August 25th, 2007
01:06 PM ET
14 years ago

Florida Dems may be barred from '08 convention

Nelson said Friday Florida Dems are prepared to pursue legal action against the DNC.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Democratic National Committee on Saturday rejected a plan submitted by Florida Democrats to hold their presidential primary on Jan. 29, setting up a potential legal showdown between the national and state parties over the seating of delegates at next year's Democratic National Convention.

Anticipating this would happen, Sen. Bill Nelson and other Florida Democratic lawmakers threatened on Friday to sue the DNC if the national party barred Sunshine State delegates from attending the convention.

"If the Democratic National Committee sanctions Florida then some of us (in) the Florida congressional delegation may ask an appropriate legal venue to determine whether or not a political parties rules can supersede someone's right to vote," Nelson said in a conference call with reporters.

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee declared that Jan. 29 was not in compliance with its rules and therefore rejected the proposal. The DNC prohibits any state other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding a nominating contest before Feb. 5. Florida’s primary date was approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist.

At the meeting, held in a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel, Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman argued that it was Florida Republicans who muscled the legislation through the state legislature to change the primary date. Thurman’s argument was not enough to persuade members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee.

Florida Democrats now have 30 days to submit an alternative plan to the DNC.

James Roosevelt Jr., co-chair of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, said his panel’s action was justified because the nominating calendar was constructed in a way to give traditionally underrepresented Democratic constituencies a role in helping select the party’s 2008 presidential nominee.

“The rules for the primaries and caucuses were developed in a very open and thorough process over almost two years … and they had a principle of creating fairness and openness, geographic, racial, ethnic and economic diversity,” he said. “What happened today was simply to say the rules stay in place.”

The DNC previously had allowed Nevada and South Carolina to move their contests into January to help bolster diversity into the party’s presidential nominating process. While Iowa and New Hampshire are chiefly Caucasian, South Carolina has a large black population and Nevada boasts a growing Hispanic population and has a strong union presence.

Should the Florida Democratic Party ignore the DNC's ruling and move forward with a Jan. 29 primary, it will face sanctions including having all of its 210 delegates banned from attending the convention being held in late August in Denver. This is what Nelson and his Florida Democratic colleagues have vowed to fight.

Allan Katz, a DNC member from Florida who sits on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, told CNN he is “hopeful that we will be able to get past this disappointment and come up with an alternate plan.” Katz said one proposal under consideration is to have a caucus in February where the Democratic delegates for the convention would be officially chosen. Under this scenario, the Jan. 29 primary would in essence become what is being described as a “beauty contest.”

“I think right now what happens is the Florida Democratic leaders … look up and say okay the plan that we wanted is not going to work,” Katz said. “We've been told that definitively. We want to be at the convention. We want to have people elected as delegates. We want to have a party building activity. I believe a caucus process is the best process to go forward.”

Florida is not the only state considering moving their nominating contest into January, causing both the DNC and its counterpart, the Republican National Committee, a major headache. The RNC has similar restrictions on states, with the exception of Iowa and New Hampshire, from holding a nominating contest before Feb. 5.

The Michigan legislature is moving forward with a bill that would hold its Democratic and Republican primaries on Jan. 15 and the South Carolina Republican Party has already declared it will hold its primary on Jan. 19.

With so many issues unresolved, the primary calendar remains up in the air less than five months before the first votes for president are cast.

Under the DNC calendar, Iowa is scheduled to hold its caucuses on Jan. 14, followed by the Nevada caucuses on Jan. 19, the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 22 and the South Carolina primary on Jan. 29.

Officials in New Hampshire and Iowa either publicly or privately acknowledge that these dates are no longer viable given the rush by other states to hold similar contests in January.

On Saturday, the Rules and Bylaws Committee considered the 2008 state delegate selection plans for 33 states.

- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston

Filed under: Florida
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Alan, Fairfax, Va

    Why the heck do all the states want to have primaries so early.
    Just to cause the presidential canidates to spend a Billion to get elected?

    Where does it say in any law or the constitution that right to vote applies to a non governmental election.. Such a s Political party election?

    August 25, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  2. CeeCee Cook, Delray Beach, Fl

    I guess I change my registration to republican, and vote for Giuliani. Thanks, Howard Dean

    August 25, 2007 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  3. Dave,NC

    CeeCee...that is your right. I respect it. Your state officials knew and AGREED to the rules last year. If everyone is allowed to leap frog where does it stop. They will be holding some elections next week !!!

    A bigger question? WHY is Florida ALWAYS a mess

    August 25, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  4. Jim, Seattle WA

    This whole election year is out of control, with each state vying for the opportunity to vote earlier and earlier. The end result will be that we'll have less chance to choose. The candidate who raises the most money the earliest has a tremendous advantage. We'll have little chance to see credible "dark horse" candidates emerge. And then, as a reward, the final election campaign will stretch from early February until November, getting more and more nasty, more and more degrading, more and more ugly, spiteful and unpleasant.

    Florida is not the worst, not the leader, but if the parties don't draw the line somewhere, we'll be voting in presidential primaries in October. CeeCee, the R's are planning to do the same thing, so you're voting Green.

    August 25, 2007 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  5. Sam, Chicago Illinois

    Hillary's likely going to beat Obama in Florida anyway, so I'd be glad if her delegates from Florida couldn't get in. Lol.

    Seriously, Howard Dean doesn't have to be a hardcase about this. Bill Nelson is right.

    August 25, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. PKay, St. Augustine, Florida

    I support the move of the Florida Primary to January 29, because it is in the primary process that nominees are selected. Recently I re-watched "The Best Man," the 1964 film based on Gore Vidal's play in which the selection of a presidential nominee hangs in the balance until the on-the-floor balloting at the convention. Today, that plot is all fiction. Nominees are selected through the primary process, not on the convention floor. By holding the primary before February 5, Florida Democrats may lose delegates at the national convention, but we will gain a true voice in selecting the nominee.
    Perhaps the time has finally come for regional primaries, four perhaps, and thus end the killing of candidacies by a hand full of people in a few small states that do not represent a cross section of America.

    August 25, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  7. Lance, Monrovia, CA

    This smells dirty as an eight year old hanging chad. I'm guessing here, but my instinct tells me there is one reason Florida's DNC is risking total embarrassment and even banishment to move back their primary. Why now you ask?

    Barrack Obama.

    Hillary Clinton is scared of Obama. She can't get signifigantly ahead of him in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, so now she's probably putting pressure on her buddies in the DNC Florida to move their primary up. She does far better than Obama in FL currently.

    I smell a political rat ala what Jeb Bush and the RNC did to Florida in 2000. They're mucking with our electoral process to help their own candidate.

    As I said, I'm still guessing, but we should start investigating to see if whatever Senators or Chairs of the Democratic Committee in FL have any ties to Clinton. With all the people they know and as popular as they are in Fl, I wouldn't doubt it a bit.

    Time is overwhelmingly on Obama's side as the election goes forward. All Hillary has is her name value. The more Obama gets out there and people see him as smart, witty, generally likeable and fresh, they change away from Hillary. I've seen it repeatedly.

    We need to pay very, very close election to what's happening to the electoral process and not let them get away with stealing the vote again.

    Have you noticed what the Republicans are doing in California? They're trying to get a bill passed that would break up the states electoral votes by district, so the repub districts in Calfornia have a say in the national election. It would fix the election for them for sure.

    Also, I'll bet they're doing this because they know they don't stand a chance against Obama in a fair fight.

    Obama will demolish his competition and the only hope is to speed up the race, don't give people enough time to get to know more about him, put pressure on him to go into states that aren't as friendly to him as the early primaries, rewrite the map of the entire race.

    Think about it. It makes sense. If it goes down in FL again, and Hillary gets the nod, lets see who from FL winds up in her cabinet.

    Dirty Dirty Dirty. Haven't we had enough of this lame game crap?

    I sure as Shell have.

    Obama 08.

    August 25, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. Lance, Monrovia, CA

    Oh and to the above poster that says that Howard Dean doesn't have to be a hardcase about this... You're wrong, he absolutely does. If he lets this genie out of the bottle he's mucked up the Democratic party worse than the republicans ever could. It will be pandemonium and in fighting and the Republicans will love it.

    We are lucky to have Howard Dean because he's not going to take flack from Hillary. he's going to stand by his principles and the good of the party than the immediate gratification of getting Clinton the nod.

    Think people. Don't let them think for you.

    August 25, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. Harmon, Lincoln NE

    Isn't it obvious why the primaries keep getting moved up? People are so sick of this administration that they just want to get it over with, but at the same time there is this irrational fear of impeachment. If you research impeachment at all you will find that it would be quite easy to pin this administration on the necessary charges to impeach them. This is imperative to retain some sense of adherence to the law by our government. Write your local representatives, Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers and demand that they fulfill their constitutionial duties and begin impeachment proceedings against this administration. On the other hand, we could have the primaries in November, the general election in March, and the inauguration in May.

    August 25, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  10. daveinboca

    Alexis L. Herman and Roosevelt and the rest of the DNC Politburo have probably written off Florida already, as this state is becoming redder and redder as the Dems disgrace themselves nationally in a campaign that is becoming sillier every time John Edwards opens his mouth about poverty. Giuliani will carry Florida by several hundred thousand in the November '08 election. Ditto Thompson. Romney might have a problem, but the apparatchiki working for Howard Dean and his team of political commissars might as well be shouting at the moon. The Dems always live and die by process-since dealing with the real world isn't their forte! This time they're dying by process. The rest of the South will go the way of Florida if this thing goes through.

    August 25, 2007 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  11. Terry, El Paso, TX

    I posted: "We don't need Constitutional arguments explaining why many of our children are destined to receive poor care, due to the brilliance of the founding fathers."

    Then David, Bay Area, CA posted "Yes, that pesky Constitution shouldn't play a role in our government at all, ideally… If you really support the "outcome" over the "process", I'd imagine you'd be supportive of the current administration. Who cares about the rights granted to suspected terrorists if using outlawed torture techniques (the process) could potentially save American lives (the outcome)?"

    David raises a good point. The Constitution controls the behavior of the elected and appointed men and women who are our government. I respect those who fear the power of government. I fear it too, though its power has been used in America, by and large, to my benefit, unlike the power of large corporations or religious groups who have been held in check by it.

    What I was trying to say it this: To the Liberal, our children are a sacred trust. It is imperative that every child who breathes American air and toddles on American soil receive the best health care. Liberals are not so icky about procedural issues. Those who are concerned about power flowing through proper Constitutional channels should help us invent a delivery system for children's health care. The test of America's child health care system is this: does every child receive all recommended preventative medical care? And, do all sick children receive the recommended treatments for any diseases, injuries, or deformities? Health care can be delivered, as far as I am concerned, by any method as long as it is delivered competently and efficiently to all young Americans.

    Unlike Bay Area David, who seems to be a careful thinker, most Conservatives use Constitutional arguments to block laws and programs which they really oppose for other reasons. The real reason why most Conservatives argue that the "government should stay out of health care" are these:

    1. It might result in higher taxes. Most Conservatives belong to the "free lunch" club. They treat America as if it is a buffet at someone else's house.

    2. Government delivered health care is secular. Government clinics would probably provide abortions pretty much on demand. Ditto birth control. Fundamentalist messages associated with chastity, abstinence, and pregnancy would not reach the government's patients.

    3. The medical industry fears government oversight and price controls.

    However, if the Conservative leadership expressed the real reasons for their opposition, they might lose the argument. Supporting the wisdom of the founding fathers is much more respectable than proposing a policy of saving money by having more sick children in the country.

    August 25, 2007 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  12. Robert Zamora Trinidad Colorado 81082

    There was not an intruder. When I woke up this morning, and heard my geese the "snow-birds" going south...with shot-gun in hand and half undressed... such is the "weather-man", that tells us that it is going to be in the 90's today in southern colorado...(which it is)...but does not tell you,"Do You Got The Look"...If and when we realize and wake up to the fact that we are not living in heaven, then we have to assume that we cannot belive everything we hear..or see..."We The People"...."We The People Own America"..isn't that what our fathers and mothers- ran away from- other country's that took there right's from them, to give to us? The "Dem's take our money, then tell us how to spend it. The Rep's take our money, and then give it to the rich. The one above is said to laugh at this, it is said..the good die young they say...the bad know they have no chance here...."Vote"....what does not come out in the rinse, comes out in the wash...!

    August 25, 2007 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  13. Evan Esteves, Boca Raton, FL

    CeeCee if that's sole reason you found to defect to the republican party, then you are have to be the weakest democrat I have ever seen...good luck in your new political party that could care less about you or the rest of the working class

    August 25, 2007 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  14. B. Paut

    Good for Dean, there is no reason to have prinaries this early. Late next spring is soon enough. I support ollowing the lead of other countries and not allowing any campaigning until a few months before the election. What is going on now is totally ridiculous.

    August 25, 2007 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  15. Lee: Arlington Va

    I think it is fine for states to move up there primaries. Any court would agree that if a party restricts the delegates from a state it amounts to disenfranchisement. The court is also likely to interpret the state as having the authority to determine election dates because the state is given all powers not specifically given to the Federal Gov't. The state's rights will trump any perceived power claimed by a party.

    As far as beating Iowa and New Hampshire to the punch, I am tired of a few people from these small states having a disproportionate influence on the selection of nominees. How many frontrunners in national polls have dropped after a second or third place finish in Iowa or New Hampshire?? I think we should have a national primary day in June. Leave the convention (in early July) as a formal event for the party and the known nominee to lay out the official platform, and announce a running mate. That would force the candidates to spend less time talking to every pig farmer in Iowa three times and let the rest of the country get to see the candidates. In fact, how about a rule that in order for a candidate to be on a state’s primary ballot, the candidates must physically show up in the state at least once?

    August 25, 2007 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  16. Kristy Sanborn Dixon

    Harmon, on what grounds would they have to impeach our President? Because he won't turn over highly Secret Service intelligence information? They already tried to get that, and "Executive Priviledge" do give our President the rights by being the President of the United States, to fully excercise that. And not even Nancy pelosi or john conyers can change that, they tried to get around it, but that didn't work, and it shouldn't have anyway, as some things regarding the safety of our Country isn't really meant for anyone but the ones fully within laws to excercise "Executive Priviledge" I am just so thankful AND very happy that we have a President who is smart enough to know his rights, AS President and Commander in Chief of our U.S. Military and they stand behind their Chief as in so many recent CNN articles, where Generals are also speaking out now. I asked someone the other night, how many Generals does it take to get America to see this war is needed? There have recently been like 4 Generals giving their views from overseas on this war and how the troop 'surge' has tremendously helped them with their missions.
    These are all Commanding Generals over there, and thats why ask, HOW many Generals does it take for America to see this war is needed to secure the safety of our United States and world? as that is what they have recently said.
    If Americans are not smart enough to listen to the very Commanders fighting this war, and what they also say, then all I can say is how Generals (Commanders) does it take to get it through some Americans heads they know what they are doing in this war?

    August 26, 2007 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  17. Chris, Philly PA

    learn to spell "party's"!!! When will CNN political writers learn basic spelling and grammar?

    August 26, 2007 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  18. Arlington, VA

    this whole thing is very embarrasing to the democratic party it proves that we are disfunctional – SO THE HECK WHAT! that florida wants to move there date up a little more these silly leaders of ours yes the ones who can't get us out of iraq and who can't fight the republicans are so ready however to fight there own we look so stupid as democrats right now that I'm agreeing with the guy earlier I'm changing my party – what in the world is wrong with these people they can't get nothing right!.....yep our solders are still dying while we debate this dumb silly mess about florida let our brothers in florida have there day a little sonner so what!!!!!!!!!!! o my goodness some one please tell me that I am not the only one here OUTRAGED!!!! our soldiers our dying and our party leaders are disfunctional! i am no longer a democrat as of today!

    August 26, 2007 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  19. J. R. Robb - Pickerington, Ohio

    Please – Mr. Gore – end our misery! You won before – you can do it again.

    August 26, 2007 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  20. David, Salinas, CA

    1) Florida is the new Chicago. Whatever the outcome of this little Democratic skirmish, we need to make sure there are plenty of independent observers on the scene in the sunshine state when the votes are counted.

    2) Both the content of this story and the wild and varied comments upon it provide strong evidence that America needs to start funding mental health again.

    3) The suggestion that this fracas has something to do with opposition to the candidacies of Senators Obama and Edwards is belied by the latest polling numbers from Florida:

    Clinton: 39.3% Obama: 18.5% Edwards: 11.8%

    These numbers are averages of four major polls. More polling info here:

    Keep it real Florida. We’re watching you.

    August 26, 2007 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  21. David, Encinitas CA

    Kristy – the American generals are just doing their jobs. They did not start this war, George Bush did. The question you need to ask yourself is, does this war help the US's position, or hurt it? The fact is, spreading democracy through arms is a pipe-dream. Democracy must be deeply desired and fought for by the people (Iraqi people – not us); only autocratic government will result from external force. The ultimate result from this is misery for America and for Iraq. Ten to twenty years from now we'll see a new crop of terrorists, ripe from the violence imposed by the US. We've gone through this before in Iran. Read your history – don't take it on faith.

    August 26, 2007 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  22. Celt17

    Good. Do It.
    This general rush to hold the first primary is a boon to the Republican Party (and I bet has been orchestrated by Rove). Why? They want (1) to ensure that Hillary is the candidate; and (2) to eliminate any last-minute surprises like they had in 2004 when they were prepared for Howard Dean only to have to change gears to Kerry. They want almost a year of being able to focus on Hillary because their own candidates can't win on their own absent the Hillary-negative factor.
    As for the Democrats. the Party has been a weak party since 1968. It needed a bit of revolt then, but is a virtual non-Party. The more delegates can be controlled by the Party leaders, vis-a-vis the liberal wing which controls the primaries, the greater chance that moderates will have a greater say in candidate selection–it may mean we end up with Joe Biden or Bill Richardson, candidates who have little chance now–and no chance if the primaries are all held in January.

    August 26, 2007 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  23. bobbysingleton, Philadelphia, PA

    We've already seen that Florida can be the key to national elections. If you can steal the state, you can always try to bar it.

    August 26, 2007 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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