Maddox to lead Florida Democrats
Published: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 3, 2003 at 11:18 p.m.
On the Net:
Florida Democratic Party: http://floridademocraticparty.com/ or http://fladems.com/
Florida Republican Party: www.rpof.org
Party officials say Maddox, who has actively pursued the job of party chairman, has no competition as Democrats vote to select a replacement for Bob Poe.
"I haven't heard another name coming forward, so he'll be nominated and elected," said Ray Zeller, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party.
Maddox appears to be energizing the party two months after divided Democrats looked for someone to blame for their poor showing at the polls. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush trounced Bill McBride, the GOP swept the statewide Cabinet races and Democrats lost ground in the Legislature and in the state's congressional delegation.
"He's a young person in his 30s, he's educated, he has ties to both ends of Florida, he's a great communicator," Broward County Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar said. "He has all the political tools to keep us on the right track and make progress."
Maddox, 34, has served as Tallahassee mayor for nearly 10 years. He surprised many by earning 35 percent of the vote in a four-way primary for attorney general last fall, just two points behind former state Sen. Buddy Dyer, who won the nomination but lost to Republican Charlie Crist.
"We all realize across the state of Florida that we need to change as a party and we're anxious to get to work," Maddox said Friday while driving to Orlando.
"We need to look at our message as a party and clarify what we stand for as Democrats," he said. "We need to recruit candidates. We need to be the party of ideas."
Each of Florida's 67 counties will send a committeeman and committeewoman to vote for the new chairman, Poe said. The votes will be weighted, so votes from counties with more Democrats will count more.
Zeller and Ceasar - representing the state's two largest counties - both support Maddox.
"He has certainly locked more than a majority of the weighted vote," Poe said. "You're going to see unity coming out of the meeting. You'll see a level of excitement and enthusiasm. Scott brings a lot of energy."
Maddox will complete the remainder of Poe's term, which expires in December 2004. Maddox, who will remain mayor until an election in February, said he eventually plans to run again for statewide office and will evaluate his next political step at the end of 2004.
The state Republican Party is also going to choose a new chairman to replace Al Cardenas, who was one of the prime architects of the GOP's success in 2002. The Republicans are scheduled to make a decision Jan. 25 in Orlando.
Aubrey Jewett, a University of Central Florida political science professor, said he believes Maddox will help Florida Democrats take steps to rebound.
"I think he will start to turn things around," Jewett said. "It's too much to ask of him or anyone to solve the problems in the Democratic Party - I don't think they can be solved just in two years - but I do think he can certainly be a person to start the positive changes."
Jewett described Maddox as a moderate Democrat who has not been involved in organizational operations of the party - both qualities he said are important for the new chairman.
He also said Maddox will unify the party in a way Poe could not.
"For the party to make headway it's essential that the party get behind one person and develop a strategy everyone can agree to and that probably wasn't going to happen under Bob Poe because the losses were so big."
Ceasar, who chaired the state party for four years ending after the 1998 election, said making the party successful will be a long-term project.
"The Republicans had a 10-year plan to take the state back, so I think we need to take a look at continual progress," he said. "We need to look at everything from a structural perspective, a financial perspective and a communications perspective," Ceasar said. "That's something a party needs to do even if they won the election."
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