Although it appears that Rod Smith may declare his candidacy on Monday to be the next chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, he is absolutely not the favorite of everybody inside the party who has a vote, and one candidate, Hillsborough State Committeeman Alan Clendenin, announced on Saturday that he is back in the race to lead the party going forward.
Clendenin told CL on Thursday that through he thought he might have the votes to succeed current chair Karen Thurman after speaking with Democrats throughout the state, he would step aside for Smith if he was committed to becoming the chair (Thurman officially announced her resignation on Friday).
But Clendenin says that after an extensive phone conversation with Smith on Friday night, he doesn't believe that the former state legislator and gubernatorial candidate will be able to devote his full energies to reenergizing the party, whose ranks were demolished in the midterm election 11 days ago.
Smith intends to continue to try cases at his Gainesville based law firm of Avery & Smith and specifically defend Amendments 5 &6, the constitutional amendments that would make the drawing of legislative and congressional districts fairer, and which is already being challenged in court.
Smith is definitely the establishment choice, and is now being backed by Senator Bill Nelson, outgoing House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands, incoming House Leader Ron Saunders, state Senator Nan Rich, and former chair Karen Thurman.
But Smith's declaration that he will continue to try cases means to Clendenin that he won't be 100% focused on getting Democrats elected in 2012 and beyond, and says that's what's compelling him to re-enter the race.
"We don't need somebody who's not invested 24/7 in the position," Clendenin says.
In comments made to the Palm Beach Post on Friday night, Smith acknowledged that he doesn't want to splinter the party in running for the position.
I want to be a unifier. I dont want to create division, said Smith. This isnt like a lot of campaigns. This is about trying to make sure that you first do no harm. Right now Im focusing on trying to convince people that this is the right thing to do for me and for the party but I also remain open to listening to peoples concerns."
But frankly, it is somewhat of a campaign right now, and Clendenin says he thinks the math may be on his side in terms of getting the support for the chair. "My advice to him was to pull out a spreadsheet, get the weighted votes, call them, and start checking them one at a time and start counting your votes because that's what I did."