ABC News’ Rick Klein and Elisha Wood Report: Florida Democrats would be willing to hold a "re-do" presidential primary this spring if the Democratic National Committee comes up with the approximately $18 million price tag, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Thursday.
Nelson, who is actively seeking an accommodation that would allow Florida delegates to be seated at the Democratic National Convention, said the DNC should pay for a new primary because party leaders voted not to accept the “legal election that we had on Jan. 29.”
"Now, to run an election like that [held] in January costs the taxpayers of Florida $18 million. The governor of Florida has already said that the state of Florida is not going to support it, nor do I think the taxpayers of Florida should do it," Nelson said Thursday on the ABC NewsNow program "Politics Live"
"So the question is, will the Democratic committee, will they pay for a re-do of a full-up election?" Nelson said.
A DNC spokeswoman, Karen Finney, dismissed the suggestion that the national party pay for a second primary, saying that the party needs to build up cash to help the Democratic nominee win in November.
"At this point, we can’t afford to do that," Finney said. "We need all our resources for the presidential campaign."
Since the beginning of last year, the DNC has raised about $60.5 million — nearly $40 million less than the Republican National Committee — and has struggled to maintain a cash balance of more than $5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The states of Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates by the DNC in response to their decisions to hold primaries in January — before the party-sanctioned window for such contests opened on Feb. 5.
With the race between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton lingering longer than most observers expected, party leaders in the states — and nationally — are scrambling to find a way to have the Florida and Michigan delegations seated, to avoid an ugly, divisive scene at the convention.
Though some in the party have suggested holding a caucus instead of a primary — a more cost-effective option — Nelson rejected that possibility out of hand.
"It would be manifestly unfair to replace a primary with a caucus, in which only a fraction of the 1.7 million Floridians who voted in the January 29 . . . Democratic primary would participate," Nelson wrote Thursday in a letter to Dean.
A spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, Mark Bubriski, said Nelson’s proposal would be "acceptable to consider," as long as the Obama and Clinton campaigns sign off on it.
Another option, Bubriski said, would be to hold a mail-in primary, where ballots would be sent to all Florida Democrats. Such an option would likely cost less than $6 million, but Florida Democrats would again want the national party to cover the expense.