House Democratic Leader Designate Darryl Rouson is expected this week to name Chris Mitchell, currently the chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, as the new Political Director of House Victory, the legislative campaign arm of the Florida Democratic Party.
This is one of the most important decisions Rouson will make as the party leader in charge of narrowing the Republicans’ sizable lead over the Democrats in the Florida House. The Political Director of House Victory is both the shaft and the tip of the spear when it comes legislative campaigns as they are, besides the Leader Designate, essentially in charge of recruiting candidates to run, advising candidates how to build their campaign infrastructure and coordinating the message and outreach of the state party with individual campaigns.
Political Director of House Victory is a line on the resume of several noted Democratic operatives, including Screven Watson, Steve Schale and Christian Ulvert. It was Ulvert who held this position during the 2012 cycle and is credited with winning several races, such as those in House District 63 and 65, where Democrats were not expected to be competitive.
Rouson and Mitchell hope to follow up on these victories by assembling a roster of Democratic candidates in a dozen or more battleground seats they expect to be in play in 2014, especially with an unpopular Republican governor at the top of ticket. The GOP will counter these high expectations by pointing out that Republican traditionally dominate non-presidential election cycles in Florida. Of course, all of that conventional wisdom might go out the window if Charlie Crist runs for Governor as a Democrat.
Before Florida Democrats can do any of this, however, they must recruit candidates to run in legislative seats that have been held by Republicans for over a decade. Hence, Rouson is getting started as early as possible by hiring Mitchell just two weeks after Rouson won a caucus to become House Democratic Leader after the 2014 elections. Winning this caucus puts Rouson in charge of the state party’s House campaign apparatus now. Hiring Mitchell is Rouson’s first major decision in his new role.
It is also, quite honestly, a significant departure from business-as-usual within the Florida Democratic Party. Mitchell did not grow up in the Schale or Ulvert political trees, for better or worse.
There’s no official word yet on whether Mitchell will have to resign as chair of the Hillsborough DEC, although vice chair Ella Coffee has already been put in charge of the upcoming Kennedy King Dinner hosted by both the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Democratic parties.