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Hillsborough County Dems add 44 new committee members at January meeting

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

For Democrats, Donald Trump might be making life a hell on earth. But the president is successful in one thing — uniting them in a way missing throughout the 2016 campaign.

Take the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, for instance.

On Monday night, the local party added 44 new members to its organization at its monthly meeting at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County in Ybor City.

It was the third consecutive standing room only meeting for the local party, all coming since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton on November 8.

And unlike their last meeting, which devolved into chaos when some locally elected officials got into shouting matches with DEC members, everyone in the room seemed united, 10 days into the Trump administration.

At that December 5 re-organization meeting, Party Chair Ione Townsend alienated some membership when she ruled that a bylaw prevented nonpartisan DEC members from participating in that night’s election for party officers. The result contributed to Alan Clendenin‘s loss for state committeeman to Russ Patterson, temporarily taking him out of the running for state party chair. He ultimately relocated to Bradford County, where he was elected as a committeeman before ultimately losing his bid for chair to Stephen Bittel earlier this month.

Townsend said the priorities for local Democrats in 2017 was voter engagement, building a bench of candidates to run in 2018 and continue to fundraise, which has been at record levels ever since they brought on former Pinellas chair Mark Hanisee two years ago.

The DEC raised nearly $140,000 for local candidates in 2016, with $46,500 of that going to Andrew Warren, the former federal prosecutor who upset 16-year GOP incumbent Mark Ober in the race for State Attorney.

One man attending Monday night’s meeting said he had never attended a DEC meeting in his life, saying, “I’ve been asleep for 43 years.”

Another man apologized for being an independent, before announcing he was switching to become a Democrat, generating a loud round of applause.

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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