Florida Democrats Urge A 2nd Primary, in June

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., rides an elevator on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., rides an elevator on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster - AP)
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 14, 2008

Florida Democrats, seeking a solution to the dispute over their delegates to the party's national nominating convention, yesterday proposed a do-over primary in June that would be conducted largely by mail, although even the idea's sponsors expressed pessimism that the plan will ever be implemented.

State Democratic Party Chairman Karen Thurman proposed the vote-by-mail primary in a message sent to state and national party leaders and officials in the campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.). Thurman called it the only option available to resolve the impasse and to ensure that Florida's delegation is seated at the Denver convention.

Both Florida and Michigan held presidential primaries in January, earlier than was allowed under Democratic National Committee rules, and both states were stripped of their delegates and denied seating at the national convention. Now, with Obama and Clinton in a tense battle for the Democratic nomination in which every delegate is crucial, both states have been exploring options for a new vote that would win approval of the DNC and the candidates.

Thurman's plan calls for the primary to be held June 3, the last Tuesday of the nominating season, with ballots mailed out at least two weeks before that date. The state party estimated the cost at between $10 million and $12 million, with wealthy donors expected to pick up the tab.

But even in offering the proposal, Thurman sounded gloomy about its chances of winning acceptance. The Associated Press reported that when she was asked to rate the proposal's chances of being accepted, she replied, "I have a feeling that this is probably closer to 'not' than yes."

Earlier this week, Democratic House members from Florida -- including Clinton and Obama supporters and those who are still neutral -- announced their opposition to a new primary, including one conducted by mail. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), on the other hand, had suggested a vote-by-mail primary as a way out of the current impasse.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean expressed concern about the divisions among state Democrats. "Here's the bottom line," he told CNN. "We'd like to find a way to seat Florida and Michigan. We'd like to do it in a way that's fair, that both sides believe is fair. Fair to the voters but also fair to the campaigns."

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said his candidate would like to see Florida Democrats and DNC officials reach agreement but noted that there are logistical hurdles to a vote-by-mail plan that "neither the state party nor the congressional delegation seem to think are surmountable."

Clinton's campaign continued to press for either a revote or for simply seating the delegates in the state, which she carried easily. "We believe that the votes of the approximately 1.7 million people who participated in the Florida primary should be counted," said spokesman Phil Singer. "If that's not possible, we think a state primary that doesn't leave the taxpayers with the bill is the best way to ensure that those voters are not disenfranchised."

Mark Bubriski, Florida Democratic Party spokesman, said Thurman will seek comment from interested parties until the weekend. "We felt it was our responsibility to give people an opportunity to look at it, read it, and if they're still opposed to it, that may be okay," he said.

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