DEC's arrogance may have overcome its common sense


Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 11:04 p.m.

So this is what it's come to.

White Democrats and black Democrats at each other's throats.

All because some black Democrats aren't blue enough.

To vote the party line.

In a non-partisan city election.

If members of Alachua County's Democratic Executive Committee aren't red faced with embarrassment, it's because their arrogance and sense of self-entitlement have finally overcome their common sense.

Gainesville elections have become such an insider's game that membership in the DEC is practically a prerequisite for election to the City Commission.

Now the DEC wants the state Democratic Party to revoke the charter of the Alachua County Black Democratic Caucus because one member of that black caucus was seen wearing an Ed Braddy shirt and another was spotted carrying an Ed Braddy sign.

"Our relationship with the local African-American community has been negatively impacted, and Gainesville will now have a Republican mayor in part because of the activities of the ACDBC and some of its members," says a letter signed by four DEC members.

Oh the horror.

Well, if the DEC's relationship with the African-American community hadn't already been "negatively impacted," that letter certainly should have done the trick.

By the way, the horror of Gainesville having to live with a Republican mayor is hardly a first for our liberal college town.

Gainesville's first elected mayor, Paula DeLaney, was a Republican who only later became a Democrat. And she had previously been twice elected to the city commission while being a card-carrying member of the Grand Old Party.

Heck, at one point, three Republicans — DeLaney, Jim Painter and Tom McKnew — made up the commission majority.

And guess what?

City Hall did not crumble.

We did not suddenly begin filling pot holes the Republican way instead of the Democratic way.

Indeed, to all outward appearances, Gainesville was just as progressive during the reign of the "Gang of Three" as it had always been.

That Braddy, a Republican, has beaten Craig Lowe, a Democrat, in a nonpartisan race to become Gainesville's next mayor is more a cause for hurt partisan pride than an indication of a seismic shift in the political status quo. Certainly, the voting majority on the commission won't change.

Truth is that Lowe was a deeply flawed candidate. Even before his DUI arrest he had alienated a lot of people, Democrats included, when he insisted on hiring his former campaign manager as his personal aide.

No mayor in the history of Gainesville ever before felt the need for a full-time personal aide. It smacked of vanity and pretension, and people resented it.

Listen, I'm a lifelong Democrat and proud of it. When people call me a liberal, I take it as a complement.

But I resent my party's presumption of entitlement in my city's nonpartisan elections. It's disrespectful of Gainesville's charter and its voters.

I hate it that the bitter partisanship that has destroyed governance in Washington, D.C. and polarized Tallahassee now threatens to infect my city hall.

Butt out DEC. You too, REC.

I've been writing about Gainesville politics and governance for nearly four decades. From my experience party label has never been an indicator of quality. Some of our best commissioners (DeLane, McKnew) also happened to be Republicans. And some of the duds (take a bow, Tom Bussing) were proud Democrats.

It is likely that the days when party didn't really matter in city elections are long gone, and that's a shame. Look what it's gotten us. Now it's not just Democrats pitted against Republicans, but white Democrats pitted against black Democrats.

How is that progress in our progressive city?

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun.

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