Allison Tant elected chairwoman of Florida Democratic Party in contentious voteby George Bennett | January 26th, 2013
LAKE MARY — Florida Democrats elected Tallahassee fundraiser Allison Tant as party chairman this morning, capping the most contentious leadership race the party has seen in decades.
Tant won on a 587-to-448 vote over Hillsborough County Committeeman Alan Clendenin.
Tant, 51, has raised money for President Barack Obama and other Democrats. She was elected chairwoman of the Leon County Democratic Party in December, but does not have a long history with grass-roots activists around the state. She was backed by Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and most of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation.
Her supporters stressed her fundraising prowess, noting Florida Democrats’ traditional financial disadvantage against Republicans.
“One number should worry you – 70 million. That is how much Rick Scott spent in 2010. We need to be prepared and have the resources and grass-roots movement to match this,” said Miami-Dade Democratic Chairwoman Annette Taddeo in nominating Tant.
Clendenin, 53, is a retired air traffic controller and labor activist who appealed to the grass-roots activists who control most of the votes under the state party’s weighted voting system.
“Does our party belong to a group of Tallahassee insiders, consultants and lobbyists — or does it belong to us?” Clendenin said in his speech to voters this morning.
Palm Beach County, which controlled 82 votes in the race, supplied considerable drama. State Committeeman John Ramos joined other South Florida committeemen and committeewomen in pledging support for Clendenin this month. But a few days later, Ramos announced he was backing Tant. He wavered over the last two weeks, but today said he cast his 41 votes for Tant.