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DNC Strips Florida Of 2008 Delegates

Karen L. Thurman, head of the Florida Democratic Party, speaks to the media after making her case to the Democratic National Committee. She said she expects candidates to ignore the DNC's ruling.
Karen L. Thurman, head of the Florida Democratic Party, speaks to the media after making her case to the Democratic National Committee. She said she expects candidates to ignore the DNC's ruling. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Democratic National Committee sought to seize control of its unraveling nominating process yesterday, rejecting pleas from state party leaders and cracking down on Florida for scheduling a Jan. 29 presidential primary.

The DNC's rules and bylaws committee, which enforces party rules, voted yesterday morning to strip Florida of all its delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver -- the harshest penalty at its disposal.

The penalty will not take effect for 30 days, and rules committee members urged officials from the nation's fourth-most-populous state to use the time to schedule a later statewide caucus and thus regain its delegates.

By making an object lesson of Florida, Democrats hope to squelch other states' efforts to move their voting earlier, which have created chaos in the primary structure that the national party has established. But the decision to sanction such a pivotal, vote-rich state has risks.

The party punished Delaware in 1996 for similar rules violations. But Florida, a mega-state that has played a pivotal role in the past two presidential elections, is different. The clash leaves the presidential candidates in limbo about how to campaign there.

Asked what Hillary Rodham Clinton's plans are for the state, Harold Ickes, a DNC member and adviser to the New York senator, said, "I don't think anyone's going to answer that question, or cross that bridge, until we see what happens in the next 30 days."

Bill Burton, a spokesman for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), said, "Hopefully, in the next 30 days, Florida and the DNC can reach agreement so Florida's delegates can contribute to the nomination contest."

Florida's state party chair, Karen L. Thurman, showed no signs of backing down yesterday. The former congresswoman said she will consult with state Democrats but added that she expects all the presidential candidates to ignore the national party's edict and campaign vigorously in advance of the Sunshine State's primary.

"Whether you get a delegate or don't get a delegate, a vote is a vote," a defiant Thurman said. "That is what Floridians are going to say is important."

The DNC rules stipulate that states that have not been granted a special waiver must schedule presidential nominating contests after Feb. 5.

"Rules are rules," said DNC member Garry S. Shays, of California, at the meeting. "California abided by them, and Florida should, as well. To ignore them would open the door to chaos."

Donna Brazile, a member of the rules committee who argued for a swift and harsh punishment for Florida, said states' desire to be more relevant in the nominating process does not excuse violations of rules intended to make the system fair for everyone.


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