Saturday, May 19, 2007


State Senate Minority Leader Steven A. Geller (D - Hallandale Beach) this past week sent a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Dr. Howard Dean to address the issue of comments the former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate made recently threatening to punish Florida Democrats after the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to move the state's presidential preference primary to January 29 as part of an overall election reform package. The text of the letter, reprinted here, was originally published on the Palm Beach Post political blog Q Thursday.

Dear Chairman Dean:

This letter is in response to comments you’ve made regarding legislation which passed during the Florida 2007 Regular Session. The legislation included a provision which changed the upcoming presidential preference primary date to January 29, 2008. Reportedly, as a result of this provision, you have threatened to impose stiff penalties on the state of Florida for being noncompliant with certain rules of the Democratic National Committee.

Governor, before you attempt to enforce any draconian measures penalizing Florida or Democrats in this state, I would urge that you carefully reconsider your decision.

The Democratic Leadership in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives attempted to adhere to the rules of the DNC by offering amendments to keep the presidential preference primary on February 5, 2008.

A copy of the amendment offered by myself and the Senate Democratic Leader Pro Tempore is included with this letter. An identical amendment was filed by the House Democratic Leader and the House Democratic Leader Pro Tempore.

But as we are still the minority party in a Republican controlled Legislature, our amendments were overwhelmingly defeated. Simply put, we were outvoted, a scenario which - I’d like to caution - will be difficult to change should you move forward with any sanctions because of the primary date change.

In addition, while our amendments failed, we as Democrats voted for the final product. The legislation we supported finally moved our state from the punch lines into the headlines with regard to election reform, including the creation of a verifiable paper trail, a change long overdue. A verifiable paper trail was one of our Caucus priorities and important to many members of Congress as well.

While you may not like the outcome, as a former governor surely you must respect the system. By threatening to punish Florida Democrats because of actions taken by Florida Republicans, it is the party as a whole which will bear the brunt of your retaliation.

Barring candidates from campaigning in Florida as a punishment not only damages Democrats nationally, it wounds a process essential to our democracy. Every Floridian no matter their party affiliation should have the right to hear first hand Democrats’ plans to change our country and its direction.

Denying that right, Governor, or punishing Florida Democrats could easily cost Democrats this needed swing state. I am enclosing an article from The Florida Times-Union illustrating this point.

As the leader of the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus and a fellow Democrat, I urge you to reconsider your position and let the Florida primary proceed as planned without retaliation.

Senator Steven A. Geller
Senate Democratic Leader


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