October 9th, 2007
11:50 AM ET
15 years ago

Clyburn: Florida primary shuffle is 'mischief'

Rep. Jim Clyburn said Florida was trying to steal South Carolina's thunder by moving up their primary date.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn accused the Florida state legislature of "mischief" in moving up their state's primary date to Jan. 29, the same day that South Carolina Democrats are currently scheduled to hold their primary vote.

But Clyburn, the House Majority Whip and South Carolina's most powerful Democrat in Congress, said the Democratic National Committee should not punish Florida's Democratic voters for the date change. The DNC has threatened to strip Florida of its Democratic presidential delegates for violating party rules.

"I don't believe we ought to be punishing Democratic voters in Florida for what the Republican controlled legislature did down there," Clyburn said in an interview with CNN in his Columbia, South Carolina office. "I said at the time that they were doing mischief. I think they did it."

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings have filed a lawsuit challenging the DNC penalties.

"I don't ever agree with anybody suing my party," Clyburn said. "But I understand it."

Still, Clyburn was wary of Florida's motives. In moving their primary date to Jan. 29, the same day of the South Carolina Democratic primary, Clyburn said Florida was trying to steal South Carolina's thunder.

"That's exactly what Florida intended to do," Clyburn said. "But once again, you just play what hand you're dealt. We're dealt a very good hand by the national committee and of course somebody came along and trumped us. But that's not the end of the game. I think we'll be okay in the final analysis."

After months of saying she would not move the primary date, South Carolina Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler said last week that she would soon decide whether to ask the DNC and the state party's executive committee to move the primary up to Jan. 19 from its current date of Jan. 29.

Moving the primary ten days earlier will put the state's Republican and Democratic primaries on the same day. In August, South Carolina Republicans moved their primary date to Jan. 19 to stay ahead of Florida.

Many South Carolina Democrats remain concerned that Florida's decision to hold their primary on Jan. 29 will take the air out of the South Carolina vote unless the date is moved up.

The South Carolina Democratic Party's executive director Joe Werner told CNN last week that any decision to move up the South Carolina date will have more to do with concerns about following the Republican primary, and little to do with Florida's decision.

"We don't want to be overshadowed by the Republicans," Werner said. "We think turnout will fall dramatically if we're after them."

Clyburn said he didn't think voter turnout would suffer even if the Democratic primary is ten days after the Republican event, and predicted everybody involved in primary shuffling will be content with the final outcome.

"Well, nobody is going to get out in front of the [DNC] rules committee on this," Clyburn said. "I feel very comfortable that when all is said and done, South Carolina is going to be pleased. I think Florida is going to be pleased, and I think the national Democratic rules committee is going to be pleased."

For more South Carolina campaign news, check out CNN's South Carolina Political Ticker.

- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Florida • Primary Calendar • South Carolina
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Mark. Shreveport, LA

    "South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn accused the Florida state legislature of "mischief" in moving up their state's primary date to Jan. 29, the same day that South Carolina Democrats are currently scheduled to hold their primary vote."

    This coming from a man who knows so little of history that he thinks it was the Republicans who blocked civil rights bills in the 60's! And he's the democrats majority whip?

    October 9, 2007 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. my911call

    I agree:
    ..."I don't believe we ought to be punishing Democratic voters in Florida for what the Republican controlled legislature did down there," ...

    October 9, 2007 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. Wynter, Loudon, NH

    Rep. Clyburn is perfectly correct!

    Why would the Florida legislature move their primary up to January 29th without approval from the DNC and RNC?

    The answer is anyone's guess. But as the Florida Legislature is controlled by the Republicans I can imagine that it can't be to please the Democrats. Apparently, both parties hold their primaries on the same day as its more expensive than doing them seperately. So shouldn't the legislature simply follow the party's agreed upon date? Doesn't seem to be the case here. The legislature dismisses the fact that its a primary for the parties involved, not purely the state. It's like someone highjacked your birthday party and moved it to another month because they wanted to.

    It's up to the National Committee to decide, not one state. The punishment should be on the legislature of Florida though, not the voters.

    Telling it like I see it,

    October 9, 2007 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  4. James C. London, UK

    Wow ! And all that hate just because he dared to express an opinion. LOL @ the Americans.

    October 9, 2007 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. Vicente Fox, Mehico

    WHEW! I'm glad to hear we found a way to blame the Republicans. Here I thought the DNC was going to marginalize Florida primary voters. Yes the DNC may still not count the Florida primary.. but AT LEAST now they can blame Republicans!

    October 9, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. Mike Orlando, FL

    Of course it's all the Republican controlled legislatures fault. I just don't understand why the Florida Democrats are bing punished. It's all silly. A National primary would be the way to fix everything.

    October 9, 2007 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  7. Andrew C., Chicago, IL

    Our primary system is unfair. Florida just did the logical thing to try to count as much as Iowa and New Hampshire.

    All primaries should be held on the same day, just like a normal election. Why should Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina go first? All this does is concentrate massive political power in three arbitrarily chosen states.

    Everybody's vote should make the same difference, regardless of which state they live in. It is a travesty that Michigan voters will get no say at all, while Iowans pick the next president.

    This is phony democracy, and Americans shouldn't stand for it.

    October 9, 2007 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    Doesn't Mr Clyburn and family and friends etc, etc have a weekly taxpayer trip he needs to take?

    Some place warm this time, eh, Jimmy?

    October 9, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  9. VanReuter NY NY

    Good heavens... I hope this isn't the new face of the Democratic Party (Jim Clyburn).

    Can't we get someone with some credibility to discuss the Democratic side??

    October 9, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  10. David, Gilbert Arizona

    Hmmm...last time I checked Karen Thurman was a democrat.

    "Florida Democrats say they will stick with a January presidential primary and they don't believe, in the end, the national party will strip Florida of its delegates.

    State party chairwoman Karen Thurman said they are going ahead with the primary on Jan. 29."

    Maybe Rep. Clyburn needs to wake up and smell the coffee. He doesn't seem to have a clue what he's talking about. Blaming the republicans for your party problems isn't going to solve anything.

    October 9, 2007 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. Chris, Middletown, CT

    You know the Democrats who read this and said "write this down for when Hillary loses...we can blame the Florida legislature....yeah....we will need a believable excuse....nah...the heck with it...our members will believe anything we throw at them....we love the gullible"

    October 9, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  12. Mike, Milwaukee, WI

    Rep. Clyburn is absolutley correct!

    October 9, 2007 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  13. Jack Shifrel, Coconut Creek, Florida

    Congressman Clyburn has it partially correct. The fact is that the action in the Florida legislature that moved the Florida Primary to January 29th was the brainchild of Democratic State Senator Jeremy Ring. Senator Ring has said, and most Floridians agree, that issues important to the 4th largest state in the nation and the largest "in play" for '08 with 27 electoral votes, deserved the attention from candidates that an early primary would afford. The decision of the legislature had nothing to do with upstaging South Carolina, nor was it supported or endorsed by the Florida Democratic Party.

    The 4 state pledge signed by most Democratic candidates prohibits them from campaigning in Florida, but allows them to fundraise. That in itself is utter hypocrisy. After all, fundraising is the most quintessential form of campaigning.

    The DNC rules committee would be foolish, to say the very least, to risk alienating Florida Democrats in a year when Florida's Democratic voters could easily make the difference in the presidential election. Remember 2000, when only 537 votes was the official difference between George Bush & Al Gore.

    October 17, 2007 10:11 am at 10:11 am |