As Florida Democrats glimpse rays of hope for a long-sought political comeback, their race for party chairman is becoming competitive and heated.
Veteran party activist Alan Clendenin of Tampa appears to be the front-runner in the race, say party insiders.
But prominent Democratic fundraiser and progressive activist Allison Tant of Tallahassee is running an active campaign with the backing of some of the party’s biggest names.
And no one can be certain of the status of the race, which is being conducted among a small group of party officials and elected officeholders using a complex voting system.
The race comes at a crucial moment for Florida Democrats.
For more than a decade, they’ve languished in near-irrelevance in Florida government, losing four straight governor’s races, holding few statewide offices and small minorities in the Legislature and congressional delegation.
But the Nov. 6 election was their first substantial win in a decade, and Democrats think they can defeat Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2014, retrieving some of the power they’ve steadily lost since the mid-1990s.