- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The chairman of the Florida Democratic Party is reportedly prepared to step down amid backlash over dismissive comments he made about black legislators.

At the party’s annual fundraiser in Hollywood Saturday night, Chairman Stephen Bittel tried to speed up the event so that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden could give his keynote speech and get back to his wife for their anniversary, Politico reported. As a result, state Sen. Oscar Braynon, who is black, and state Rep. Janet Cruz, who is Hispanic, were not able to present the members of their respective caucuses to be recognized onstage. After leaders complained, Mr. Bittel said “the black caucus members were acting like three-year-olds and childish,” Mr. Braynon told Politico.

Mr. Braynon, who said Mr. Bittel singled him out as acting “like a child,” said he got so heated over the remark that he had to leave the room.

“The leader would have killed the chair,” a Democrat who witnessed the exchange told Politico. “Why did he have to blame the black caucus? It was Cruz who was the first one really upset about it. It had nothing to do with race … Bittel isn’t a racist. But he’s a rich white man who doesn’t know that the things that come out of his mouth can be really offensive.”

State Sen. Bobby Powell, who confronted Mr. Bittel later in the night, reportedly told other Democrats that the chairman also accused him of “playing the race card.” A spokesman for Mr. Bittel would not confirm the statement to Politico.

Mr. Bittel issued an apology on Monday, saying he has “much to learn” and is committed to “learning from this mistake.” He also set up a meeting Tuesday morning with Mr. Braynon and state Rep. Kionne McGhee, the House Democrats’ leader-designate, to discuss next steps. Democrats close to Mr. Bittel told Politico that the chairman is ready to resign if the black caucus asks him to.

“Stephen is a true believer in the party and if the party needs his head, he’ll give it,” said one Democrat. “If Oscar or Kionne want him gone, he’s gone.”

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