The Democratic National Committee took steps today to punish Florida Democrats for deciding to hold the state’s party primary on Jan. 29, 2008 — a week before the first date allowable under D.N.C. rules.
The Rules and Bylaws Committee of the D.N.C. voted to strip Florida of all of its delegates at the party’s national convention next summer. The D.N.C. gave the Florida Democratic Party 30 days to submit a revised plan, ordering it to push the primary date back.
At the D.N.C. gathering today in Washington, representatives from the Florida Democratic Party asked for “mercy” from national party leaders, and complained that the move amounted to disenfranchising Florida voters.
Democratic party rules stipulate that Feb. 5 is the earliest date most state party organizations can decide to hold nominating contests. Four states — New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada — previously received special D.N.C. approval to hold their primaries before that date. (Both political parties and the wide field of 2008 candidates have been wrestling with primary front-loading, especially the logistical and practical issues revolving around the big “Super-Duper” Tuesday or “Tsunami Tuesday” of Feb. 5. Two dozen or so states have moved their primaries forward to remain competitive and give voters a voice before nominees are chosen.)
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The Republican-controlled legislature in the battleground state of Florida went even further this year, passing a bill setting Jan. 29 as the official date for the state’s primary. At today’s meeting, state Democratic party officials asserted that they had tried to fight the move.
“We took all provable positive steps in good faith to prevent the legislative effort that caused the earlier primary,” said Karen L. Thurman, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party.
In pleading the state’s case, Ms. Thurman was trying to meet the committee’s threshold for complying with party rules that require evidence that officials mounted a serious effort against the state legislature’s action.
“Florida Democrats did what they could, but in the end we failed to prevent the state of Florida from setting a primary date in violation” of national party rules, Ms. Thurman added. (The state’s Democratic Senator Bill Nelson yesterday vowed to fight any sanctions.)
But most members of the D.N.C.’s Rules and Bylaws Committee seemed unpersuaded by the Florida Democrats’ arguments, expressing reservations about whether they had done enough to stop the bill before it was signed in May by Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican.
One member of the D.N.C. rules committee, Donna Brazile, said that Florida should not be allowed any “wiggle room” on its primary date.
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