Critics attacked Tant’s old lobbyist clients and noted that her husband, Tallahassee lawyer and lifelong Democrat Barry Richard, led the Bush-Cheney Florida legal team during the 2000 presidential recount.
Tant’s supporters questioned Clendenin’s ability to raise money and accused him of being hostile to gay rights.
On the eve of Saturday’s election, liberal activist Susannah Randolph rebuked another Democrat by email when he accused another of fraud. Randolph, who along with husband and Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph is a Tant supporter, said tensions were so high that someone taped a sign on her office door that said “Beware of Bitches.”
Shortly after Tant won, she and Clendenin called for unity.
Tant, a former lobbyist and longtime advocate for disabled children, was recruited to run for the post by her longtime friend, Wasserman Schultz. Tant raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama in the last election cycle.
Tant’s fundraising skills were a key selling point.
“One number should worry you: $70 million. That’s how much Rick Scott spent in 2010,” said Miami-Dade Democratic chairwoman Annette Taddeo in nominating Tant.
Retired air traffic controller and union activist Clendenin cast himself as the grass-roots candidate willing to shake up the state party and status quo.
“Does our party belong to a group of Tallahassee insiders, consultants and lobbyists or does it belong to us?” he asked.
After he lost, Clendenin was elected vice chair and claimed a measure of victory.
“A top-down approach to this party is something of the past,” he said, taking the loss with grace. He hugged Tant and then held her hand high.
“Make no mistake, GOP, this team’s coming to get you,” Clendenin said.
Contact Marc Caputo at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com. Contact Adam C. Smith at email@example.com.