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. bryen

    Seat the existing delegates!

    March 17, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  2. Iwik


    March 17, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  3. No Confetti For Hillary

    Hillary is a piece of work. Remeber all of that confetti after Texas and Ohio. Well I can understand Ohio, but she didn't win Texas.

    Hillary, I know you think you are the "decider", but it's the voters.

    Obama 08

    March 17, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  4. Teresa

    Well alright then. One state down, another to go. Michigan can't afford it. I am not supporting it and Hillary should accept her fate in all of this. It don't pay to cheat.

    Obama 2008

    March 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. Henry

    Doesn't Hillary know there is a position open of leutenant gov. in New york?

    March 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  6. Annamica, OH

    Thanks for handing the nomination to McCain.

    Well the delegates better be seated as the votes are now, or the DNC will have hell to pay.

    March 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. Louis

    Wow, just like that, they let the Republican legislature that moved up the primary against the DNC rule, knowing the delegates would not count, to win.

    March 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  8. Terry

    Thank God!!!! Ok one more thing behind us. Now someone get rid of the Clinton's and I will be thrilled.

    Go Hillary!!! Go away....... Go Obama 08

    March 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |

    Does it count the first primary result?

    I think it is fair enough since all candidates names are in the ballot! and no one campaigned there~

    2008 Hillary!

    March 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  10. Ron, TX

    Justice is served!

    Break the rules! Pay the price!

    Hillary Clinton agreed to these rules almost exactly one year ago, when she signed the pledge that Michigan and Florida would not count!

    March 17, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  11. MO

    fair enough

    March 17, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. Mike

    If the original primary was paid for by the state of Florida, I don't see how the Democratic Party can deny the voters representation. I'm surprised there has not been a lawsuit against the party by voters yet.

    March 17, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. Simon Roedia

    Hopefully this wouldn't affect the democrats.

    Barack Obama 2008!

    March 17, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  14. Chris

    Split them 50-50 and be done with it. No advantage for either candidate. No extra costs to taxpayers. Then next election, FL voters should vote out of office their governor and their lawmakers for creating this whole mess in the first place SINCE THEY KNEW WHAT THE RULES WERE TO BEGIN WITH. And let this entire fiasco be a lesson for other states to think twice before breaking the rules. As if rules were an option in society!

    March 17, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  15. Donna in boca

    Then, if the dems hope to have even ONE vote cast for their nominee this November – I suggest they COUNT the 1.7 million people who voted in January....otherwise, kiss florida good-bye.

    March 17, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  16. Wondering


    The bellowing incompetents don't deserve to have their votes count. They should take this up with the parties at the state level that are responsible for this.

    March 17, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  17. almost 40 year old

    Well, then Hillary gets the delegates she won there! It is a shame that Florida is the state that can never get it together. However, this time the DNC is at fault. They should have never discounted Florida and Michigan. They ought to know that in November we need them to beat the Republicans!

    March 17, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  18. Phil, Washington, DC

    Wow, now what? They shouldn't broke the rules in the first place. What a mess. I guess Florida will go red once again. Who's in charge down there? What of the votes, the delegates. People are going to feel like their votes don't count. John McCain victory in Florida, just wait and see. You'd think the Dem's learned a lesson in 2000, about organization and getting things right.

    March 17, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  19. TEH

    Finally the Florida Democratic Party came to their senses. How could anyone change the rules in the middle of the game. Everyone signed on the fact that MI and FL do NOT count. So for the Clinton camp to cry for a change of rules was not right. Anything different will fracture the Demcratic party forever. I hope the superdeligates will end this circus SOON.

    March 17, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  20. Oliver

    This is Great! You should not be allowed to change the rules after the game has started. The Democratic Party, Clinton and Obama knew the rules that were set when the race started. I do not think the rules to began with where that great but the rules that Dean and the party made should be in place.

    March 17, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  21. Lionel

    If there is not going to be another primary in Florida, then the delegates should not be counted and Mrs.Clinton needs to and should stop saying she won Florida. It's like an NFL team claiming victory for a pre-season game, and losing to the same team during the regular season, when the game really counts. Doesn't make sense to me.

    How can we trust her in the white house when she is trying to change the rules, or maybe like her husband, Bill, she just didn't understand the "meaning."

    March 17, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  22. Cindy in California

    The delegates from Florida still need to be seated at the convention, why not split them 50/50 between the two candidates

    March 17, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  23. Anonymous


    March 17, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  24. John Vlok Dommisse

    That's fine, as long as they are not awarded delegates based on the illegal "Primary" that was held in January. They will have to be given an equal number of delegates to represent Obama and Clinton.

    John Vlok Dommisse
    Tucson, AZ

    March 17, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  25. Tracey

    The Dems shot themselves in the foot – shall we say.

    March 17, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
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