September 23rd, 2007
05:43 PM ET
15 years ago

Florida Democrats will defy national party

(CNN)–The chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party says the party will hold its presidential primary on Jan. 29, despite being told by the Democratic National Committee that doing so will result in the state losing its 210 delegates to the 2008 nominating convention in Denver.

"After months of careful deliberations, your Party's leaders have chosen overwhelmingly to reaffirm our strong commitment to fully participating in the state-run Democratic Presidential Primary on January 29, 2008, despite the penalties from the Democratic National Committee," Karen Thurman said in an email message to Florida Democrats on Sunday. "There will be no other primary. Florida Democrats absolutely must vote on January 29th," Thurman said. "We make this election matter. Not the DNC, not the delegates, not the candidates, but Florida Democrats like you and me voting together. We make it count."

Thurman was adamant the significance of the vote would not be diluted despite the possibility of sanctions from the Democratic National Committee. "Don't let anybody call this vote a "beauty contest" or a "straw poll," Thurman said in the email. "On January 29, 2008, there will be a fair and open election in Florida, which will provide for maximum voter participation. The nation will be paying attention, and Florida Democrats will have a major impact in determining who the next President of the United States of America will be."

Thurman, along with officials of the Florida Democratic party, and the state and national Congressional delegations, held a press conference Sunday afternoon in Pembroke Pines, Florida to make the announcement.

In addition to losing all of its delegates, the decision also means that most of the Democratic presidential candidates will no longer campaign in Florida. The candidates have agreed not to stump for votes in any state that does not follow the DNC's nominating calendar.

Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed legislation into law that moved the state's primary to Jan. 29, even though it violated rules established by the DNC to keep all but four states - Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina - from holding nominating contests before Feb. 5. The Republican National Committee has similar rules, but the penalty is less severe for states that violate them.

Last month, Florida Democrats asked the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee to recognize Jan. 29 as its primary date, a request that was rejected outright. The DNC panel then gave the Florida Democratic Party a month to submit an alternative date or risk losing all of its delegates.

Prior to the August DNC meeting, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., threatened 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 party's rules can supersede someone's right to vote," Nelson told reporters.

Florida Democrats' decision to hold their primary on Jan. 29 is the latest piece of the puzzle to fall into place in what is still a yet-to-be defined primary calendar less than four months before voters begin casting votes for president. It is still unclear what dates Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina Democrats will hold their nominating contests. Michigan has already moved its primary date for both political parties to Jan. 15, while the South Carolina Republican Party has scheduled its primary for Jan. 19. Both of these states are also in violation of the DNC and RNC rules.

-CNN's Mark Preston and Jamie Crawford

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. RTH, Bellingham, WA

    She's right. The nation will watch, and regardless of whether Florida's delegates get sat at the convention, the results of their primary will influence others.

    September 23, 2007 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  2. Dave Cheverly, MD

    Florida approved the DNC Plan for their Fen 5 Primary a year ago. But now that Hillary is in trouble, they are doing this.
    It is clear that the plan is to have Florida being talked about more then any other state on and after their Jan 29 Primary. The Media will constantly talk it up as a controversy because the DNC promises that their votes won't count. Florida will institute a court challenge to insure it is front-page news. That media coverage will boost whoever is the winner of Florida’s DNC Unrecognized primary at that time. The plan is to make that winner be Hillary. Since all Dems agreed not to campaign in Florida, So Hillary would win Florida’s primary since she has the most name recognition because of Bill Clinton.

    This entirely orchestrated political move is to give Hillary some momentum, as she would have just lost Iowa, NH and S.C. Primaries.

    Howard Dean, who I do NOT believe is a non-intelligent person. Is either a non-intelligent person or in on this plan. When he plays into the totally Republican run Florida decision to move their Primary by grand standing and taking away their delegates. He plays his part in the scheme. So is he a non-intelligent person or is he in on the plan?

    I would think his utmost priority FOR NOW would be to move the primaries around to make sure all states delegate and votes are included. ANY other actions should be saved for after the General election when true dialog can be had on how to do the 2012 election. That’s what an intelligent DNC leader who is not part of this scheme would do. To Howard Dean.. Driving a car with a nail in the tire eventually will result in a blow out. (U should know this from experience in your 2004 Presidential bid.) As Hillary CANNOT win the General election!! Howard, You are MISCALCULATING AGIN!! You should put pride aside and do what’s right and make all this work fairly!!

    September 23, 2007 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  3. Joe, Yorktown, VA

    Will someone explain to me why these folks couldn't wait until a week later and vote alongside 25 other states? What's so important about Jan. 29th? They cite the reason is "maximum participation will occur on January 29th" but simply because it coincides with the Republican primary vote, and that makes very little sense to me. Are we missing something here?

    September 23, 2007 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  4. Cynthia OKC, OK

    I know there has always been disagreement concerning states' rights and the federal government, but why should the states bow to the demands of a political party? Careful Democrats or you could give Republicans like Fred Thompson some good ammo to use against you.

    September 23, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  5. Bill Rettinger, Hollywood, Florida 33024

    Joe from Yorktown asked "Will someone explain to me why these folks couldn't wait until a week later and vote alongside 25 other states? What's so important about Jan. 29th? They cite the reason is "maximum participation will occur on January 29th" but simply because it coincides with the Republican primary vote, and that makes very little sense to me. Are we missing something here?"

    The answer here is quite simple. Our State Legislature, which is firmly controlled in both the State House and State Senate by Republican members, passed a billed during the last legislative session which moved the Florida STATEWIDE Primary date up to January 29th. That Legislation was signed into law by our Republican Governor, Charlie Crist, Therefore the STATEWIDE Primary in Florida WILL BE held on January 29th. Floridians will vote on January 29th on a wide amount of issues, only one of which will be the Presidential Primary. There are ballot issues regarding amendmants to our State Constitution on the ballot, along with many of our local Municapal Races also on this ballot as most of our Municipalities have local elections set to coincide with either the State Primary or General Elections to save costs involved in running the election.

    For the State Democratic Party to have set up and run an additional Democratic Primary on another date would have been not only cost prohibitive, but also counter-productive to having all Floridians votes counted in the other important issues on the ballot on January 29th.

    Why should ANY voter in Florida be potentially disenfranchised by the Democratic National Committee for exercising their civic duty and responsibility and casting their votes on January 29th, during the STATE election, called for by the duly elected STATE government, which includes MANY other issues on the ballot that are of EXTREME concern to ALL Floridians?

    September 24, 2007 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  6. Wondering in WPB, West Palm Beach, FL

    I do not understand why the Democratic National Party would penalize the Democratic voters in Florida for something a Republican controlled state government chose to do?? Am I missing something here?? It wasn't their fault the way I see it, so why penalize them??
    And further more, what gave them ( Crist, etal) the authority to do so when they were well aware of the Parties rules for primaries?? And did the Democrats in the Fla Gov make any attempt to stop this change going through?? They HAD to be aware of the DNC rules for primaries! What gives??

    September 24, 2007 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  7. Concerned in FL

    Republicans currently control the FL legislature and governor seat. There’s even talk of Gov. Crist being a VP pick. Along with the ballot initiative in CA, it seems to be another effort to manipulate elections. Republicans know their chances look bleak, so they re-write rules in their favor. They’re now focused on a ballot initiative in CA, which unfairly divides electoral votes by non-competitive congressional districts. This would guarantee Republicans an additional 20 electoral votes in presidential elections to come.

    I hope America is paying attention this time, and Californians do not allow them to get away with it on June 3, 2008.

    Anyone can sign the petition to oppose the initiative and don’t have to be from CA:

    Presidents should be decided by popular vote, but until that time comes all states should be abiding by the rules.

    September 24, 2007 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  8. Allison, Switzerland

    Looking from outside the issue (I'm not a US citizen), and assuming that the DNC rules are not a new thing, one might suggest that this is a very clever move by the Republicans of Florida to shore up votes for the general election.

    With the absence of Democrat Presidential candidates campaigning in Florida, comes the advantage of the eventual Republican nominee who presumably WILL be campaigning in that state during primary season.

    It's a bit late to start campaigning there after the nomination process– people have long memories, and it may be enough for some voters to vote Republican where ordinarily they would not, or not bother voting at all.

    In a state that can have a big impact on an election (just ask Al Gore!), why on earth would the DNC take this risk? If they go ahead with it, and Florida becomes pivotal again, if the Republicans win the DNC will have no one to blame but themselves.

    And I understand Florida Dems not moving the primary – it's difficult enough getting people out to vote once, twice is probably near impossible. Not to mention the waste of large amounts of money to get it done. Money that I can îmaging could be better spent.....

    September 24, 2007 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  9. laurinda,ny

    Not to many people respect Florida which is otherwise known as God's waiting room. You Floridians voted for a Republican governor, not to mention Jeb Bush was also your choice. You put America through your scandalous hanging chads and now this nonsense.

    September 24, 2007 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  10. BCNU purple state, usa

    And further more, what gave them ( Crist, etal) the authority to do so when they were well aware of the Parties rules for primaries??

    I think its called the state constitution and the fact that it was done by the state legislature and the governor.

    The question here is why is the DNC and Howard Dean ruling out the delegates?

    In 2000 and 2004 they whined about voters being 'disenfranchised' in Florida, yet fail to take corrective steps necessary to reconcile that as it relates to DNC POLICY.

    September 24, 2007 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  11. Ed, Tallahassee FL

    As a Florida voter, I must admit it has always seemed like our votes did not matter because they were so late in the Primary Season.

    I don't know if losing half of our delegates is worth it, but it will make our votes seem to count. You also have to admit that which ever side takes Florida will almost certainly be the next President. So I think it is a bad idea for either party to penalize Florida it send the wrong message that they do not care about our votes. That could have a negative effect on voter enthusiasm and voter turn-out.

    It also may make Florida donators think about sending less of their money to the National Level.

    September 24, 2007 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  12. Steve Wittlake Blaine Washington

    The current system for choosing delegates to National conventions is completely tied to control by candidates that have the most money or can collect the most money. Individual voters have no voice in the system and are reduced to a system where they vote in national elections for the lesser of two evils. In order to be completely fair to every candidate that wants to run for either President or Vice President a date should be chosen such as Feb. 5 where all States choose their delegates by whatever means including any third or fourth political parties.

    September 24, 2007 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  13. Jim Topeka, Kansas

    The DNC needs to learn it's place. It may be convening the convention, but it's the State Government that sets forth the election rules to include dates of primaries, not the DNC.

    This election should revamp the political face of America, that is unless the DNC manages to alienate members of its party and split the party by trying to flex its control.

    If Howard Dean wishes to self destruct the Democratic Party much in the same way he destroyed his Presidental bid, he is headed in the right direction.

    September 24, 2007 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. James, Phoenix AZ

    I am truly amazed to the lengths the Democrat party is going to intentionally lose this upcoming election.

    Howard Dean (Chairman of the DNC) is threatening to alienate Florida and Michigan democrats by blocking their participation in the Democrat nomination process.

    The Democrat party is pushing the nomination of the least experienced and most un-electable candidate – Hillary Clinton. In the history of tracking voter sentiment – Hillary has the highest negative ratings EVER. She will motivate Conservatives and Independence to vote against her as no other candidate can.

    Continued campaign scandals.

    Given the frustration the nation feels about the Bush administration – Democrats should be MILES ahead in polling – yet every tracking poll shows it dead even.

    Yall keep pushing for Hillary. We, conservatives, will cheer you on. It's our best shot of winning the White House (again).

    September 24, 2007 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. Wondering in WPB, West Palm Beach, FL

    Purple State,I know that it was done legally through the state constitution, but why is a state(Republican) able to move primaries(federal) to help their side in the end. And, again,Why on earth would the DNC punish their own Democratic voters in Florida for something they had no control over? the action of Crist and the state legislature was obviously done for a variey of reasons one of which was to benefit the Republicans in the primaries. Its like punishing the victim for the prepatrators action. thanks for your patience bloggers, I'm a bit new to this.

    September 24, 2007 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  16. Wynter, Loudon, NH

    The problem here isn't the DNC or it's chairman. It's simply that this leapfrogging of the primaries to be first has got to end! We are now looking at starting the primaries around Christmas!

    The state of florida is just one of many bungled attempts to push their own agenda above everyone elses. The DNC threat was a stick intended to bring this utter lunacy at the states level to a halt. But it appears that won't be the case.

    Talk about election reform! This is going to require some major changes in how the parties run their primaries! You simply can't have the states changing the dates legislatively without having agreement with the parties themselves. It's like booking a band to appear on a date without knowing if they can even make it. The states need to work this out with the parties or the people will end up paying the price.

    Telling it like I see it,

    September 24, 2007 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    Oh please! The DNC needs to learn it's place? If we leave it up to the states this circus of one upmanship will have primaries being held earlier and earlier until we will know our nominees as soon as their predacessors have been sworn in. Someone needs to say enough is enough. And really, who really cares who the Democratic nominee in Florida is? Everyone knows that those self centered hate filled Bible banging bigots will never elect a Democrat for President anyway. And again someone tell me, WHY did we fight to keep the South in the Union????

    September 24, 2007 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Bob, Long Beach, CA

    Big states like Florida should get more attention in the primaries. If the Democrats choose to alienate Florida, that is their loss. But I guess pissing off your voters is the new strategy for Democrats to win the White House

    September 24, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  19. Dave Cheverly, MD


    Leadership is also the ability to reach compromises.
    To DNC Howard Dean & fellow Democrats. JUST this one time do the UNEXPECTED. Allow Florida the Jan 29 date so that the VOTERS who’s VOTES MUST count & not get penalized. Florida’s Republican leaders who are in control have voted to select Jan 29. Beat them at their own game ALLOW and stress all candidates to campaign in Florida. This will let Floridians votes count, allow Dem candidate to get well known in Florida for the General election as well. This is a trap!! Republicans are looking at Florida to win the General election and if Democrates are not known there and have alienated Floridians. Republicans win. DNC,.. SHOCK the Republicans by playing better at their game and NOT wasting time fighting the Jan 29 date.

    September 24, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |