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Alan Clendenin says he’s undecided on whether to run for Florida Democratic Party Chair

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

In January of 2013, DNC and Florida State Committeeman Alan Clendenin lost out to Allison Tant in an intensely fought contest to lead the Florida Democratic Party.

When Tant announced two weeks ago that she would not run again for party chair in 2017, a bevy of names were floated as possible candidates to succeed her. One of them was Clendenin, but as of now, he has yet to commit to the race.

“I  am still talking to folks and observing,” Clendenin told FloridaPolitics in an email on Tuesday. “I’ll make a decision before the end of December. Right now there is a lot of upheaval and of course people are manipulating and attempting to rig the election.”

He didn’t elaborate in his email, but he did address his feelings about Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s  involvement in his FDP election bid against Tant while addressing an overflow crowd of (many new) members at the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee meeting on Monday night.

“I was the first one to experience what Bernie felt,” he said, referring to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders contention that the Wasserman Schultz and the DNC had “rigged” the nomination for Hillary Clinton, a contention that appeared to be vindicated with the disclosure in July by WikiLeaks of thousands of DNC emails that prompted Wasserman Schultz to resign here position (though she continues to insist she didm’t rig anything).

Tant defeated Clendenin by just 80 votes, 587-507, in January of 2013. Tant received strong support from Wasserman Schultz, who recruited her to run for the position.

The tension from that vote between Clendenin and Wasserman Schultz never subsided from that election. Although a Clinton supporter, Clendenin sided with both Sanders and Martin O’Malley in criticizing the debate schedule Wasserman Schultz put together for the Democratic nominees for president in  the fall of 2015/winter 2016.

Tant was also supported by Senator Bill Nelson, who Clendenin said on Monday remains the “biggest influencer” in determining who the next DEC chair will be.

The Democratic National Committee is also searching for a new leader, with that election scheduled for February. But speaking to the Hillsborough Democrats on Monday night, Clendenin said, “If we don’t get our sh*t together at the local level and the state level, we are not going to do anything. Rather than focusing on what’s happening up there, let’s get our ducks in a row, talk to your friends and neighbors, and get them actively involved.”

“The power lies with the people in this room,” Clendenin added. “Things can only happen when people allow it to happen. If we stand up and pay attention, keep your eye on the ball, keep up that public pressure, it will work.”

In addition to Clendenin, there a number of other Democrats being mentioned as potential candidates to succeed Tant, including former state senator Dwight Bullard, Annette Taddeo, Dan Gelber and Ed Narain.

Although observers have noted that the bylaws state that only a state committee man or woman or party chair can be eligible to run for FDP chair, others say that those laws can  be “finessed” to make that happen (others prefer the term “rigged”). Bullard, who lost a bid for re-election earlier this month, is now running to be chair of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party on December 6. If he were to win, he would be eligible for the chair position in January.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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