The traditional definition of a political parties is it’s a “group of people, similar in philosophy, who attempt to implement that philosophy through the capture of public offices”. This column questions whether either the local Republican and Democratic parties are able to capture local public offices.
Most campaigns know there are certain resources a campaign needs in order to win. The five most important would be: the quality of the candidate; adequate money; the use of technology; campaign supporters; and, a message that resonates with voters.
Money plays a major role in every campaign. It allows you to advertise, purchase computer hardware and software, train candidates how to present themselves to the public, and, provide campaign workers with lists and materials to contact voters.
For example, to send out a mailer to targeted voters it may cost you $500 for every thousand mailouts. The $500 covers design, printing, labeling and postage.
In the 2016 primary election roughly 40,000 Democrats from about 27,000 households cast ballots. Among Republicans 14,000 individual households cast 20,500 Republican ballots.
A single mailout to primary voting Democrats would cost $13,500 while Republicans can send mail to their primary voters once for $10,100.
Each of our major political parties – the Leon County Democratic Party (LCDP) and the Leon County Republican Party (LCRP) – are required to report contributions and expenditures with the Leon County Supervisor of Elections.
In 2017 the LCDP raised $850 and spent $2,171 (all of it on non-campaign related expenses). Its cash flow was a negative $1,321 for the year. The LCDP failed to stockpile any cash whatsoever for the 2018 elections. By comparison many Democratic candidates and local parties have raised record amounts of funds since a Republican President assumed office in January 2017.
The LCRP was more successful in raising funds. The LCRP in 2017 raised $27,740 and spent $18,512 (two-thirds of which was spent on the annual Lincoln Day Dinner). The net gain for the year was $9,228 which would almost fund one countywide primary mailout to Republican voters.
The LCRP was much more successful in banking funds than the LCDP. The LCRP net gain was $10,549 over the LCDP since the Democrats spent more than they took in.
Most campaigns attempt to reach voters four to six times through various means. Multiple contacts are necessary in order to motivate and persuade voters. Neither local county party is prepared to do so because they cannot afford to do so.
Another way to look at political party strength is to examine changes in voter registration. The Florida Division of Elections provides monthly reports by party by county. An examination of the monthly reports from December 2016 through January 2018 tell an interesting story.
Democratic registration in Leon County at the end of 2016 was 110,270. By January 2018 it was 107,927. This is a drop of 2,343 voters or minus 2.1 percent of the December 2016 Democratic total.
Leon County Republicans had 57,820 registered voters in December 2016 and by January 2018 they had 57,151. They lost 669 voters and had a minus 1.2 percent drop from their 2016 number.
Persons registering as non-partisan or with other minor parties rose from 35,771 in December 2016 to 39,653 in January 2018 for a net increase of 3,882 or a jump of 10.9% over the 2016 number.
If either political party was effectively transmitting its message and recruiting new voters one would expect a rise in their registration. This would be especially true if there was a strong “resist” effort in Leon County. Both local parties are torpid.
Political parties could play a critical role in local politics by: serving as a check on each other; making sure voters in various neighborhoods are informed and engaged; ensuring that elected officials hear the concerns of grassroots voters; and, by recruiting quality candidates of high ethical standards who are responsive to the needs of Leon voters.
Outside of an occasional press release the parties are not reaching out to voters. When was the last time a party volunteer, from either party, visited your house?
Neither local political party is providing a step ladder upon which local folks can run for public office because neither political party provides critical campaign resources candidates need to be successful.
Jon M. Ausman is the longest serving member of the Democratic National Committee in Florida’s history (December 1992 to January 2017). He also is the longest serving Chair of the Leon County Democratic Party in Leon’s history (April 1980 to January 2000). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 850-321-7799.