Tuesday, December 11, 2012

State Rep. Darryl Rouson's leadership bid ruffles Democratic feathers

State Rep. Darryl Rouson's bid to be leader of Florida House Democrats in 2014-16 isn't sitting well with some Democrats. And it may be costing the lawmaker, who represents part of Manatee County influence on election reform, which he sees as one of his signature issues in next year's session.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports:
For Democrats, it's a strategically important choice. Having picked up five seats in the House in November for a total of 44, they need a dynamic leader who can raise money, recruit candidates and keep the momentum going heading into 2014. 
Rouson, 58, a lawyer, is one of the most skilled debaters in the House, works hard and is viewed as less overtly partisan than some fellow Democrats. His inspiring life story of recovery from drug addiction is one he's proud to tell. 
But Democrats are muttering in the Capitol corridors that Rouson's pursuit of the leader's post is over the top and that he sought signed pledges of support two weekends ago at a casual caucus retreat in Fort Lauderdale. 
"I feel they are being pressured to make a decision way too early," said Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach. 
Rouson, who loves a good fight, said he "caught them all flat-footed" by lining up pledges.
"The only speed I know is go," he said. "I got in this race conceivably a little late."
Jones has the title of minority leader pro tem, placing her within the inner circle of Rep. Perry Thurston, the current Democratic leader. Jones, 44, a Jacksonville native, is a special assistant to Mayor Alvin Brown and refuses to solicit pledges from lawmakers. 
She calls Rouson's pledge-seeking efforts "shenanigans," because the eventual vote by caucus members (likely before March) will be by secret ballot. She says Rouson "badgers" members to take sides before seeing the contenders do their jobs as legislators. 
"I have been working on making them understand who I am," Jones said. 
She would be the first woman to lead the House Democratic caucus since 2000, when Lois Frankel held the post. (Frankel just earned a seat in Congress.) 
Rouson wants a big role in shaping elections reform. He has filed a bill to address problems with last month's vote, and in October he held a press conference with former Gov. Charlie Crist alongside. 
But Thurston, as minority leader, appoints ranking members in each area, and in elections, he chose Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa. 
In case nobody but Rouson got the message, Thurston held a news conference last week to introduce Cruz as the Democrats' leader on elections matters. Rouson was nowhere in sight.
If Rouson wants to work on elections issues, Thurston said, "He will work through Rep. Cruz."

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/12/11/4312351/in-democratic-leadership-battle.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

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