The local Democratic Party is utterly dysfunctional.
There’s no other plausible reason why the party hasn’t put forth a candidate for either the state attorney’s or public defender’s office. This year, five Republicans are running — three for state attorney, two for public defender — yet the Democrats haven’t managed to shuffle out a single candidate for those offices in eight years (and those were incumbents).
It can’t be true that, of the thousands of attorneys who live in the Fourth Judicial Circuit, not a single one is a) a Democrat, b) marginally qualified and c) willing to run; nor can it be true that it would be an exercise in futility for a Democrat to run for either office, particularly considering the FrankenTrump monster scaring Republicans away from the ballot box on the daily and the fact that minorities, those most affected by the injustice in our justice system, are particularly engaged in the outcomes of these elections and more likely to vote for Democrats. What can and must be true is that local Democratic leadership is lazy, ineffective or fraught with infighting — hell, maybe all three.
It’s easy to blame the candidates themselves — either the write-ins or those who “encouraged” those individuals to file — for closing the August primary and effectively banning anyone who isn’t a registered Republican from voting in the race for state attorney and public defender.
But shouldn’t voters also blame Democrats for failing to dig up one single power-hungry attorney to run against the Republicans? Heck, they probably wouldn’t have to dig at all, just swing a dead rat somewhere near one of the three courthouses in the circuit.
Sure, it’s not entirely local Democratic leadership’s fault; after all, Florida is one of many states in which both parties have carved out a whole bunch of nice, safe districts with a battleground or two for good measure, protecting their candidates from making concession speeches on Election Day and, in the process, pissing all over our democracy.
They’re playing the same game, but Republicans are a helluva lot better at it.
While Republicans have long been able to maintain hyper-focus on a handful of issues — taxes, guns and national security — Democrats, especially local ones, are as splintered on issues as party membership is diverse. Look at the tug-of-war between black and white Democrats for proof; it’s hard not to notice that no white Democrat has hustled to support Corrine Brown. While chastened Republicans like Paul Ryan are swallowing the bile in their throats to squeeze out a couple of grunts supporting FrankenTrump, white Democrats can’t even muster a single “innocent until proven guilty” comment for Corrine.
It’s no wonder we’ve had 20-and-counting years of Republicans handily maintaining control of the state legislature in spite of the fact that there are close to 300,000 more registered Dems in Florida. For the same reasons, Jacksonville, a city with more than 20,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, is represented by a city council comprising 12 Republicans and seven Democrats.
This still doesn’t excuse Democrats from rustling up an honest (enough), experienced (enough), ethical (enough), electable candidate to run for state attorney and/or public defender and go toe-to-toe against the winner of the August Republican primary. There might be 40,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the circuit, but it’s not like besties-turned-worsties Angela Corey and Matt Shirk are slam-dunk candidates; rather, both are limping on the ballot, dragging big, nasty ankle weights made of the scandals and questionable ethics that have plagued their terms in office, treasure troves of goodies from which their opposition — even a Democrat — could mine for campaign materials.
Unwilling to trust Republicans to choose the state attorney and public defender on behalf of all voters, right now scores of Democrats in Northeast Florida are doing something they thought they would never, ever do: registering Republican. They’re doing it so they have a say in who will occupy two offices of great public importance.
Who could blame them? (Never mind that if any one of those people decides to run for office, they’ll have to explain why they’ve flip-flopped party affiliations, Ed Austin/Charlie Crist/Hillary Clinton-style.)
What these people also should be doing is contacting the local, state and national Democratic Party to ask why it’s handed the offices of State Attorney and Public Defender in the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Florida over to the opposition without so much as the pretense of a fight.