Chris Mitchell officially becomes new head of Hillborough County Democratic Party

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That's easier said than done of course, but after having been routed in every competitive race in which they had a candidate last month, it would seem that the minds of the membership would be centered on trying to pick up the pieces as the 2012 election campaign has already begun in some ways.  Vanquished candidates such as Russ Patterson, Stacy Frank and Michael Steinberg were among those in the audience.

One of Mitchell's jobs will be to raise money.  "Is this party viable?" he asked rhetorically. "Do people believe that the Democratic party here can effectively push our principles and get our candidates elected?"

He said that he hoped to build up a deep bench of candidates, so there would no longer be a "Jim Norman situation."  That was a reference to the fact that even when the former Hillsborough County Commission was seeing his credibility being shredded in the papers on a daily basis before the general election, he still was elected to the state Senate in District 12 because the Democrats did not field a candidate (not the first time that failure has hurt the party against a vulnerable Republican).

Mitchell also called on members to take the initiative and get more involved with the party.  He said for the next 30 days he would field requests for inclusion into being on different committees or chairs of those committees.  "If you want a seat at the table, you have to show up. " He also said he was forming an interim committee that would be to advise himself, the steering committee, and all candidates on legal issues.    And he said he wanted to hire an Executive Director for the party, a volunteer position that would work on day to day tasks.

Tampa City Council candidates Chris Cano (running in District 1) and Seth Nelson (running in District 3) were in the house and made short speeches about their candidacies.

For years, the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee has been riven with dissension, which, considering their spotty record in elections over the decade, has obviously been a distraction.

Now the newly minted chair of the party, 26-year-old Christopher Mitchell, says that will be a relic of the past.

In a surprisingly packed room at the Hillsborough County Children's Board in Ybor City, Mitchell was elected without any opposition, where he will succeed Pat Kemp.

The Hillsborough DEC actually voted unanimously for an entirely new slate of executive officers Monday night, with Lisa Montelione becoming the new Vice Chair, Ella K. Coffee the new Secretary, and Marilyn Cappiello the new Treasurer for the party.

Mitchell addressed party members who suffered one of the most devastating elections that they've ever dealt with as Democrats.    He said it was time to get over the pain of November 2.  "Now I know, including myself, we have all vented.  We have been angry.  We have lashed out at our party leaders.  The President himself.  That's fine.  It's therapeutic.  That needs to end tonight."

Then he addressed the history of the local party's many divisions.  "For way too long this party, it's been divided.  There have been groups. Some groups feel like they haven't gotten enough attention.  Well, that ends today as well.  We're going to be unified."

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