TALLAHASSEE, FL -- Florida's Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman drew a line in the sand regarding the seating of its delegation. In an e-mail blast to the party faithful Monday evening she outlined three prerequisites before the Florida party would hold another election - either primary or caucus - including the up-front payment of millions of dollars to make it happen. The DNC has stripped the Sunshine State of its delegates because it violated party rules in holding an earlier than approved primary.
Thurman's statement was construed by some as opening the door to a "re-do" of the election process, if it had the blessings of both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. Others said it was merely a reaction to the ongoing media reports of the delegate counting mechanism being watched nationally, especially information coming out of Washington that some kind of brokered deal was looming. Florida and Michigan's Democratic Congressional delegations held a widely reported "brainstorming" session on the delegate controversy in The Capitol in Washington Monday.
"It is important also that we are clear about one issue. At this time, no suggested alternative process has been able to meet three specific and necessary requirements: the full participation from both candidates, a guaranteed commitment of the millions of dollars it will cost to conduct the event and a detailed election plan that would enfranchise all Florida Democrats, including our military service members serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere," Rep. Thurman said.
"The Florida Democratic Party cannot consider any alternative that does not meet these requirements. Indeed, it is very possible that no satisfactory alternative plan will emerge, in which case Florida Democrats will remain committed to seating the delegates allocated by the January 29th primary," Thurman added.
Her e-mail message came shortly after news reports that Florida's Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and Michigan Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm were attempting to find a solution to the seating of both states' delegations. Gov. Crist made news by calling the DNC'S failure to count Florida "reprehensible." 1.7 million Democrats voted on Jan. 29th.
Michigan, like Florida, also held a primary prior to Super Tuesday, and had its delegations either stripped of voting rights or, in the case of the GOP, given only a percentage of its delegate allocation.
DNC Chief Gov. Howard Dean has been quoted as saying Florida and Michigan must come up with new election plans - either primaries, caucuses or mail-in voting.
"It is important to remember that the Democratic nominating process does not end until June 10. The Florida Democratic Party continues to work with our leadership, Sen. Clinton, Sen. Obama and the Democratic National Committee to ensure this state is fully represented at the National Convention."
"We have discussed many things, ranging from the plans for the general election to a potential alternative primary to the process for appealing to the credentials committee of the National Convention to seat our delegates as currently allocated.
"We continue to move ahead with preparations for an unprecedented coordinated general election campaign. The people of Florida, like most Americans, are eager for change - not more of the same from [Sen. John] McCain - and in November, we will make the Democratic nominee the next President of the United States of America."
Florida's Democratic leadership has made an argued that the punishment was too severe or unnecessary since it was the Republican-dominated legislature that set the early primary date. The Republican National Committee only chopped the Florida GOP delegation by 50 percent for changing the primary date.
The DNC'S punishment has made news almost daily and has been the subject of public conversations continuously, with some Democrats saying the controversy is playing right into the hands of Republican strategists who see Florida as an electoral battleground that now could go their way in November. Even the state's most read newspaper, the Miami Herald, took the unusual step last month of editorializing that the intra-party political decision to blacklist Florida's delegates was a "kamikaze" decision which will benefit the GOP. The newspaper editorial noted "if not counted the same as other states .... the party stands to lose any claim they have to the loyalty and support of the voters of this state."
Democratic activists recall that it was only a handful of ballots that cost Al Gore Florida's electoral votes and the loss of the 2000 election. "The DNC is now doing it again," was a frequent comment at this weekend's delegation-selection caucus in Plantation, the heartland of one of Florida's most Democratic (20th Congressional) districts.
Florida's 210 delegate count now has taken on greater importance than earlier believed. It offers a major thrust for either Clinton or Obama, helping one of them to reach the magic number of 2,205 needed for the nomination. Because the Jan. 29 vote is apportioned by congressional district vote, it could give Clinton an edge of several more committed delegates.
So, Clinton wants the Florida delegates confirmed now, while Obama says he prefers a new way of counting Florida, perhaps by caucus.
Florida's senior senator Bill Nelson, a supporter of Sen. Clinton, has been outspoken in the controversy saying it would be wrong to have a handful of potential caucus-goers decide new results "after 1.7 million citizens had already made their choice."
"It is a Constitutional right to have our votes counted," Nelson said.
"It's a mess" is the general reaction.
The state of Michigan, although being equally punished, has one major difference. In Michigan only one candidate was on the ballot (Clinton) while in Florida voters chose from the whole Democratic field. Only Clinton and Obama got more than the 15 percent of the electorate necessary to win delegates.
Democratic voters also went to the polls last weekend (March 1) to actually select individual delegates (based on the January election results) who will go to Denver in August for the national nominating convention.
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