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Twelve years ago we were struggling with the realization that the presidency had been stolen in Florida, and within the vast right-wing conspiracy (Where have I heard that phrase?) were many lawyers who played key roles in the theft.

So pardon me if I'm suffering memory whiplash to read that one of those lawyers, Barry Richard, is a Democrat, and that his wife is being endorsed by US Sen. Bill Nelson to be chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

Now, I think of myself as a forgiving person, and if one Googles "Barry Richard Al Gore" up come several items indicating Barry Richard is not a Karl Rove clone and in fact he and his wife backed Obama this year. But is it too early to open the doghouse completely?

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Especially since we in South Florida have a fine candidate for Democratic Party chair in Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, a Latina businesswoman with progressive leanings. Ms. Taddeo, who was a hard-working Hispanic surrogate for Obama this cycle, has just been elected chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, which makes her eligible for the state party chairmanship. That election will be held Jan. 26.

Three candidates are vying to succeed Rod Smith, a North Florida lawyer and former legislator, as party chair. Long in the running is Alan Clendenin, of the swing Tampa area and Hillsborough County, and the new name this week is Allison Tant, of Tallahassee, wife of Barry Richard.

Along with Annette Taddeo, of Miami, the candidates represent Florida's three big regions: Taddeo from South Florida, Clendenin from the central region aka the I4 Corridor, Tant from the north. And the political shades in the Democratic Party shift -- south to north -- from progressive, to swing, to conservative. That's only in the most general sense, of course.

As we in Miami-Dade like to say, this is where the most Democratic votes are, so why doesn't the state party leadership fall to our region? We loyal Democrats gave Barack Obama a heck of a margin so that he again won Florida (29 electoral votes). We also helped re-elect Bill Nelson -- Hear that, Senator?

The main challenge for the next party chair will be the 2014 election and a campaign to oust Gov. Rick Scott, who along with the heavily Republican legislature wielded an array of vote-suppression measures this year. Did that backfire? Some say so. How to build on that? Taddeo has named a potent team of Obama campaign veterans to remake the Miami-Dade effort aimed at 2014.

And the outgoing state party chair, Rod Smith, has weighed in with another mission -- reform of party procedures, including the rules for electing the chairman.

And now, another challenge for Taddeo's drive for state party leadership: Tant has been endorsed by US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the recently renamed chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Shades of 2008, when Wasserman, then a power in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, shunned three Democrats who ran for US House seats in Miami, including Taddeo, Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia, who finally won a US House seat (FL 26) this year on his third try.

Originally posted to Larry Thorson on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:05 AM PST.

Also republished by State & Local ACTION Group.

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