Jameel McCline is running for Congress in Florida's 20th congressional district. He and his McCline for Congress team took note of today’s Sun Sentinel story about how the state Florida Democratic Party (FDP) renamed this weekend’s annual fundraising gala in Hollywood, to dispel any and all possible connections to historical racial prejudice. Now, they're urging the party to focus instead on the political prejudice weighing it down, and holding it back.
What for many years was the "Jefferson-Jackson" fundraising banquet has been retitled the "Leadership Blue Gala." As with similar name changes in recent years for the Palm Beach and Broward County versions of the event, the statewide party decided that because Presidents Jefferson and Jackson were both slave owners and facilitated mistreatment of Native Americans, they weren't appropriate symbols for "today's" FDP.
What rankles McCline & Co. is that they see the FDP striving to avoid any association with racial prejudice, while perpetuating a tradition of denying more progressive, younger, African-American, Hispanic and other "New Majority" candidates the equal opportunities they need to succeed -- if and when they dare challenge incumbent Democrats. McCline elaborates:
It turns out, no matter how much you embody Democratic principles, no matter how much new energy and effectiveness you can bring to the table, no matter how much you can engage and activate new voters -- it's not enough to get you equal access to state party data and information from past elections, the kind of information that's so important in planning and executing a winning campaign."
McCline's referring to "The VAN" (Voter Activation Network); a sophisticated set of software tools that gathers and keeps records about individual voters, their voting patterns, political concerns and more, based on numerous years of different Democratic campaigns' door-to-door canvassing, phone-banking and other voter interactions. When the FDP found out McCline was running against 77-year-old, 11-time incumbent Alcee Hastings and requesting to buy the invaluable VAN, the party put up a NOT FOR SALE sign. Fortunately for McCline, his field team has forged its own effective workaround.
Interestingly enough, McCline says his time walking FL CD 20 and knocking on doors is a reminder of just how wrong the party establishment is to discourage even-handed competition in primary contests like this one.
Day after day, people one after another tell me they need more from their congressman. Half or more don't know who he is. In our poorest communities, people ask why they never see him, why they've been left so far behind the rest of the district, why he doesn't do more to help. In affluent areas, nobody can name any major legislation or accomplishments of his. Wherever I go, people appreciate my passion for bringing new energy, accomplishment and accountability to the district, and Congress. So it's more than a little disappointing that the Florida Democratic Party establishment isn't encouraging a fair fight."
In fact, FDP incumbent favoritism goes well beyond refusing access to voter histories. There's also a controversial "neutrality" policy "prohibiting" local party organizations from making endorsements in primaries, even though human and other resources often start flowing to incumbents well in advance of primary elections. Opportunities to speak at party meetings and events are also restricted - not for incumbent elected officials, just for their primary opponents. Email, phone and donor lists are also off-limits. McCline says his campaign has channeled frustration with the situation, into determination.
"Making it so hard to compete with an incumbent, that makes our team work twice as hard to overcome the obstacles. Voters deserve new progressive choices and voices for Congress. Block that, and more people disengage and sit out the elections. But beware of "The Cantor Effect". There are lots more disenchanted Democrats out there than the party establishment thinks, hungry for change, And we're going to get their votes."