March 17th, 2008
05:44 PM ET
10 years ago

No new primary for Florida's Democrats

(CNN) - The Florida Democratic Party said Monday it would not hold a new vote that would allow the state’s delegation to be seated at the Democratic National Convention, regardless of whether the costs for the new primary were covered by the national party or not.

In an e-mail sent to Florida Democrats, state party Chair Karen Thurman said “We researched every potential alternative process – from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections – but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida.”

The national party stripped Florida of its delegates last year, along with Michigan, when both states scheduled their primaries in January, in violation of DNC instructions. None of the major candidates campaigned there ahead of those votes.

Florida’s Democrats had been weighing several options for a re-vote, including a possible mail-in primary, ahead of the DNC’s June 10 deadline.

“I’m glad that the party has reached the same conclusion that was reach by the congressional delegation a week ago,” said Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid who had been staunchly opposed to a re-vote, telling CNN that “now it’s time for all the people involved in ensuring Florida’s delegation is seated to come together and make sure that happens.”

Wasserman Schultz, who said the party’s decision had been reached over the weekend, expressed a willingness to consider a proposal that would allow the full delegation to weigh in at the convention, but for each delegate to get just half a vote.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, told CNN’s Gloria Borger that the Illinois senator would like to see Florida’s delegates counted in a way that would not alter the overall outcome heading into the party’s convention, but “does give Florida the opportunity to vote.” He rejected the one-half person formula that seemed to gain traction last week as prospects for a second primary grew more remote.

The Clinton campaign, which has pressed for the full Florida delegation to be seated, expressed its disappointment with the state party’s decision. “Today’s announcement brings us no closer to counting the votes of the nearly 1.7 million people who voted in January,” said Clinton spokesman Phil Singer. “We hope the Obama campaign shares our belief that Florida’s voters must be counted and cannot be disenfranchised.” Clinton won the Florida primary.

In a statement, the Obama campaign said: “We hope that all parties can agree on a fair seating of the Florida delegates so that Florida can participate in the Democratic Convention, and we look forward to working with the Florida Democratic Party and competing vigorously in the state so that Barack Obama can put Florida back into the Democratic column in November.”

State party officials had developed the re-vote plan - which was sent last week to national party leaders, including DNC Chairman Howard Dean, and the Clinton and Obama campaigns - that would have combined mail-in and in-person primary votes in a new contest that would conclude June 3. The proposal would have let the state regain its 210 delegates.

Florida's congressional Democrats soon rejected the plan. "After reviewing the party's proposal and individually discussing this idea with state and local leaders and elections experts, we do not believe that this is a realistic option at this time and remain opposed to a mail-in ballot election or any new primary election in Florida of any kind," they said in a statement released Thursday night.

Thurman said Monday the decision over whether and how to seat the state’s delegation was now in the hands of the national party.

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

(updated 7 p.m. ET with campaign comment, additional background)

Full letter below:

Dear XXX,

For a year now, the Florida Democratic Party has tried to comply with the Delegate Selection Rules of the Democratic National Committee.

We researched every potential alternative process – from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections – but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida.

We made a detailed case to the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, but we were denied.

Our Democratic legislators in Tallahassee tried to set the Florida primary on Feb. 5, instead of Jan. 29, but of course, their proposed amendment to House Bill 537 was greeted with laughter and derision from the Republicans who control the state government <>.

Does ‘537’ ring a bell? It should. It’s the number of votes that separated Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in Florida in 2000.

It’s the number that sent this country and this world in a terrible direction.

We can’t let 537 – or the Republicans – determine our future again.

President Bush plans to stop in Florida tomorrow to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Republican National Committee’s efforts to elect his successor in November.

The last thing America needs is a third Bush term. Despite the widespread anxiety that working families feel, not to mention the broad agreement among economists that we are in a recession, President Bush and John McCain blindly believe that the economy is strong.

And let me remind you that John McCain endorsed President Bush’s decision to deny health care to thousands of Florida children by vetoing an expansion of the successful SCHIP program. McCain also promises to jeopardize the financial security of Florida seniors by privatizing Social Security. He continually threatens to push Florida’s military families to the brink by keeping American troops in Iraq for “100 years” or more.

This is why we are Democrats, and this is why we must stick together, no matter where this ongoing delegate debate takes us.

Last week, the Florida Democratic Party laid out the only existing way that we can comply with DNC Rules – a statewide revote run by the Party – and asked for input.

Thousands of people responded. We spent the weekend reviewing your messages, and while your reasons vary widely, the consensus is clear: Florida doesn’t want to vote again.

So we won’t.

A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and it’s simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the Party were to pay for it. Republican Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio refuses to even consider that option. Florida is finally moving to paper ballots, which is a good thing, but it means that at least 15 counties do not have the capacity to handle a major election before the June 10th DNC primary deadline.

This doesn’t mean that Democrats are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April.

When this committee stripped us of 100% of our delegates last year, some members summed up their reasoning by saying, “The rules are the rules.” Unfortunately, the rules did not apply to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina when they, too, violated the DNC calendar by moving from their assigned dates.

As the late great Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “We must adjust our ideas to the facts of today… Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.”

The Florida Democratic Party has stuck to its principles throughout this debate. We’ve remained open-minded while never wavering from our commitment to an open and fair election that would allow all Florida Democrats to participate, whether serving in Iraq, retiring in Boca, studying abroad or entertaining at a theme park.

Another late great President –Abraham Lincoln, a Republican – said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

If Democrats heed this wisdom, we will win in November.

America needs a great president again, but a President McCain will settle for the status quo and carry on the disastrous Bush tradition.

President Clinton or President Obama will make history and lead this nation in a new direction.

Let’s remember this as the delegate debate continues. We must stick together as Democrats. The stakes are too high and the opportunities too great.

I will keep you posted on any major developments. Thank you for your concern and your commitment.


Congresswoman Karen L. Thurman
Chair, Florida Democratic Party

Filed under: Florida
soundoff (319 Responses)
  1. NY

    I'm a person of ethics and I don't like bending rules. As both candidates agreed, FL and MI delegates should not be seated, PERIOD. And, as both agreed, if nobody gets 2024 delegates then there should not be a democratic nominee, PERIOD. McCain is the president!

    March 17, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  2. Aaron - Sarasota

    I'm glad that there will not be a re-vote. However, I do not believe it is fair to count the previous primary vote. Like what Nikole (March 17th, 2008 7:51 pm ET) said, Obama would gain a lot of votes if the candidates were able to campaign in the state. Some of Hillary's votes, and it is very evident when you look at the pre-campaign polling, are acquired by her name-recognition alone. Counting the votes as-is would be unfairly weighing the candidates' strengths.

    When the campaigns began, I was leaning towards Hillary, but the more I heard out of her campaign, and the more I heard from Obama's, the more I wanted him to win the nomination, and presidency. Hillary's campaign to me is disgusting and hypocritical. It's shameful.

    As for my wife and I personally, I am registered Independant, so I didn't get the opportunity to vote for Obama. My wife is registered Democrat, but she wasn't given a ballot with the Democratic nominees on it for whatever reason, so she didn't get to vote for Obama either.

    March 17, 2008 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  3. Todd VA

    The people of Florida had a chance to vote in a fair primary. Because they didn't vote on a date the DNC deemed acceptable, they are now being denied the chance to have their voices heard. And in denying these folks their constitutional right, the DNC is attempting to hand the nomination over to Obama who will NEVER be able to win in November. Obama's lack of experience, depth, and understanding of domestic and foreign affairs coupled with his lies about contributions from and political favors done for Tony Rezko, the Larry Sinclair scandal sitting on the back burner waiting to boil over, and the revelation that his close friend and and spiritual advisor of 20 years is a ranting racist, have sunk any chances he may ever have had. The Republican smear machine and 527 ads are waiting in the wings. He's already proven he can't handle criticism well. Unless the Democrats want to lose the White House again, they'd better count every vote and cross their fingers that Hillary wins the nomination.

    March 17, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  4. Frankie

    Leave it up to Florida to mess another Democratic race!!!

    March 17, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  5. EndNepotism

    Ha, ha! No re-votes in Florida! Ha, ha – Michigan will follow.
    The DNC is going to have to suck it up.

    March 17, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  6. Rechi

    I am so furious, this is not democracy, this is pure dictatorship. If Obama becomes the nominee, I am done with the democrats once and for all. I will then and there choose my new party and it will be Republican.

    March 17, 2008 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  7. barry

    lou dobbs or michael bloomberg for president

    March 17, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  8. Anonymous


    March 17, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  9. Lily


    MCCAIN will get my vote if Billary is the nominee.

    March 17, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  10. Asleep at church for 20 years

    How many of these state DNC members are Obama supporters?

    March 17, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  11. Ben

    A revote was the only reasonable solution.

    The Democrats are doing everything in their power to lose the election in November.

    I'm so disgusted I don't know what to do.

    March 17, 2008 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  12. linda

    obviously,,, this election should be based on what the issues are and what the canidates are goin to do about it,, not color race,, or status,,,,, think,, if you were blind and could see what color these canidates were,, and listened to their debates and speeches,, would you vote the same???? america is proud and stands for freedom,, not" hey come on over,,,, get what you can"... this election im being open minded and listening very carefully,, to whats said,, and not listening to the blame, accusations,,,, think,, hillary's record,,,, have you done your homework?(research on her past).. do it ,, then think on what you REALLT want,, higher gas prices?=hillary.. more taxes?= hillary.. etc ,, it goes on and on and on,,, change is good,,,,, at least its a change,, and not the same old crap thats been goin on for years and years,,,, lifes too short to not give this a try,,, (be open-minded)

    March 17, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  13. Don Fl

    I am a Dem from fl and all you Obama people are going to be crying come november when Mccain wins over your man. after what come out over the last few days Obama has no chance. I have never voted for a repub but I sure will this time

    March 17, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  14. james purnell

    How can the Democratic Party completely ignore the voters in Florida?Yes the state went against the authority of the party but why should the decission of a slect few determine the fate of the intire population?

    March 17, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  15. Gaby

    OBAMA 08, the one and only!

    March 17, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  16. Tim

    The rules are the rules. No revote for either state that broke the rules..

    March 17, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  17. Tim

    And with that, any chance Hillary had of winning went out the window.

    March 17, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  18. DrFill

    Finally some good news out of Florida!
    I'm Irish, and Florida kissed me.

    March 17, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  19. pcteach

    I don't know what all the fuss is about in wanting Florida and Michigan voters to actually have their votes count. Everyone knows the "people" who vote do not count, that was proven in the last Presidential Election. If the the voice of the people actually counted Gore would be our president, not Bush. One would think the Democrats would have learned from that fiasco but instead, we dwelled on that one for months. I am tired of all the garbage, lies, and deceptions. The electorial votes should all be trashed and the people should decide, period, end of story. Then all the lawsuits, debating and money could be put to better use instead of lining someones pockets.

    March 17, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
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