Andrew Gillum out in race for Florida Democratic Party chair - Rod Smith is home free

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Smith did run a spirited campaign for the 2006 Democratic nomination for governor, running to the right of his opponent, former Tampa Congressman Jim Davis. That's where he was backed by Big Sugar, in the form of major campaign contributions to third party groups.

Forget about that? Here's to job your memories:

If he didn't have a sugar daddy, Smith's campaign would be practically out of business. From Aug. 15 through Aug. 31, U.S. Sugar contributed 20 times as much money to outside groups supporting Smith as Smith had left in his own campaign coffers, according to  forms filed with the Secretary of State's office.

The connection between the sugar industry, a powerful force in Florida politics, and Smith is well documented by the state press. As a state senator, Smith was instrumental in passing Everglades cleanup legislation that went easier on the sugar companies than prospective alternatives.  Also, a top consultant to the Smith's campaign serves as a U.S. Sugar lobbyist.

This is the change agent that the FDP needs to move forward in elections?  Well, the powers that be think so, and I suppose that's really all that matters.

CL contacted reached out to Andrew Gillum before he issued his press release for comment.

Tallahassee City Commissioner 31-year-old Andrew Gillum, who just 8 days ago told CL that he was determined to become the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party, announced this morning that he is dropping out of the race, and is endorsing Rod Smith.

"Rod Smith is committed to delivering the reforms that the Florida Democratic Party needs to win elections, which is why I am proud to offer him my support," said Gillum. "My candidacy was always about moving Florida forward, which required a serious dialogue about how we motivate our base, build our infrastructure, and recruit the next generation of Florida Democrats. We will make these reforms, and we will win elections."

Gillum's endorsement confirms what Alan Clendenin, an earlier candidate in the race told CL last week - that the votes simply weren't there for Gillum, and that Rod Smith had essentially wrapped up statewide support last week.

One thing is for certain and should not be forgotten by Smith and his supporters, including Clendenin, a Hillsborough County State Committeeman who initially supported Smith, then decided to challenge him, and then backed him again (and said he believed he had the votes to be a serious contender): that is,  that though the people who vote and have power in the Florida Democratic Party may think it's all good that Smith will be their leader, there are others who do not.

For one thing, some ask what Smith brings to the party?  He wasn't much of a presence during the gubernatorial campaign, running as Alex Sink's running mate.  Then again, that wasn't really Smith's fault, as he didn't control where he went during the election cycle, though several critics mentioned they barely knew he was on the ticket, so infrequent were his appearances.

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