In a move to stem the onrushing tide of states maneuvering to be “the firstest with the mostest” in the upcoming primary season, the rules and bylaws committee of the Democratic National Committee has voted to give the Florida Democratic Party 30 days to reschedule its January 29th primary to a date after February 5th, or risk having all of its 210 delegates excluded from the Democratic National Convention.
The rules committee, which earlier had voted to prohibit all but four states from holding their primary elections and naming delegates before the February date, voted nearly unanimously on Saturday for the measure (only Florida member Allan Katz voted against), rendering the Florida Democratic Primary essentially meaningless.
State Democratic leaders protested the measure, saying that they were outvoted 2 to 1 in the Florida Legislature last January, when the vote was taken to move the state’s primary from its traditional March slot to the January date. Said state Democratic Chairperson Karen Thurman of Saturday’s heated discussion in the rules committee, “Florida Democrats did what they could, but, in the end, we failed.”
State Democrats are concerned that the move, if unresolved, will result not only in the primary being relegated to the status of “beauty contest,” but will also give the state short shrift during the campaign season, as candidates avoid spending time and money to campaign in Florida during the primary phase. Senator Barack Obama, campaigning in Miami on Saturday, indicated that the outcome of the dispute will be a “consideration” in his planning of his future trips to stump in the state.
According to The Miami Herald, the struggle in Florida is just a harbinger of fights yet to come as other states rush headlong to schedule their primaries earlier in 2008, with some even contemplating setting primaries as early as later this year. Next on the DNC’s agenda is Michigan, whose Senate is expected to vote this week to move its primary up to January 15th.
Chairperson Thurman is hopeful that a compromise will be reached in time, but said, “I think it’s going to be a difficult discussion.”
According to the Washington Post, Thurman has declined to indicate whether the state party will sue the national party, as was suggested by Florida’s Democratic Senator, Bill Nelson.
Meanwhile, it is likely that a similar fight will erupt within the GOP, as that party may also move to sanction Florida Republicans for their earlier primary. The national GOP has given Florida Republicans until September 4th to come up with an acceptable plan, or face losing up to half of their delegates.
Florida holds separate but simultaneous primary elections on the same day, and voters must vote in the primary of the party they declared when registering.
It will be interesting to see how the two national parties will resolve this dispute with the voters of the nation’s fourth largest state; the state that literally decided the 2000 Presidential election. The outcome of Florida’s battle almost certainly will affect other states as well, and depending on final results, may well portend a strengthening of state parties vis-a-vis the nationals.