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. Ralph

    split the delegate

    March 17, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  2. B

    Excellent. So now let's count the delegates as they were elected and get moving.

    Hillary '08

    March 17, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  3. mike

    Good, no it's time to get over it. The people of Florida and Mich. got screwed by their elected officials and the public can get their revenge when it is time for the officials who created this messs come up for re-election.

    March 17, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  4. atomicprince

    Same FL Democratic Party, first moved their primary up and went against DNC. Now after all this debate, backs out from revote.

    I am so surprised to see RNC spinning Florida democratic party. Well looks like democrats are down the drain anyways.

    March 17, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  5. Alice Rea

    The voters should be seated because both candidates were on the ticket.

    March 17, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  6. SF KID

    Thats right, NO, No, No. Either split the delegates 50/50 or nothing at all! Blame your state leaders and get rid of em!

    March 17, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  7. Alice Rea

    There were over 2 million voters. These people should be seated.

    March 17, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  8. Truth

    Good seat the delgates equally!!!

    March 17, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  9. Ed Davis

    There must be more to this story. What has gone on behind closed doors. Florida elections always seems to look a little suspect to those of us living in other states,as if somebody got away with something. Why is it Florida seems to have more than it's share of drama around nationally important election?

    March 17, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  10. Cat, Costa Mesa, CA

    What about the delegates? I take it they won't be sat?

    March 17, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  11. Carol

    And that means there are lawsuit and supreme courts ahead! Danger, Danger, Danger! Democrats!

    March 17, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  12. Louis

    Right and Clinton wins on her name's different when you have to work for your delegates.......Obama bottom up..Clinton top down......more of the same if she wins...but you know we need to be focused on beating the republicans, dems.

    March 17, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  13. Alice Rea

    Seat the delegates.

    Hillary didn't campaign either. Obama knows that. Leave the votes as is.

    Obama is not being fair. Just seat the delegates and be done with it.

    March 17, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  14. thomas

    I have an idea to take care of the votes in fl and mi hillary was told not to go there take her delgate away from her ever how many in each state give them to obama why because she broke the rules and rules our rules. thanks thomas

    March 17, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  15. Support

    I think therle is no need to do that.

    Obvious, Hilary will win automatically soon because of Obama`s pastor.

    Why waste money any more?

    March 17, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  16. Jay

    Good! Give Hillary her delegates.

    March 17, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  17. Annamica, OH

    Hey guys,

    I think Obama supporters are forgetting the fact that the delegates may be seated as is...wait until they start whining.

    March 17, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  18. Janice

    It doesn't seem fair that Americans in Florida will not have their votes counted. All Floridians should be outraged by this decision. Either let the original vote count or have a recount. This highly close race is making history and Democrats across the country are showing their patriotism by casting their votes. I think the DNC should reconsider & let the original votes casted count as is.

    March 17, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  19. Ohiobo

    They already voted and their votes should count. If DNC should exclude Florida dalegates from the convention, that will be another sure way of having President Maccain come January, 2009.

    March 17, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  20. no obama

    Shame on the democratic party. These are the tricks of a dictatorship in a third world country.

    March 17, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  21. Francie

    Florida should be counted. Enough said!

    March 17, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  22. Mark Vink

    More fuzzy speeches and rhetoric.

    March 17, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  23. JB

    This is fine so long as they don't declare a winner there.

    We can only hope that the voters were not tricked by being told thier vote wouldn't count in advance, and then later learn that the rules were changed in order to declare a winner.

    Many people did not bother to go the polls. The states turn out was very low compared to other states because of the news that their vote wouldn't count.

    March 17, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  24. Harvey in Va

    Ok no second vote..let the frist one stand and divide the delgates and get on with Michigan

    March 17, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  25. Janet

    That's not fair to the Florida voters. They should be seated BECAUSE.... there were other issues on the ballot beside Obama/Clinton, so Florida voters did go and vote that day. I keep hearing people say they didn't vote because it didn't count, well, did they not want to vote on the other issues on the ballot? That too bad if they didn't vote, their loss. But the people who took the time out of their day, should be counted. Otherwise we are the United State of America of 48 states, great way to stay United. If Obama is all the man he says he is, and wants everyone to be UNITED, then he would let the votes count. But apparently, Obama only wanted them to count if it is in his favor.

    March 17, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13