WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Florida Democratic Party will hold its presidential primary on Jan. 29, despite being told by the Democratic National Committee that doing so will result in the state losing its 210 delegates to the 2008 nominating convention in Denver, a Florida Democratic official tells CNN.
State party officials have scheduled a news conference for Sunday to make the announcement, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. In addition to losing all of its delegates, the decision also means that most of the Democratic presidential candidates will no longer campaign in Florida. The candidates have agreed not to stump for votes in any state that does not follow the DNC’s nominating calendar.
Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed legislation into law that moved the state’s primary to Jan. 29, even though it violated rules established by the DNC to keep all but four states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – from holding nominating contests before Feb. 5. The Republican National Committee has similar rules, but the penalty is less severe for states that violate them.
Last month, Florida Democrats asked the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee to recognize Jan. 29 as its primary date, a request that was rejected outright. The DNC panel then gave the Florida Democratic Party a month to submit an alternative date or risk losing all of its delegates.
Prior to the August DNC meeting, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, threatened to sue the DNC if the national party barred Sunshine State delegates from attending the convention.
"If the Democratic National Committee sanctions Florida then some of us (in) the Florida congressional delegation may ask an appropriate legal venue to determine whether or not a political party's rules can supersede someone's right to vote," Nelson told reporters.
Florida Democrats’ decision to hold their primary on Jan. 29 is the latest piece of the puzzle to fall into place in what is still a yet-to-be defined primary calendar less than four months before voters begin casting votes for president. It is still unclear what dates Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina Democrats will hold their nominating contests. Michigan has already moved its primary date for both political parties to Jan. 15, while the South Carolina Republican Party has scheduled its primary for Jan. 19. Both of these states are also in violation of the DNC and RNC rules.
– CNN Political Editor Mark Preston