- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Democratic Party is sticking to its primary date — and has printed bumper stickers to prove it.

State party leaders formally announced yesterday their plans to move ahead with a Jan. 29 primary despite the national leadership’s threats of sanctions.

The Democratic National Committee has said it will strip the Sunshine State of its 210 nominating convention delegates if it doesn’t abide by the party-set calendar, which forbids most states from holding primary contests before Feb. 5.

The exceptions are Iowa on Jan. 14, Nevada on Jan. 19, New Hampshire on Jan. 22 and South Carolina on Jan. 29.

Michigan also has leapfrogged the national party’s order by scheduling a Jan. 15 primary.

Florida’s Democratic leaders said they want their key swing state to play a bigger role in choosing the party’s nominee.

“The 4 million Florida Democrats will be enfranchised,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said at a press conference announcing the decision. “We will make sure Florida Democrats have a voice, and that voice will be heard.”

The state party will proceed with its usual delegate selection process for the convention in 2008, Mrs. Wasserman-Schultz said, “and we fully expect that delegation to be seated.”

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Karen Thurman said the state leadership looked at alternatives such as a mail-in primary or a caucus.

“But at the end of the day, we came down on the side of having a fair and open election, along with making sure that we had a lot of representation in this state,” Mrs. Thurman said.

State Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller blamed the four states that hold early nominating contests for creating problems. He charged them with being behind the national party’s decision to punish presidential candidates who campaign in states that leapfrog the set order.

“I don’t see how it’s not a violation of the Voting Rights Act,” Mr. Geller said, because Florida voters will now only be able to hear candidates speak at private functions, which have an entry fee.

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