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Democratic delegates will be seated; Official: DNC will make final call

By Staff | Mar 25, 2008

After efforts to set up a revote in Florida’s Democratic primary, the state party’s director is urging voters and officials to “get organized” for the general election.

Executive Director Leonard Joseph said Monday that Florida’s Democratic delegates will be seated at the party’s convention this summer, but he conceded that the slate’s composition is out of the voters’ hands and now up to the national party’s rules and bylaws committee and the credentials committee.

“It’s challenging but it is a task that they are up to,” he said.

Joseph visited the party’s Lee County headquarters in Fort Myers to speak with local officials and speak to members the media, repeating his assertion that Florida’s delegates will play a significant role in the Democratic convention in August. While the decision ultimately lies with the Democratic National Committee, Joseph pointed out that 1.75 million Democrats voted in the Jan. 29 primary.

“That’s a number they need to take under consideration,” he said. “We’re working with all sides.”

Because Florida moved its primary date before Feb. 5, the national party penalized the state by stripping it of all 185 delegates. Michigan was also completely stripped of its delegates for similarly pushing up its vote.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., won Florida with 50 percent of the vote, while front-runner Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., picked up 33 percent. More than 43,600 Democrats cast ballots in Lee County alone, with Clinton hauling in 56 percent of the vote. Obama garnered the support from 26 percent of Lee County Democrats.

If the state’s delegates are seated according to the existing vote, Clinton would grab 105 delegates while Obama would receive 67 delegates, which could slash his lead down under 100 delegates.

Just days before Florida’s vote, Clinton advocated seating Florida’s delegates and her campaign has taken point in pushing for a revote or allowing the results to stand and reducing the state’s penalty. Obama’s campaign has argued that allowing the delegates to be seated based on the Jan. 29 results or through a revote would amount to changing the rules in the middle of the game.

While Democratic state legislators debated the idea of a revote at one point, Joseph said that voters appeared to reject the concept and instead insisted that the message they sent on Jan. 29 be heard.

“That’s what they really want,” said Joseph. “The voters did their part.”

While delegates from Michigan and Florida are in limbo, Joseph said that the two states are in different situations. He pointed out that Michigan’s state Legislature and governor who signed off on its electoral move are Democrats, while Florida’s elected branches are dominated by Republicans. Still, he believes that the national party needs to change the way that it favors Iowa and New Hampshire which host the first votes in the primary process.

“We should have more representation on the rules and bylaws committee in the future,” said Joseph, pointing out Florida’s critical role in the general election and its valuable 27 electoral votes.

As the nomination fight continues, the goal of the Democratic party nationally and in Florida should be to show the differences between Obama and Clinton and presumed Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

“The reality is that we have two great and outstanding candidates,” Joseph said, adding that he believes Florida voters will get behind whomever emerges with the Democratic nomination.

“This is going to be a great election cycle for Democrats,” he said.