Well, it’s probably not how new Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel wanted to kickoff his efforts in critical Orange County. Sadly, it’s not surprising from the FDP though. As the state party hosts a reception in Winter Park tonight, the event started with a blunder causing additional drama in an already very dramatic local Democratic Party, according to local party members.
It appears there was absolutely no coordination with local party leadership, including Orange County Democratic Party Chair Wes Hodge, during the planning and roll out for the May 3rd reception. In fact, Hodge and other local party officials were missing completely from the original invitation and found out about the event second-hand.
According to several local Democrats, Hodge was reported to be irritated by the situation when they interacted with the Chair, however Hodge denies this completely (see below for update). At least it does appear he and other local Democrats were finally added to an email invitation list for the event.
Certain local figures with ties to the Tallahassee establishment – something Bittel is supposed to be reforming after year’s of losses and setbacks across the state – did show up on the host committee, while actual local party officials were kept off. Making matters worse, there are registered Republicans included on the host committee but no Orange County Democratic Party leaders.
No, Orange County’s Democratic Party Chair could not be included. The Orange County Democratic State Committeeman and Committeewoman just could not be included either. Scott Randolph and his wife Susannah, yes. Republicans like Martha Haynie, sure. Local Orange County DEC leadership, nope.
This is a small error in judgement and execution by the new state party administration under Bittel. However, it is reminiscent of the disconnection between the FDP and its local parties around the state as well as the lack of communication and execution that lose elections for Democrats in Florida year after year. It’s not a reassuring signal about the importance and relevance of local Democratic Parties by the state party.
“Getting informed and involved has never been more important in our state and our country,” the reception invitation said. Shouldn’t the FDP start with informing and involving its own local party leadership and members first? Oops, maybe next time.
Considering the notation stating the event is specifically “not a fundraiser,” this reception has an interesting host committee. Local Democrats will be able to identify the crowds angling for influence with the new party chair.
It is a good thing the new state Chair is focusing on Central Florida and Orange County, but hopefully the state party will start to work closely with local Democrats to develop a plan to win – and execute it together. After all, tonight is a meet-and-greet opportunity to mingle with Stephen Bittel right in our own backyard to learn the Florida Democratic Party’s plans for the mid-term elections and local Democrats need to be involved and engaged if things are going to change in Florida politics.
UPDATE: OCDEC Chair Wes Hodge disputes the internal party rumors but has yet to provide any additional information. Stay tuned for further updates. One thing is for sure, there’s definitely some more drama going down in the Orange County Democratic Party. This story has been updated to reflect Hodge’s position that he was NOT “upset or irritated” by the event situation.
Orange County Democratic Party Chair Wes Hodge did reply threatening to take “legal action” against West Orlando News – which is ironic that a Democratic Party “leader” would be opposed to free and open press reporting on a local matter based on leads and information provided by members of the Orange County Democratic Party. Hodge is claiming “personal privacy” however his role as the elected Chair of the local party, which is the only role referenced in this article, is a public and open elected position. This article pulls from various reports from local OCDEC members, who wished to remain anonymous due to possible retaliation from Chair Wes Hodge. This article is also a commentary published by Mike Cantone, WON’s Managing Editor.
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