Senator Bill Nelson is just about the only problem the Florida Democratic Party doesn't have. The 72-year-old senator is in his third term and always cruises to an easy reelection, and has held one elected office or another since 1973 save for a four-year gap in the early '90s. But is he really the man to trust when it comes to plotting the future of the state party? We'll find out.
Nelson has been named the co-chair of the newly announced Democrats' Leadership Expansion to Advance Democrats (LEAD) task force along with former Orlando Police Chief and failed congressional candidate Val Demings.
Despite a registered voter advantage and the gift of running against Rick Scott, a man who at times was the most unpopular governor in the country, the Florida Democrats were absolutely trounced in this month's midterm elections. They lost every single executive and cabinet race, and lost seats in the state House.
Part of the problem for the party is the fact they have a very small bench (i.e. potential superstar candidates rising in the ranks and waiting in the wings for a shot at higher office). Nothing illustrated that better than the fact that Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor, was the party's nominee this year.
So the LEAD task force's number one stated goal will be to find new ways to recruit better candidates. They'll also be looking at the party's use of technology and reassessing the party's field and voter turnout operations.
The task force will also include state Reps. Amanda Murphy of New Port Richey and Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami; Tampa Bay and Hispanic community leader Ana Cruz; Miami-Dade Democratic Chair and State Sen. Dwight Bullard; Florida Education Association Policy Director Jeff Wright; LGBT community leader Joe Falk; SEIU State Council President Monica Russo; Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox; FDP representative Patricia Byrd; former state Sen. and former FDP Chair Rod Smith; Palm Beach County Democratic Chair Terrie Rizzo; and former Florida Obama For America Director Ashley Walker.
There's some young guns in that group, including Miami's 36-year-old Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez. There are also some odd choices form the party's past, including Rod Smith, a 64-year-old who has had the distinction of losing statewide both as a governor candidate in his own right in the 2006 Democratic primary, and as Alex Sink's running mate in 2010.
But is Nelson the best choice to co-lead the task force? Sure, he consistently wins, but is he the model for success or the exception to the rule? The Florida Democrats sure have been running a lot of other white moderates from the central part of the state who avoid hot-button issues and that hasn't really been working out for them lately.