WASHINGTON – Florida Democrats won't be shut out of the national convention this summer without a fight.
According to The Hill newspaper, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he will sue the Democratic National Committee over its refusal to let state delegates cast a ballot for president at the party's nominating convention in August as punishment for the state party's moving its presidential primary to Jan. 29.
Nelson's stern vow to sue the DNC came after a letter he received late Monday from DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who reportedly wrote that the party would not back down from a Saturday deadline by which Florida Democrats must come up with an alternative to the Jan. 29 primary or face the consequences.
"We're disappointed in Governor Dean's response," Nelson told The Hill.
A DNC spokeswoman was quoted saying the party would work with the Florida Democrats to overcome this latest standoff, as long as it takes place "within the rules."
Those rules demand that no state schedule primaries before Feb. 5 except for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which have been sanction by the party to hold their contests early. The DNC said it will strip the delegates — who cast votes for the nominee at the national convention — from any state that breaks that rule.
Michigan Democrats have also run afoul of the DNC, scheduling its primary for Jan 15, and are facing the same punishment.
Florida Democrats are standing firm that it does not want to compromise its early date, believing that with or without the delegate votes, it will be able to influence the presidential nomination by being one of the first states to weigh into the race. They also seem not to be cowed by a pledge circulated by Democrats in the sanctioned early states to bind the candidates from campaigning in Florida or Michigan. So far, all of the top tier Democratic candidates have signed onto the pledge.
A local Florida Democrat has already filed a suit against the DNC on this issue, according to The Hill. Victor DiMaio, a member of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, is suing both the state and the DNC, saying the dispute could disenfranchise voters. He wants the courts to demand that either Florida give in to seating the Florida delegates, or make the state Democrats change its date or create an alternative event — like a non-binding "beauty contest" — in lieu of the primary.
The state party in Florida said it does not plan to be a party in any lawsuit, and is just focusing its energy on getting the voters "interested in voting on Jan. 29."