The festivities inside the Hyatt Regency included speeches by party chair Rod Smith, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (at his most partisan) as well as tributes to some of the state's stars of the past — Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller, honored by Smith for his contributions in the Legislature; former Education Commissioner and state Senator Betty Castor; and former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, who, judging by the number of people waiting to take a photo or snag an autograph of him, was the closest thing to a rock star in the Regency Ballroom.
And that's a bit of a problem.
Graham is 75. The highest elected public official serving in Florida, Graham's former Senate colleague Bill Nelson, is 69. There was little discussion Saturday night about the man or woman who could take down Rick Scott in 2014, who remains extremely vulnerable not even halfway through his term.
Then again, the attitude among many state Democrats seems to be that any one of them would due.
Scott Randolph, the Orlando area House Democrat who announced last week that he won't run for re-election this year but instead will concentrate on becoming state party chair next year, sounded positive regardless.
A poll last week showed that former Governor Charlie Crist (now an independent) would beat Scott in a mythical matchup right now by 48-34 percent. When asked about that, Randolph, who was standing next to former House Democrat Keith Fitzgerald, said, "No offense to Charlie Crist — Charlie Crist would be a strong candidate. I think you could beat him with Keith Fitzgerald," adding that he was confident the party would come up with a strong candidate in two years.
"If we have a primary in the governor's race, my job is to keep my foot on Rick Scott’s throat during the primary," Randolph continued, already imagining himself to be Rod Smith's successor as party chair.
Randolph announced last week that he wouldn't run for a final two-year term in the House this fall. He told CL on Saturday night that he probably could have won the newly redrawn seat, "but it would have required me to me to beat on the doors every night," adding that the party "shouldn't be spending those types of resources on somebody who is being termed out."
Not everybody is ready to lay down their arms and concede the state party chair race to Randolph. As CL reported last week, Hillsborough County and Democratic National Committeeman Alan Clendenin says he will be a candidate as well, and told CL that he thinks everybody's priorities (i.e. Randolph's) should be on getting Democrats elected in November, not worrying about who will replace Smith in January.
Randolph says simply, "I'm definitely all in for Florida Democratic Party chair."
One mission that all Democratic state party chairs have had to contend with over the past decade is the fact that their members are virtually an endangered species in Tallahassee, with Republicans gaining their highest level of control ever after 2010, controlling 81 of the 120 House seats (in the Senate the GOP has a 28-12 lead).
Randolph contends that, come this November, his home area of Orange County will be a "hotbed" of contested activity, with the possibility that Democrats could control the county's legislative delegation for the first time in 20 years.
When asked how many seats he believes the Democrats could gain in the House this year, he said he would be "disappointed" if the numbers don't increase to 45 or 46 from the current total of 39 legislators.
Getting back to the governor's race, South Florida state Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, 70, is the only name Democrat who has announced her candidacy so far, but most observers believe plenty of others will enter the fray.