Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Reporter James L. Rosica covers state government from the Tribune's Tallahassee bureau. Email
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Tant ready for a battle for state Dems chair
Posted Dec 5, 2012 by William March
Updated Dec 5, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Prominent Democratic fundraiser Allison Tant of Tallahassee said Wednesday she was recruited by Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to run for the state Democratic Party chairmanship, and that she’s prepared for a battle if necessary in seeking the office.
Asked about an apparent obstacle in her path – the need to win a possibly competitive race for a Leon County party office before she can be eligible to run for state chairman – she said in an interview with the Tribune, “We’re working all that out.” She said Nelson and Wasserman Schultz suggested a consensus could be reached to make her party chairman.
Tant faces at least two announced competitors for the state party office, veteran party activist Alan Clendenin of Tampa and newly elected Miami-Dade County party chairman Annette Taddeo-Goldstein.
But she must first be elected either as chairman of the Leon County party or as the county party’s female delegate to the state party governing board, called the state committeewoman.
That means defeating long-time party official Jon Ausman for Leon chairman, or unseating the current Leon committeewoman, Alma Gonzalez. So far, neither has indicated a willingness to yield to Tant.
Tant said her allies have discussed with Gonzalez allowing Tant to take over the state committeewoman position, but so far no agreement has been reached.
Gonzalez told the Tribune this week she’s not eager to do that, in part because she’s the highest-ranking Hispanic in the state party – she’s currently state treasurer, and running for state vice chairman – and one of the highest-ranking organized labor representatives.
Tant said she hasn’t ruled out running for Leon chairman.
A former lobbyist with the Holland & Knight law firm, Tant was a prominent Obama supporter in both 2008 and 2012, and was one of the 2012 campaign’s key Florida “bundlers,” or fundraisers.
In the interview, she said she’s been involved in party work of all kinds since the early 1980s, starting as a paid intern in a Bob Graham campaign, and including working in campaigns for Brian Rush and Mark Gibbons, son of the late Rep. Sam Gibbons, when she lived in Tampa.
As chairman, she said, “I want to raise the money to defeat Rick Scott, to protect the middle class, to make sure people have opportunity … It’s about moving Florida forward, building on what we’ve done.”
She also said she’s deeply interested in disability issues, in part because she has a 13-year-old son with a congenital disorder, Williams syndrome. Caring for him, she said, is the reason she no longer works professionally.
Tant is married to Barry Richard, a prominent Tallahassee lawyer who’s a Democrat, but who has worked on high-profile legal cases for both Republican and Democratic clients.
She said she hadn’t intended to enter the race until Wasserman Schultz and Nelson both called her Friday and urged her to.
It looks like Allison Tant may be planning to run for chairman of the Leon County party against Jon Ausman. Last night, state Rep. Alan Williams, who had been planning to run for chairman, sent an email to county executive committee members announcing that he’ll step aside in favor of Tant. “We are fortunate that someone of Alison’s stature and talent is willing to serve Florida Democrats,” he wrote. “An opportunity like this doesn’t happen very often, and we must take advantage of it.”