There’s cause for sincere optimism and genuine enthusiasm coming out of this past weekend’s big Florida Democratic Party Powwow.
The Jefferson-Jackson (JJ) Dinner serves as annual tone-setter heading into each year’s elections. Staring down the barrel of a bevy of critical 2010 midterm contests, a diverse, energized crowd of Democrats from all across the state gathered in Hollywood, Florida and showed spunk, strength, smarts, and solidarity.
Alex Sink, soon-to-be Democratic nominee for governor, was featured at the Saturday Night Main Event. She did well in overcoming a fractious microphone, remaining poised and managing to move the crowd with a human interest story spun around the simple words, “Come With Me“, which she had spoken in seeking immediate help for a struggling firefighter’s widow she encountered on the campaign trail. Sink repeated the refrain as a clarion call to all Floridians getting the short end of the stick from their government.
Given the huge number of citizens in such great need who have gotten so precious little help from the Republican-dominated government in Tallahassee, Sink’s message is one that will resonate with many. Democratic party faithful will certainly help carry that message forth into a general election battle that will pit her against a GOP opponent – be it Bill McCollum or Rick Scott – who sorely lacks the kind of character and compassion she radiates so naturally.
The more opportunity that voters have to compare Sink to either of those two men, both so intent on little more than pandering to the haters and dividers in the Conservative Republican ranks, the more they will like this moderate Democratic businesswoman and mother with brains and savvy, plus heart and soul.
There were other important signals of solidarity to come in the Fall on display at the JJ. In the U.S. Senate Race, billionaire newcomer Jeff Greene sought to reassure voters he really is a solid Democrat, in part by pledging to support primary opponent Kendrick Meek if and when the time comes. For his part, Meek gave a confident, constructive and strong speech, underlining his long track record of service and achievement for Floridians. While he didn’t reciprocate Greene’s endorsement pledge, one can rest assured he will go out of his way to seek Democratic unity and victory come November.
The two fine candidates for Attorney General, State Senators Dave Aaronberg and Dan Gelber, both pledged that they would support the other in a run against likely Republican nominee, the Pro-Gun, Anti-Choice conservative, Jeff Kottcamp. That’s enormously important, because Gelber and Aaronberg are about as smart, tough and popular as they come in Florida politics, and all best hands will be needed to prevent another disaster of an Attorney General like Bill McCollum from getting elected.
Speaking of best hands, “All hands on deck” is one of two key rallying cries to come out of the JJ, and it came from Ron Klein, the terrific congressman representing Florida’s 22nd CD. His call to arms came in a solid speech firmly framing his dangerous – in more ways than one – opponent, Allen West, as an extremist member of the Sarah Palin/Tea Party radical right wing of the Republican Party.
The other motto Democrats should carry into the general election battle came from Scott Maddox, candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Affairs. He gave a tough as nails speech calling out the shameless hypocrisy that has people like Allan West, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott pointing to hard-working Democratic public servants as if they’re responsible for the mess the GOP has made of things. “Bring it on!”, roared Maddox, summoning exactly the kind of passion and vigor needed to fight the bullying tactics being bandied about by the Republican Party of Florida.
When all was said and done, this year’s Jefferson Jackson event succeeded in giving Democrats an inspirational blueprint for victory in November. Stay strong and tough and fired up in fighting for what we know is right, in fighting all the Republican distortions, lies and attacks. Fight with simple truths and facts. Stay compassionate in recognizing the plight of working and struggling Floridians, and passionate in advocating on their behalf.
And above all, stick together, work harder than ever before together, and win together.