by Mitch Perry
Saturday morning in the Central Florida town of Lake Mary, the Florida Democratic Party elected Tallahassee fundraiser Allison Tant to become their new chairperson, defeating Tampa based Democratic National Committeeman Alan Clendenin 587-448.
In a show of unity that was missing throughout their short but intense campaign that lasted less than two full months, Clendenin was then elected vice chairman, with the two then grasping their hands over their heads.
"We are going to work together, we are going to be unified and we are going to beat Rick Scott," Tant said immediately after the vote was announced. "We are going to turn this party into a powerhouse for winning elections with the talent, energy and vitality of the people in this room."
The Tampa Tribune's Windy March reports that 54 votes were ruled invalid by outgoing chair Rod Smith, though even if they had gone Clendenin's way it would not have affected the final tally.
Today had been eagerly awaited by many in the Florida Democratic Party, not so much because they supported either candidate per se but because they couldn't wait for the sniping between supporters of the candidates to cease, which presumably will now happen.
Clendenin, the Tampa based former union man who briefly entered the contest to replace then departing Florida Democratic chair Karen Thurman in late 2010, had worked tirelessly to spread his grassroots message up and down the state, and found a lot of buy in from the 1,150 or so state committeemen and women, caucus chairs and elected officials who made up most of the electorate deciding the race.
Once Tant got into the race his rhetoric became more anti-establishment, claiming that Tant represented the status quo who have been responsible for the party's impotence when it comes to power in Tallahassee over the past decade.
Tant resented that characterization, despite the fact that she was in fact recruited by party bigwigs like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Bill Nelson to challenge Clendenin.
The strongest part of her background was her extensive and prodigious fundraising prowess, which many people in the party believe is the number one attribute required to be a successful party chair.
Now with this election over, the party can began turning their attention to trying to gain on their successes in 2012, when they surprised most political analysts in turning the state a blue one for Barack Obama, as well as re-electing Senator Bill Nelson, electing four new members of congress, as well as making gains in the state legislature, including gaining seats in the Florida Senate for the first time in three decades.