Despite the threat of punishment by their national headquarters, leaders of the Florida Democratic Party are pushing for a big voter turnout in the Jan. 29 presidential primary — and they're promising the votes will count in picking the party's ticket next year.
Florida state party chairwoman Karen Thurman announced Sunday that Florida Democrats won't be holding caucuses, a special state convention or a mail-in balloting in February or March. In Jacksonville on Monday, she joined U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and some state legislators for a news conference, urging the Democratic National Committee to recognize results of the January primary.
DNC rules forbid Florida and all but four other states — New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina — to choose delegates to the Democratic National Convention prior to Feb. 5. The national party has threatened to strip Florida of its 210 convention votes if it does not come up with a method of allocating delegates that complies with DNC rules.
Brown expressed confidence Monday the state can hold its primary in defiance of DNC rules and still have all 210 delegates in Denver next summer.
Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings have threatened legal action to force the party to recognize the state delegation and a Tampa Bay-area activist has already filed a suit seeking to clarify whether a political party can trump state law on a voting issue.
Florida state Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, said Monday that Democrats in the Legislature tried to set the primary for Feb. 5 but were out-voted by Republicans. The national GOP also plans to penalize the state but only by cutting the delegation in half — from 114 to 57 votes — and the state Republican Party is fighting that move.
Hill noted that the state has a referendum Jan. 29 on an important constitutional amendment — backed by Republicans — that would mandate property tax cuts. He said Democrats should turn out at the polls to vote for their presidential choices, as well as to be heard on the constitutional amendment.
Brown said that by threatening to not recognize the state's delegation because of the primary date, the national party is evoking unhappy memories of "disenfranchisement" in the 2000 presidential election. She predicted the DNC will back down or lose in court.
"To say you're going to penalize all 4 million Democrats in Florida, it's just not going to happen," she said. "We will be seated. We will not be punished by the national committee, period."
Contributing: Eun Kyung Kim, GNS.