BY BUDDY NEVINS
A political party sole goal is to win elections.
By this measure – the only one that counts — the Broward Democratic Party has been astonishingly successful in the past 20 years.
Despite of tens of thousands of its most reliable condominium voters, Democrats have continued to win elections. Despite the ascendance of the Republicans statewide, Democratic candidate still win in Broward.
Again and again.
Yet Broward’s veteran Democratic boss Mitch Ceasar is fighting to hold on to his job?
For Ceasar it’s deja vu. He has been challenged every four years since first being elected local Democratic chair in 1996.
This time Ceasar‘s opponent is Cynthia Busch, a Plantation activist.
She’s a securities broker who got involved in Democratic politics as a volunteer in John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. He’s a lawyer and sometimes lobbyist who has been an active Democrat since helping college days, even helping launch the Tamarac Democratic Club in the 1970s.
Once she became involved, Busch gravitated towards a group of dissidents inside the party that has fought Ceasar for years. The group’s Godmother is Barbara Miller, a political consultant and lobbyist who helped on the first 1996 campaign against Ceasar and has never let up.
The next party leader will be chosen in an inner-party election involving roughly 850 Democratic committee men and women who were elected in the August primary. State legislators living in Broward can also vote. The election is scheduled for Dec. 9 in a Tamarac banquet hall.
The Party’s Problems
Busch is right about one thing. The party is clearly sclerotic when it comes to modern campaigning.
It is two decades into the Internet revolution and the party still lacks a meaningful web presence.
Ceasar promises to step of the Democrat’s Internet efforts. He promised the same thing in the past and for awhile he delivered.
A sophisticated website was built which won a national award by the American Association of Political Consultants for best Local/Regional Organizational Website. He also started a campaign on YouTube.
Sometime since then, Ceasar drifted away from his dedication to more modern communications.
Part of this is because Ceasar appears uncomfortable with the Internet himself. I know of no other executive – Ceasar’s formal title is chair of the Democratic Executive Committee –who lacks a computer in his office.
His lack of action in this left his opponent for chair Cynthia Busch, a party activist, a big opening. No wonder the first plank in her platform is a promise to “Revamp our communications systems, including our website, email communications, social media, and mailers.”
Busch also guarantees to create issue-based committees within the party organization and emphasize “human contact” with voters, along with an effort to “support, launch, and elect Democrats.”
Ceasar has largely had a laissez-faire attitude towards the recruitment of new candidates. He has sponsored some, but most just come to his door.
Beyond that, Busch presents as new ideas things that are already being done such as raising money and having a party office, which the Broward organization has had for years.
Both candidates for chair are shading the truth.
Ceasar is overemphasizing his role in the recent Democratic sweep in Broward. “This was the best funded best worked and best coordinated effort by any local party –ever!” Ceasar wrote to party activists.
But the local party had little to do with what happened on Election Day.
And the huge turnout Obama produced carried the rest of the ticket.
Now Ceasar was a key spokesman for the Democrats and Obama in Florida. He spent hours on television and talking to reporters. That really was his major role.
Mitch Ceasar: Promoting Ds On TV
Busch has resorted to half-truths or misstatements, too.
She wrote in her campaign statement that in the 2012 election “our deep blue county was dead-last in voter turnout among Florida counties.”
Broward had a 66 percent turnout. Palm Beach County had a 64 percent turnout and four other counties had lower or were tied with Broward.
She called the low turnout the “same problem” that is “partly responsible for Rick Scott winning that election in 2010.”
It is true that Scott’s opponent, Democrat Alex Sink did poorly here, only running up a 131,000 Democratic margin. Broward had a low voters turnout of 41 percent.
Can it be blamed on Ceasar? He didn’t help, but who can spin lead into gold?
Sink was one of the worst statewide candidates ever fielded by the party.
Others agree with me: Florida Trend this month called Sink’s 2010 campaign “lackluster” and states, “MSNBC branded her the year’s worst candidate.”
Sink not only ran up a substandard margin in Broward. She also carried her home counties — Hillsboro and Pinellas – by only 26,000 votes. That mirrored her performance in almost every county in the state, where she lagged previous candidates.
The bottom line in all this infighting is that the Broward Democratic Party counts for little and will continue to count for little…no matter who runs it.
Candidates today create their own organizations. They use party activists because those are the people interested in politics, but the campaigns always maintain control.
Campaigns reach out themselves to leaders in the ethnic communities, condos and in neighborhood organizations. They don’t need or want the party to be more than a conduit to these folks.
Campaigns handle the media, advertising, phone banks and all the other trappings of a modern campaign. What the party can do is help and be cheerleaders, but that’s about all.
The Broward Democratic Party’s role reminds me of the Free French Army in World War II. The French were helpful, but they did not by any means play a pivotal role.
So maybe when they vote in December, Democrats should consider above all: Does Busch or Ceasar look best in a beret?
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