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. Percy

    Good. Count the votes that way they were fairly taken.

    I'm tire of these Obama-maniacs saying there was no campaign there, so no one could make an informed decision.

    Last time I checked CNN and all the other national news organizations were covering the campaign and the coverage didn't stop at the panhandle border.

    Obama: you will lose if you try to screw us.

    March 17, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  2. joe

    Good! CNN, finally you stop this nonsense!

    March 17, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  3. anita

    as it should be
    neither candidate campaigned; both were on the ballot
    it's a fair result

    March 17, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  4. bond

    As it should be, following the rules.

    March 17, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  5. Monty

    Good. They don't deserve one.

    March 17, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. Janet

    Thanks you! Florida messed up 2000 election. That is the main reason we ended up with Bush in the first place. Sorry Florida, your vote won't can't . Your state officals, sold you for a profit. You really need to look at your Govenment officals. They sold you out. So don't bame the DNC.!

    March 17, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. Darryl

    Maybe us Democrats just need to vote for McCain.

    March 17, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  8. Jon Cruz

    Way to go. These jerks have now screwed over their party members twice. I am disgusted.

    March 17, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  9. Randy - Denver

    About time no bonus for cheaters!

    March 17, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. April in Texas

    Finally now can this be tthe end of this please and get back to the issues and economy and uniting the democratic party.

    Obama '08

    March 17, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. For Obama

    I am sure we will hear Hillarys words on this soon LOL

    March 17, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. patricia martin

    I am glad to see that the Florida Democratic Party is abiding by rules set forth by the Democratic National Committee when the presidential primary campaign season began. As DNC Howard Dean has stated repeatedly, "You don't change the rules in the middle of the game. "

    March 17, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  13. Vicky

    I knew there is no primary from the time rules were set. Why should we live in a country of rules or laws if it is easier to go back and bend them?

    March 17, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. JC

    And here come the lawsuits from those that do not understand the law. The DNC is free to do what they choose and not have legal repurcussions because they are CHOOSING a NOMINEE. Not Electing an OFFICE.

    There MUST be consequences for breaking the rules, and I do not want a nominee who would be okay changing the rules mid-game.

    Disenfranchise voters? Na. EVERYONE knew the rules, even the voters.

    Can't call it like it was either because of those, probably Obama's, who stayed home because they understood the rules and knew their votes would not count.

    March 17, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  15. tired and frustrated (in the primaries)

    Sorry Hillary...

    March 17, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. Jenny, Rio Vista, CA

    So what is the great Howard Dean going to do. If I were him, I would tell Florida that you will seat the delegates 50-50. I would also remind them that the situation was caused by their Governor and not Barack Obama, which seems to be the message that Clinton is delivering.

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. Boo Hoo

    Great–let's move on. The next time they will vote for a governor who has their best interest at heart.

    Next subject.

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  18. Robin

    It is sad that in the first place Florida violated the rules, but more importantly, it sad that DNC couldn't come up with a fair solution. Republicans honered the state votes by 50% and now they do have any problem.

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  19. Becky in In.

    They voted, count that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  20. Darth Vadik, CA

    Good Lord Florida is soooooooooo messed up.
    I'm not moving there when I get older, I'm going to Arizona.
    Scottsdale sounds nice.

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  21. errrr

    It is really bad news for the DNC leaders because they are really Obama supporters. I guess that they would ruther loss Florida than let Hillary win it.

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  22. ListenUpPeople

    Good. Florida had its chance, and it violated the rules.
    And this violation was done by a Republican legislature and Republican Governor. Sorry Florida, you violate rules, you lose your chance.

    March 17, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  23. Brian

    You mean the pro-Clinton Florida Democratic Party members want to find a way to force people to accept the results of their first "primary" in which hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters stayed home with the thought that their votes were not going to count?

    March 17, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  24. No More Pillows


    March 17, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  25. Carol

    And there shouldn't be one! Obama is leading in everything and Hillary is just illusional, and tearing the party apart........Time to go back to New york and Help David Paterson to build newyork..........

    March 17, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
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