida. The question for the Governor may be will his right-wing support him when he has to make a tough decision or when he runs for reelection? Speaker Rubio slammed Crist twice on two different issues in the past week so we may see a fracturing of the GOP, which could help Democrats in future elections.

Q. Gatordem asks: What does the FDP have in the works this cycle to increase Dem voter turnout in 2008?

A. We’ve been working on a lot of different projects, not all of which I want to reveal just yet. We have regional organizers on the ground, working certain targeted areas where we think early action can make a difference. The test case for us was the House District 49 race, in which we had the time, the resources and the support of other groups to beat the pants off the Republicans on the ground. From what we’ve heard, that race was a wake-up call at RPOF HQ, which is probably why they attacked Suzan Franks so early. So I’m hesitant to get into too much detail, but I promise you we’re several months into a program that is targeting areas of the state we have determined to be ripe for change. (Sorry! I know that you probably want more detail, but my staff wants me to keep quiet for the time being.)

Q. Gatordem asks: Do you have any regrets in how you handled the situation regarding your lobbying for Miami-Dade County port security?

A. I regret that it ended up in the newspaper! No, but seriously, I understand why the way it was presented in the Miami Herald and St. Pete Times created some concern. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the story right. To be clear, I don’t work for a Republican and I don’t report to a Republican.

Since before I became Chair, and I have had my own lobbying and consulting firm. Recently, I teamed up with Eric Gould, who served as my former legal counsel from when I was on the House Ways and Means Committee and later worked in the Clinton Administration. In addition to working with me, Eric, a good Democrat, is a partner at Tew Cardenas, a firm that, yes, is part-owned by former Republican Party Chair Al Cardenas but employs Republicans, Democrats and non-partisan folks. Eric asked me to help them lobby on behalf of Miami-Dade County because of our new Democratic majority in Congress. After careful consideration, I decided, because the issue is one that I feel is very important, that it would not conflict with my duties as Party Chair. And it hasn’t. In fact, it’s opened more doors for Party fundraising than I ever imagined.

Now, I am not and have never been opposed to fully disclosing my outside income as Chair, and I’m certainly not the first chair to have other interests. However, our Party bylaws don’t address the issue. But now we are in the process of discussing how to best to go forward. One option is to amend the bylaws with a procedure for disclosure, since that really seemed to be the issue for people that had concerns.

I assure you, I still spend most of my waking hours working for and worrying about the Party. If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband!

And finally, if people really are concerned about anything I’ve done as Party Chair, I encourage you to write to me or call me with your concerns before you go to the papers or secretly videotape my conversations (it’s happened!). We’re all in this together, and the more we attack our own, especially when the facts aren’t clear, the more we cede the upper hand to Republicans. Their Party, for good reason, is getting fired at from all sides. If we want to take back Florida, we should be getting out of the way, instead of taking bullets for them. We have got to stick together and trust one another or we’ll never win. (I’m not talking blind, Bush Republican-type trust, but you get what I mean.)

Q. Ron Mills asks: What can we do, if anything, if our county has purchased the VAN, but has not provided training or even access to the VAN to elected DEC members or even elected leaders?

A. Please contact Ben King, our voter file director, to discuss access issues. He can be reached at 850-222-3411 or bking@fladems.com. The Party is holding trainings, independent of DECS, around the state as much as we can. Look for an announcement about training at the State Convention in October, much like we’ve done at the past two JJ Weekends, except bigger.

Q. DrBruce asks: I know that the VAN has the capability of connecting to a predictive dialer. However, the system used is extremely expensive, at 25 cents per minute per user. Even minimal use of 20-30 hours per week over a single month would exceed the cost of a stand-alone system. What plans does the FDP have in place to connect to a stand-alone predictive dialing system?

A. Predictive dialers are a great way to streamline the process of calling voters and improve efficiency. We are currently working with the voter file vendor to assess the technical feasibility and proper steps forward on this issue. The Party is committed to aiding county and progressive organizations and candidates with as many methods of voter contact as possible. If you would like to know more, this is another issue that Ben King can assist you with.

Thank you so much for your questions. Talk to you again soon!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How Did Your DEC Do?

I have more than half of the DEC contribution stats for Q2 this year. Check it out.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Blogging Florida Round Up

Gatordem - Blog Florida Blue Logo Contest Winner

SemDem - WTF? What FL Bush Supporters Have STOOPED to ...

Florida Progressive Radio - Special guest Clint Curtis

RockRichard - A Progressive Soldier's Manifesto: Why I'm a Democrat


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Voter Registration Trends

If you haven't already read them, kansasr wrote two nice and succinct posts on voter registration trends in Florida.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

They come complete with maps...always my favorite part.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Happy Blogosphere Day!

Celebrate this 4th Annual Blogosphere Day by saluting one of our best tools: ActBlue! With the help of services like ActBlue - we'll be able to Blog Florida Blue.

Matt Stoller - The Open Party Committee

Senator John Kerry - Blogosphere Day

Senator Dick Durbin - Actblue -- an engine for progressive change

General Wesley Clark - Blogosphere Day: Time to Invest in Our Future

Tim Tagaris - Actblue and Blogosphere Day

Act Blue has its own run down of public statements on Blogosphere Day: Blogosphere Days Supports Act Blue


Evaluating Local Republican Websites

We've talked about the need for better websites for DECs, and websites for DECs that currently don't have one. Fortunately for us, local Republicans fare just as bad if not worse. Here are some observations:

Read more at Build Florida's DECs...


Monday, July 16, 2007

Blogging Florida Roundup

What is the blogosphere writing about Florida?

Well, the news about Bob Allen (R) made quite a stir, so rather than rehash all the links here, I'll refer you to the Florida's Progressive Coalitions handy dandy summary of diaries instead:

Bob Allen Roundup

Bob Allen Roundup: The Sequel

Just for good measure, check out:

Non-Sexual Florida Republican Hypocrisy

Also check out:

davidkc's post on Daily Kos Florida going green, led by an "un-Bush" Repug

jpfdeuce's post on Daily Kos FL-HD 48 Zimmermann to run again

A new diary about the JJ Weekend by thefos: Obama - thefos and bobnbob's blog for change

Congrats to Tampabay Democrat, this piece was featured in a Google News alert: Edna Walters, GOP Donor to Commissioner Higginbotham, Gets Hillsborough Cty to Pay Her Bills: GOP Commissioner Blair Obeys Donor Davis


Interview FDP Chair Karen Thurman

Want to ask the Chair of the Florida Democratic Party a question? Well, now's your chance! Florida Netroots has been granted the opportunity to interview Karen Thurman, so send along your questions to me by Noon tomorrow (I know, short notice) and your question may be used in our interview.

Email Us Your Question


Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've talked about the need for DECs to have websites, and what good ones can do. However, I want to plug a particular peice of the website puzzle which I've only linked to in the past: CiviCRM.

CiviCRM is really only for DECs that have people who are techies. I say that because CiviCRM is a pretty complex package to install and use. However, once you have it, I think its a really great tool.

Read More at Build Florida's DECs


Vote by Mail Trivia

Yesterday, College Progressive posted on FLA Politics the Absentee Request Information for all 67 Counties. It sparked quite a bit of discussion about how those of us in the netroots could encourage people to vote using an absentee ballot and how we could compile this information in a format that could easily be distributed offline.

Here's an interesting piece of trivia. Did you know that Florida already has something called the Mail Ballot Election?

Title IX, Chapter 101 Sections 101.6101-101.6107 of the Florida Statutes are cited as the "Mail Ballot Election Act."

Granted its use in the state is rather limited as defined in Section 101.6102 excerpted below:

(1)(a) An election may be conducted by mail ballot if:

1. The election is a referendum election at which all or a portion of the qualified electors of one of the following subdivisions of government are the only electors eligible to vote:

a. Counties;

b. Cities;

c. School districts covering no more than one county; or

d. Special districts;

2. The governing body responsible for calling the election and the supervisor of elections responsible for the conduct of the election authorize the use of mail ballots for the election; and

3. The Secretary of State approves a written plan for the conduct of the election, which shall include a written timetable for the conduct of the election, submitted by the supervisor of elections.

(b) In addition, an annexation referendum which includes only qualified electors of one county may also be voted on by mail ballot election.

(2) The following elections may not be conducted by mail ballot:

(a) An election at which any candidate is nominated, elected, retained, or recalled; or

(b) An election held on the same date as another election, other than a mail ballot election, in which the qualified electors of that political subdivision are eligible to cast ballots.

The procedure outlined in Section 101.6103 looks pretty straightforward:

(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (7), the supervisor of elections shall mail all official ballots with a secrecy envelope, a return mailing envelope, and instructions sufficient to describe the voting process to each elector entitled to vote in the election not sooner than the 20th day before the election and not later than the 10th day before the date of the election. All such ballots shall be mailed by first-class mail. Ballots shall be addressed to each elector at the address appearing in the registration records and placed in an envelope which is prominently marked "Do Not Forward."

(2) Upon receipt of the ballot the elector shall mark the ballot, place it in the secrecy envelope, sign the return mailing envelope supplied with the ballot, and comply with the instructions provided with the ballot. The elector shall mail, deliver, or have delivered the marked ballot so that it reaches the supervisor of elections no later than 7 p.m. on the day of the election. The ballot must be returned in the return mailing envelope.

There were even two identical bills in the Legislature this session HB383/SB1608, both of which died in committee, to expand the provisions of the law to allow counties to conduct county elections by mail ballot:

(c) A board of county commissioners may declare that a county election shall be conducted entirely by mail ballot. The board of county commissioners shall make that declaration no later than 90 days before the date of the scheduled election.

So, on a small scale, in very specific type of elections (such as a city annexing a piece of property), Florida is already doing vote by mail.

How has in worked in practice?

Well, in terms of voter turnout the results are mixed.

A recent election in Hamilton County this past May was discouraging.

Less than a fifth of registered voters returned their mail ballots for the Economic Development Property Tax Exemption Referendum on May 29, 2007:

Total Registered Voters = 7,723
Voter Turnout Total = 1,292 (16.73%)

However, in Brevard County, an election to annex a portion of the county to the city of Melborne had better results:

Total Registered Voters 173
Total Ballots Cast 127 (73.41%)

Of course, these are two very different counties and they were voting on entirely different issues, but it does cause one to wonder what it takes to get someone to vote.

Kansasr wrote an interesting piece on FLA Politics on the Challenge of Absentee Ballots detailing examples of the numbers of people requesting absentee ballots who actually return them. It looks like roughly a quarter do not return their ballot, although a small fraction of those do end up voting at the polls instead.

This provides us with an interesting puzzle to solve that is anything but trivial.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

GusWatch: A Model Local Blog

Some disclosure: One of the main contributors of GusWatch is a fellow manager at the Florida Progressive Coalition.

One of the many things that was discussed at the Netroots Luncheon during JJ Weekend is the need for more local and specialized blogs. The same thing was said over the weekend during the first edition of Florida Progressive Radio. I've talked about the need to set up and develop local progressive blogospheres in the past.

The blog GusWatch is an example of what we would all like to see more of...

Read More at Build Florida's DECs...


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Importance of Municipal Elections

Back in 2005, I proposed to the small Coordinated Campaign team at the Marion DEC that we should really focus on municipal races (that is, city council races.) They are incredibly small and easy to win, and they pay huge dividends down the road when we're looking for candidates at the county and state level. I was basically told to go ahead, yet due to my own greenness and naivety, I really got nowhere. Besides, I had to go attend my first semester of college at UF at the end of the summer.

Yet had I been successful then, we could have started seeing some of that effort bear fruit for the 2008 elections. You see, as I alluded to earlier, city councilmen and women make great candidates for the county commission, school board, countywide constitutional offices (tax collector, property appraiser, etc...) and state representative. The bottom line is that city councils are where we incubate and develop future candidates. This, by the way, is how Republicans slowly took power in Florida: they started at the municipal level and slowly but surely worked their way up the ladder.

In areas of the state where Democrats are currently out of power, DECs should really focus on recruiting city council candidates as a way of building the bench for future elections.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Blogging Florida Roundup

What is the blogosphere writing about Florida? The Netroots will post a periodic roundup of what our fellow bloggers are writing.

a gnostic on dkos writes: Internal city memo of "vote caging" surfaces in Florida

doorguy on dkos writes: Florida Soldier to Sue Army to Stop FIFTH Deployment

Ron Mills on Broward's Blog: Army Pvt. Daniel Agami

kansasr posts on Build Florida's DECs: 2008 Florida House Targets

Sunny at Smashed Frog writes: YearlyKos is not All of Us


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Promoting Local Party Events

If I didn't attend local DEC meetings, I would have no idea how the party interacts within our community. As I learned at the DFA training in Tampa, those of us to attend party meetings (or go to trainings for fun on a weekend) are strange. Normal people don't have the time, interest, or patience for such things. However, they do care about their communities and come election time they're going to be asking themselves "what have you done for me lately" of both parties. I've discovered that even "when you're strange" it isn't easy to find out what the local party is doing. So, I've come up with a few helpful suggestions to promote local party activities to both the regular and odd Democrats out there.

What prompted me to write this is that I found out that the DEC here in Leon County was participating in a 4th of July event, not from a local source, but from the regional director of one the Democratic Presidential campaigns. So, the local party does a better job of communicating among themselves and to the national party than it does to its own constituents. To quote from the movie Cool Hand Luke "What we've got here is ... failure to communicate."

So here's a list of ways DEC's can promote their events:

List Event on State Party Website

Why more DECs and Democratic clubs don't do this is beyond me. It's not difficult at all. Here, let me walk you through it.

Go to fladems.com. From the red menu at the top of the page, put your cursor over "Get Active" and select "Create or Find an Event" from the list of options.

Next, select "Plan an Event". Enter the Zip Code where the event will take place and select what type of event it is from the list of options.

If you do not already have an account, you'll be asked to create one before you can add addtional details about the event, otherwise just login, fill out the rest of the requested information and hit submit. Viola! You're Done!

List Event on Local Party Website

First of all, if you represent your local DEC and it doesn't have a website, contact the Florida Progressive Coalition. They can help you get started.

If you have a website use it! It is discouraging to see Local Party sites with little or no useful information or information that is out of date. The Leon County Democratic Party is still telling people to vote on June 26th for Suzan Franks.

If you're going to have a holiday pinic or are recruiting Democrats to serve as mentors in schools or some other community project - put it on your website.

Send Announcements to Your Public Mailing List

Many DECs have a mailing list, of sorts, to communicate with fellow committee members, but lack a more general list to send information to the public. Mailing lists are an easy and cost efficient way to get your message out.

If you represent a DEC and it doesn't have a mailing list, you can set one up on Google Groups or Yahoo Groups very easily for free or if you want something more sophisticated ask your web services provider or ask for advice from the Florida Progressive Coaltion.

Make sure that you keep it simple. On the Leon County Democratic Party's site the link to "Become a member!" and the link to "Get email updates!" asks you to fill out the same information in the form. So much information is requested to get simple email updates that its likely to discourage people from filling it out.

As you can see, the form is so long it scrolls beyond the end of the screen. The Florida Democratic Party's site has it right. It only asks people for their email address and zip code. Usually a name and email address is the only information that should be required and it should be clear to the user what information is required and what is optional.

List Event in the Local Newspaper

Most local newspapers provide a community calendar or listing of events and provide this service FREE of charge. Here in Leon County, the Tallahassee Democrat makes it easy. You simply fill out an online form and your event will appear in both the online and print edition of the paper.

Another good resource are your smaller community newspapers. In some cases, you can even submit a story and pictures about your event for publicaction.

Radio Stations and Local News

Local radio stations and your local news channels also like to provide information to their audiences about community events. Here in Tallahassee, WCTV the local CBS affiliate, has a page on their website where you can submit a community event.

Meetup.com and Social Networking Sites

Meetup.com is a great tool for building up the local party and notifying people about events. A couple of caveats. First, Meetup.com is free for visitors, but if you want to set up a Meetup.com site it will cost you $12 a month for the service. Second, if you set it up - use it! I signed up for the Tallahassee Democratic Party Meetup Group and showed up to two meetings where nobody from the local party attended.

You can also set up free group sites on places like MySpace.com, Facebook.com and Gather.com. These social networks are particularly useful if you're trying to attract more 18-35 year olds to your events.

Democratic Yahoo or Google Groups

As I mentioned earlier, Yahoo and Google provide free and easy to use mailing lists. There are tons of them that center around the topic of politics and Democratic politics in particular. Chances are, there's one based in your local area. Simply have a member of your DEC join one and post local party announcements.

We have one for Leon County on Yahoo called dem-fl-leon and the local DEC never posts anything to it. It isn't a case where they didn't know it existed. The Leon local party also has a Yahoo Group just for DEC members, which I tried to join just to see if I could get in. The Chair of the Party, politely rejected my request for membership and referred me to the aforementioned Yahoo Group.

Local Activists

Finally, the one resource for getting the word out about party events are your local activists. There's nothing like good old-fashioned word of mouth. Here in Leon we have a local veteren who organizes peace vigils and anti-war demonstrations. He's more than happy to advertise liberal events via his mailing list.

There's also local groups that are a part of the Democratic coalition such as the local chapter of the Sierra Club, the local DFA, etc., who may be able to help spread the word depending upon the nature of the event. You can also try the new Florida Progressive Calendar.

There's a wealth of resources out there to promote the party and advertise its activities in the community. These are just some of the ones that came up off the top of my head. If you have other suggestions, post them in the comments.