Monday, December 07, 2015

Darren Soto Hates Being Called Florida's ConservaDem Poster Child, But He'd Be Another Gwen Graham Or Patrick Murphy In Congress


There are definitely some big changes coming due to the judicial redistricting in Florida, likely among them will be the end of House careers for several conservatives: Carlos Curbelo who finds himself in a neatly blue district and will be facing Annette Taddeo, who can probably beat him; Daniel Webster, who also finds himself in a Democratic district he can't win, certainly not in a presidential year (although he is probably going to move to FL-06 and try it win the seat Ron DeSantis is giving up; David Jolly, who took one look at the new map and decided to run for the Senate, leaving his district to Charlie Crist who's been a Republican, an Independent and a Democrat and is likely to be a mix of all three in Congress; and Blue Dog Gwen Graham, the most right-wing Democrat in the House, whose newly redrawn district no longer has the Democratic voter base to make it feasible for even as far right a Democrat as she to expect to win. John Mica's Orlando area district is now also good territory for a Democrat but the DCCC recruited a total conservaDem loser, Bill Phillips, who even the DCCC sees can't win against Mica (or, probably any other competent Republican).

But the district I want to talk about today isn't one of them; it's district 9-- Alan Grayson's very blue Orlando-area seat. The PVI is D+8 and Obama won it with just over 60% both times he ran. In 2012 Grayson won the seat against Republican Todd Long 165,098 (63%) to 98,984 (37%). And in 2014, a bad midterm year for Democrats, Grayson, despite a poor turnout, was reelected 93,739 (54%) to 74,903 (43%). Grayson is leaving the House to take over Rubio's abandoned Senate seat. The key is to get a progressive voice like his into that House seat. But, of course, the DCCC has different ideas. Officially "neutral," they're surreptitiously backing one of the most conservative Democrats in the state Senate, Darren Soto. We'll come back to him in a moment.

The contours of the new district make it slightly less blue, but still relatively safe for a Democrat, particularly in presidential year. I'm estimating that the PVI will probably drop from a D+8 to a D+5. The whole part of Orange County west of the airport-- basically over 100,000 people in communities like Hunters Creek, Meadow Woods and Southchase, a very Puerto Rican area, is now going to be part of FL-10 (Webster's district, likely soon to be Bob Poe's district). FL-9's Hispanic population will drop from around 45% to around 31 or 32%. To make up for the loss of population, FL-9 pushes west further into Polk County and picks up neighborhoods like Lake Alfred, Winter Haven, Inwood and Auburndale that had been the southernmost part of FL-10.

The governing philosophy of the Emanuel/Van Hollen/Israel DCCC (and Israel's sock puppet Ben Ray Luján isn't making any changes in that regard) is to run conservatives as indistinguishable from a Republican as possible-- a losing strategy for holding seats when the inevitable midterm rolls around and Democratic base voters don't want to go vote for a Republican with a "D" next too his or her name. And, of course, that's exactly what Darren Soto is. Another Chamber of Commerce Democrat, Soto earned an "A" from the NRA (the only Florida state Senator to be so honored) and is widely considered a complete gun lobby shill-- exactly what Washington does not need. Another thing Washington doesn't need is another charter school goon, which is what Soto, who voted to divert public funds to private school vouchers several times, is. He also voted for mandatory ultrasound, 24-hour waiting periods and parental notification laws, all positions that are abhorrent to people who believe women should make decisions about their own body without government interference. He's been mediocre on the environment and way to generous with tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations, pushing more of a tax burden onto the middle class.

Back in July, when Soto first made it clear he intended to run for Grayson's seat if Grayson jumped into the Senate race, our old friend Kartik Krishnaiyer ran down Soto's abysmal record-- first here and then here-- for the Florida Squeeze. "Soto’s voting record through his eight sessions as a legislator," he wrote, "is on the extreme rightward end of what is acceptable as a Democrat... Free from the constraints of tough primaries and quickly emerging as a favorite of business and school 'choice' lobbyists in Tallahassee, Soto became the poster child for conservative Democrats who seek higher office by running in safe Democratic seats backed by Republican money and the support of large elements of a bipartisan political establishment. The Sunshine State News, one of the voices of record that conservative political insiders in the state swear by said the following about Soto:
Soto is about as good as conservatives can hope for from his liberal Democratic district.
The SSN is spot-on, but here’s our perspective-- Soto is about as BAD a Democrat for liberals and progressives as anyone in the state."

Krishnaiyer went on to list many of Soto's short-comings and got some serious pushback from some right-of-center establishment Democrats who have virtually wrecked the Florida Democratic Party over the last few decades, which is why he wrote the second post in which he explains that "Democrats in Florida are badly in need of developing a values based party that represents something beyond simple electoral and political “moderation”.  Right now we don’t have a clear set of values that drive us as a party collectively forward.
While it is true Soto voted for the onerous HB 71 “personhood” bill days after winning a Special Election in 2007 and also cast anti reproductive-rights votes in 2008 and he voted for Parent Trigger in 2012 (one of only two Democrats in either chamber to do so), and that he got an “A” rating from the NRA in 2010 and 2012, and numerous other bad votes let’s focus on his more recent record in the Florida Senate this very calendar year.

Before walking through this it is important to remember President Obama got close to 65% of the vote in Soto’s current Senate district in 2012 and that Congressional District 9 where Soto is running currently is an area where the President got about 62% of the vote in 2012.

Let’s review what some of the conservative special interest groups that lobby the Legislature thought of Soto’s 2015 performance.
Soto scored 100% on Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education Foundation which advocates for the privatization of public education

Soto scored 100% on the Florida Chamber scorecard; This was higher than many conservative Republicans

Soto scored 96% on the Associated Industries of Florida scorecard; This was higher than many conservative Republicans
Keep in mind Soto was casting these votes with right-wing interest groups just as he was planning on launching a campaign for Congress in a liberal seat. With one eye one must surmise toward who could help him raise the most campaign cash in a safe Democratic district, Soto cast his lot for the past several months with conservative Republicans. Or perhaps Soto is just a conservative who will serve the interests of the US Chamber of Commerce and other business interests were her to be elected to Congress? Either way, progressives throughout Florida should be alarmed.

...Soto’s game has been like that of any transactional politician. Find allies in other offices, schmooze special interest lobbyists while pretending to be a good progressive in front of local audiences that will have a bearing on future runs for office. For us at TFS, this is exactly the type of politics we abhor and are committed to opposing it while trying to reform our party.
There may be as many as half a dozen Democrats in the race, including some strong progressives, but you can always count on the DCCC to find the worst of all and just for him, in this case Darren Soto. Thursday, one of the most extreme right of the defeated anti-Choice Pennsylvania Blue Dogs, Jason Altmire, now a Florida-based lobbyist, is holding a fundraiser for Soto. We used to write a lot about Altmire when he was in Congress for 3 terms. He was one of the worst of the worst, very much like Soto. It makes sense that he's helping him now. Alter voted with the Republicans against the Affordable Health Act, voted with the Republicans against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and was an anti-Choice fanatic with a ZERO rating from NARAL.

Yesterday we looked at a study about what accounts for low Democratic voter turnout. The author wrote that "it’s clear that many voters are alienated by parties, and many see very few differences, which can depress turnout. Low-income Americans are the most likely to perceive large differences, possibly because parties overwhelmingly favor the preferences of the rich. Some have advocated Democrats pushing toward the center, but a working paper by political scientist Seth Hill finds that parties are far more successful in pulling in new voters than in converting swing voters." That describes the Soto type Democrats and Hill, whose data is all from Florida, emphasizes that "swing voters contribute on average 4.1 percentage points to change in party vote shares, while change in turnout influences outcomes by 8.6 points." Or, we can make it even simpler, watch the video:

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