ST. PETERSBURG – On December 4, 2014, members of the Pinellas Democratic Party voted to remove Mark Hanisee as party chair. I first wrote about Mr. Hanisee in May of this year following his shameful interaction with Rev. Manuel Sykes. Hanisee left a threatening voice mail for Rev. Sykes who was contemplating running as the democratic candidate for a vacant congressional seat.
Hanisee went as far as to tell Sykes he could not win and would be “persona non grata” if he ran for the open seat. His poor handling of this situation resulted in the party’s inability to find a candidate to run against Republican David Jolly.
Community shock and outrage was wide spread. The call went out for a “full throated” apology from Hanisee, which many are still waiting for. It appears Hanisee’s prophetic pronouncement boomeranged. He is now persona non grata in the eyes of many democrats.
Susan McGrath, vice president during Hanisee’s reign was voted in to replace the former Chair. Some question Ms. McGrath’s role in the Sykes affair and question whether or not her leadership will be a continuation of the same or an enlightened improvement. Given the difficulties encountered in the recent governor’s race surrounding Hanisee’s gaff, McGrath and other party officials would be wise to mend fences and cease taking the African American vote for granted.
Discontent with the local Democratic Party led Rev. Sykes to entertain aggressive attempts by republicans to bring him into their fold. Nationally, positions articulated by elected democrats in Ferguson and other locales have many wondering whether or not the Democratic Party is legitimately concerned with African American issues. The political sands are shifting and it is imperative McGrath and others take note.