Christian Ulvert, the Florida Democrats’ political director, is gone but other Florida Democratic Party staffers will need to go as 2016 draws close.
Ulvert simply did not live up to expectations after Allison Tant brought him on board with the Florida Democrats in April 2013.
“We are excited to bring someone of Christian’s talent on board,” Tant said when Ulvert joined the Florida Democrats. “Christian brings a deep knowledge of Florida politics and strong relationships with elected officials to the party’s operations. He will be a crucial member of our team as we build upon the gains of 2012 and work toward our No. 1 priority: defeating Rick Scott.”
But Ulvert didn’t help take down Scott as Charlie Crist, a close ally of Ulvert’s old boss Dan Gelber, came up short. Nor did other Florida Democrats make much headway in an admittedly good year for Republicans. None of the three Democrats running for Cabinet office came close and only one of them –attorney general candidate George Sheldon — was even remotely respectable. Tant and Ulvert simply failed to recruit presentable statewide candidates to run against Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam.
Nor were things better on the legislative front. Under Tant’s and Ulvert’s watch, six House Democrat incumbents went down to defeat; not a good result considering Ulvert used to be in charge of House campaigns for his party. Democrats didn’t even bother to field enough candidates to have a mathematical chance of flipping the Senate. Not a good record by any means.
Tant and Ulvert also presided over party squabbles. They didn’t give Nan Rich the time of day and ensured Crist, who had been a Republican only four years before, would be their nominee. The Florida Democrats also got into a squabble between Darryl Rouson and Mark Pafford over who would lead the House caucus this year. Tant and Ulvert got Rouson’s scalp and put Pafford in charge — but the caucus ended up depleted when the smoke finally cleared.
With Ulvert leaving, Tant might bide herself some time to turn things around. But 2016 is just around the corner. Democrats need to win Florida if they want to keep control of the White House and, even with Ulvert going back to his own communications firm, there is nothing to indicate Tant is up to the task.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.