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. Bob

    I wish just one Hillary supporter would have the temerity to say out loud what they really express in these whining comments: that when they don't like the rules (that they agreed to) they shouldn't have to play by them. Talk about crybabies.

    March 17, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  2. Brenda

    It would surprise everybody to know that the majority of voters in Florida ( I am one) did not want a re-vote!!!

    A majority of us stayed home because of the simple fact that we knew our votes wouldn't count.
    I believe that the delegates should not be seated and the people of Florida should then take up this mess with our elected officials!!!!!

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

    I don't understand the problem with Mich. and Flor. They broke the rules. Now they want the votes to count. Why have any state spend more money. Seat both states but divide the delegates evenly between the 2 candidates and be done. Why isn't this talked about?

    March 17, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  4. Arc

    I'm with Darryl.

    March 17, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  5. RH

    Billy Sutton. There goes Obama's better judgement card!

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

    I just think it's ridiculous for Hilary to all of a sudden think that the votes should count... I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.. Frankly it doesn't make sense that they would count since the knew the rules and decided to go along with it anyway... Additionally, Florida & Michigan voters should be getting upset with their elected officials, not the DNC, Obama or anyone else.. They need to take a serious look at their govt. and reward them by electing someone who has their best interest at heart. Not their own.

    March 17, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  7. Shed Some Light

    Finally, some sense.

    Hillary thought she'd steal this nomination....

    Now let's talk about PeterFPaul?

    March 17, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  8. Barry

    Sorry "Debra" but the "whole process is meaningless" if the rules are ignored.

    March 17, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  9. Doom.

    Can we expel Florida from the US? They obviously can't figure out how to vote.

    March 17, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  10. Janet

    Anyone having a problem posting. I've submitted 3 and they are not on here.

    March 17, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  11. person

    I think the Michigan and Florida state representatives and governor are responsible for this mess. Can anyone clarify why there was even voting going on when the DNC said it was unlawful? I don't think Michigan should have had just Hillary Clinton on the ballot. How can they only hold a primary with one person on the ballot when Edwards and Obama were also viable candidates? That is ludicrous.

    March 17, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  12. CJ from Kansas City

    I think this is the right thing that should have been done a long time ago, rather than dragging it on for weeks and leaving the poor residents of Florida in limbo. The Florida Democratic Leaders knew what they were getting themselves into by trying to reschedule their primary, and now they should have to pay for their own doing. I feel sorry for the democrats of Florida for what they had to go through and hopefully they will learn to elect people who hold their interest at heart to lead their State's Democratic Party, and not people who will break the rules and expect the whole country to bend over backwards for them. Hopefully Michigan will learn from this as well.

    Oh, and vote Obama '08!

    March 17, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  13. P. Vivaldi

    . . . .Florida, why would you move your primary up if you knew that the
    delegates would not be seated according to the rules? You have had
    one screwed up election and eight Bush years later to get your act together. And don't blame Senator Obama. I will bet the farm that if you
    pull the curtain back, there stands Hillary Clinton shouting, "I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ".

    Obama 08.

    March 17, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  14. Grif

    Comments you don't need!!! Miracles would be better...

    March 17, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  15. Walter

    Good, Florida wanted attention by moving its primaries up, and now they got the attention they wanted let's move on.

    March 17, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  16. Brent, CA

    Janet: Yes! Me too.

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

    My parents, both Democrats didn't vote because they were told the primary wouldn't count. If they can't have a redo then forget the original contest .... it doesn't represent a real test.

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

    The vote should definitely stand as counted.

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

    Rev. Wright delivered the best history lesson ever. Jeremiah Wright for PRESIDENT!

    March 17, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  20. Jim D Palatine

    How typical to blame Obama, when it was someone else who made the decision to violate the rules even after being warned. Interesting, isn't this the same group that had the problem with the chats?

    March 17, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  21. Babs

    Hey FL. Vote that GOV. out
    Superdelegates Vote your Heart and soul and don't give into pressure from your supporters. Do what is right for America.
    Democrates Rule!

    March 17, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  22. peeet25

    Hillary, it's time to quit, you are now in the process of destroying the Democratic Party

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

    The Democratic Committee didn't move the primary up, the REPUBLICANS did and the Democratic Committee had to go along with it. That's why I don't understand why the Democrats are being penalized for it. Why did the republican votes count?

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

    You said leve a coment, "Why" you only post for "King" Obama.

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

    Peter Paul must not have raised a nationwide uproar like Pastor Wright did.

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