The silent war among Democrats is heating up. Rumor is Tim Canova pledges to run again against Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz…and Democratic strategist Sean Phillippi, who was instrumental in defeating former State Senator Chris Smith last year, wrote a scathing article about Sunshine State News Columnist Leslie Wimes for his column on the Florida Squeeze progressive blog. The article lacerated Leslie (who I happen to like) for not falling in line with the Democratic establishment.
It was too sour for the squeeze, who removed the article with a message to their readers that it “has been withdrawn for failure to meet editorial standards…”
We got ahold of the yanked article and have published it below, in full.
The Phlip Side: I am not saying Leslie Wimes is a GOP plant, but…
One of the best pieces of advice that I learned from old hands who have held high political office is that you should never assume that you know the motives behind the actions that people take without hard evidence. This is especially true when your inclination is that those motives are nefarious. Leslie Wimes is a name I came to know back in 2014, and her name has kept popping up in my efforts to stay current on what is happening in the body politic over the last several years. I have my own opinions about Ms. Wimes, but instead of overtly expressing my opinion(s) I am going to stick to the facts. I am going to lay out her actions. I am also going to lay out the actions someone would take if they were a Republican plant who had as their main objective undermining Democrats here in Florida. In the end, we will see how her actions line up with what a Republican plant would do so that everyone can judge for themselves.
Leslie Wimes and I were actually on the same side of an election when I first heard her name back in 2014. She was supporting Sen. Nan Rich for Florida Governor, and I was the Data Consultant/Director for the campaign. I will go to my grave espousing the fact that Sen. Rich would have made the best governor of those running had she been elected, and since the other two main candidates were the current and immediate past GOP Governor of Florida there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was the most liberal candidate. That being said, Sen. Rich was the candidate that Republicans most wanted to see face off against sitting Gov. Rick Scott in the General Election. The GOP elite thought that Sen. Rich would have been much easier to beat than Charlie Crist, and while I disagree with that assessment I can say without equivocation that is what they thought. So, anyone working on behalf of GOP interests would have supported Sen. Rich back in 2014.
Surely among the top goals of Florida Republicans in 2016 was to retain a GOP US Senate seat in the state, elect a Republican President, and undermine the DNC Chair who also happened to be an elected official in South Florida. Ms. Wimes’ support of Tim Canova and Pam Keith (initially) was among her most notable efforts in the 2016 election cycle. Canova and Keith are both intelligent, impressive, and passionate Democrats who had the ability to strengthen a weak Democratic bench in Florida. Another thing that they both have in common is that they ran for offices that they had little hope of winning, and did so in a way that was divisive. Republicans who were paying attention were likely giddy at the notion of promising Democrats running in such races. It divided Democrats, ensured that these promising candidates weren’t added to the Democratic bench of elected officials, and had the possibility of disillusioning these candidates and their Democratic supporters.
Ms. Wimes also attacked Hillary Clinton during the General Election last year, which is one of many examples of Ms. Wimes questioning why Black voters overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. It is a fact that Black voters are the voting bloc that have been the most loyal to the Democratic Party. Do you think that might mean that Machiavellian Republicans have near the top of their wish list either making inroads with Black voters or trying to make them disenchanted with the Democratic Party so that they don’t vote Democratic as much as they have done historically? I certainly do. Republicans would undoubtedly support such efforts, and any efforts of any plant that they may have, by giving said person a platform from which they can work from. It is noteworthy that Ms. Wimes did a media blitz espousing messages critical of Democrats to GOP oriented outlets right before the 2016 General Election. Oh, have I mentioned yet that these articles that I keep referencing (which I will post a link to below) by Ms. Wimes are from the Republican run website Sunshine State News?
The one stance that Ms. Wimes has taken this year that I have the most trouble wrapping my head around being taken by any reasonable Democrat is that Gov. Rick Scott “engages” the Black community more than Democratic US Sen. Bill Nelson does. This was written in a piece attacking Democrats for not celebrating Black History Month posted at 6am on the second day of Black History Month. For context, Gov. Rick Scott is widely expected to challenge US Sen. Bill Nelson for his seat next year. Winning that US Senate seat is a top priority for Republicans this cycle. The fact that Gov. Scott has restored the voting rights to fewer people than any of his predecessors, and those 1.7 million Floridians who could get their rights restored skew very heavily towards minority communities, is one of many examples as to why Gov. Scott is no friend to the Black community. Ms. Wimes touting Republican Gov. Rick Scott in such a ridiculous way over a sitting Democratic US Senator is curious.
Also curious is the fact that a candidate that Ms. Wimes has supported got encouragement to run in a Democratic Primary against US Sen. Nelson earlier this year. US Sen. Nelson is not the only Democratic leader in Florida that Ms. Wimes has gone after recently. Ms. Wimes has gone after new Florida Democratic Party (FDP) President Sally Boynton Brown just in the past week. One constant complaint from Ms. Wimes is that the FDP and Democratic leaders meddle in party elections and primaries. Ms. Brown pulled out of an event because the person holding the event is a candidate in a contested Democratic primary for US Congress. Ms. Wimes railed against Ms. Brown in a display of sheer hypocrisy by Ms. Wimes. Ms. Brown even provided her phone number to Ms. Wimes and said that Ms. Wimes should be free to call with any questions she may have. Ms. Wimes continued her bizarre attack against Ms. Brown (posted below) in spite of Ms. Brown extending an olive branch.
What is telling about Ms. Wimes’ actions is not only what she does, but also what she doesn’t do. I have nothing but love and admiration for someone like Susan Smith, even though we don’t always see eye to eye. If someone isn’t in line with Ms. Smith’s values she isn’t afraid to say so regardless of who that may irritate. The difference between a great Democrat like Susan Smith and Leslie Wimes is that Susan Smith dedicates her time and her money to numerous Democratic and liberal causes she believes in. There is no doubt that all of Susan Smith’s actions are geared toward making the Florida Democratic Party successful in a way that aligns with her vision for the party. Ms. Wimes has no such record. There has not been a single instance where Ms. Wimes has supported a Democratic nominee or institution in Florida except against other Democrats. I am not saying her record on such matters is light. It is literally non-existent.
Here is what would be on my list of how to undermine Democrats as a Machiavellian Republican in Florida: ensure Democrats don’t build a bench by steering good candidates into races they can’t win and hope they get disillusioned when they lose, sow seeds of doubt and/or discontent into the most loyal Democratic voting bloc(s), and attack/try to undermine major Democratic institutions, elected officials, and statewide candidates. The list is not mutually exclusive. I would do all this while making sure that I never actually supported a Democrat over a Republican. If (s)he needed a platform from which to do all this, I would offer television and other media outlets like Sunshine State News to spread messaging beneficial to Republicans. It is funny how this all seems to overlap perfectly with Ms. Wimes’ actions. Again, I am not saying that she is a GOP plant. Just because something walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and acts like a duck doesn’t mean that it isn’t a unicorn that lays golden eggs. I leave it to you to consider the facts and come to your own conclusion.
Ms. Wimes Sunshine State News article catalog: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/taxonomy/term/307
Ms. Wimes’ odd Facebook response to Ms. Brown (I blacked out her phone number for privacy purposes)
(Author’s Note: Please feel free to send any comments, suggestions, column ideas, or hate mail to ThePhlipSideFL@gmail.com.)
Sean Phillippi is a Democratic strategist and consultant based in Broward County. He has worked for campaigns on the federal, state, and local levels, including the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Sean is the Managing Member of TLE Analytics LLC, the political data and consulting firm he founded in 2012.