(CNN)–The chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party says the 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.
"After months of careful deliberations, your Party's leaders have chosen overwhelmingly to reaffirm our strong commitment to fully participating in the state-run Democratic Presidential Primary on January 29, 2008, despite the penalties from the Democratic National Committee," Karen Thurman said in an email message to Florida Democrats on Sunday. "There will be no other primary. Florida Democrats absolutely must vote on January 29th," Thurman said. "We make this election matter. Not the DNC, not the delegates, not the candidates, but Florida Democrats like you and me voting together. We make it count."
Thurman was adamant the significance of the vote would not be diluted despite the possibility of sanctions from the Democratic National Committee. "Don't let anybody call this vote a "beauty contest" or a "straw poll," Thurman said in the email. "On January 29, 2008, there will be a fair and open election in Florida, which will provide for maximum voter participation. The nation will be paying attention, and Florida Democrats will have a major impact in determining who the next President of the United States of America will be."
Thurman, along with officials of the Florida Democratic party, and the state and national Congressional delegations, held a press conference Sunday afternoon in Pembroke Pines, Florida to make the announcement.
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-Fla., 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's Mark Preston and Jamie Crawford