Pinellas Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Ramsay McLauchlan has told at least two other members of the DEC that he is “leaning heavily” to not seeking a second term as head of the fractious county party. McLauchlan’s term ends in December, so there is still plenty of time for him to change his mind. But at this point, with the names of possible successors being bantered about, it appears McLauchlan is ready to move on.
McLauchlan leaves behind a mixed record as chair of the Pinellas DEC. On one hand, he brought peace and stability to an organization that had to endure the nightmarish leadership of Ed Helm and the ineptitude Toni Molinaro. On the other hand, if you judge McLauchlan by the standards a party chair is supposed to be evaluated, you know recruiting candidates, raising money and winning elections, that McLauchlan’s time was a doomed enterprise.
McLauchlan had a noticeable hand in the soon-to-be-disastrous decision of Senator Charlie Justice to challenge Congressman Bill Young — a decision that opened the door for Pinellas School Board member Nina Hayden to rush into a race against Jack Latvala, to whom Hayden will probably lose by eighteen points, which may be just a point or two better where Justice finishes. A strong party chair, a Democratic equivalent of the GOP’s Tony DiMatteo, would have laid down on the tracks before a Republican made as irrational a decision as the one Justice made.
As it turns out, McLauchlan’s legacy is intertwined with the electoral fate of Justice and Hayden, two candidates he stumps for regularly. So when Justice and Hayden lose — and they will lose handily — McLauchlan will have their losses on his hands.
Just as McLauchlan will have the loss of Kathleen Ford, whom he strongly backed in the St. Petersburg Mayoral Election, on his record as well.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, McLauchlan will not be able to offset Justice and Hayden’s losses with a win, upset or not, in another Pinellas race. McLauchlan failed to recruit viable candidates (the operative word there was “viable”) against any of the other Republican elected officials, whether it be for a County Commission race against John Morroni or a legislative campaign against Jim Frishe, Ed Hooper or Peter Nehr.
If there is one priority McLauchlan failed more at than recruiting candidates, it was at raising money for the party and the candidates. It’s just not possible to take a political organization serious when it has less than $10,000 in the bank. Actually, according to the latest campaign finance information, the Pinellas DEC has just over $3,200 in the bank. That couldn’t pay for one mailer in one legislative district.
And if it wasn’t for me and my-he’ll-go-unnamed-best-friend – who did the actual work on the last two Kennedy-King Dinners, but McLauchlan couldn’t even bother to thank – there would be even less money in the bank than the pittance there is now.
How bad is McLauchlan at fundraising, perhaps the most important job of a party chair? I dare you to name one major donor McLauchlan attracted to the party. Just one…one multi-thousand dollar donor who contributed because of McLauchlan asking.
Oh, I know, Ramsay, with his plaid shirts and New England sensibilities, is a decent man who brought peace to the party after Helm-Molinari, but bringing peace is not the standard by which a party chair should be judged. It’s all about dollars raised, candidates recruited and elections won. And by those standards, yes, Ramsay, it is time to move on.