FLORIDA – WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Betty and her husband, extraordinary Florida Democrats, have given tens of thousands of dollars to the DNC in years past but have held back this cycle because, she told me several weeks ago, before the primary, Florida’s (and Michigan’s) Democrats had been disenfranchised ‘by the DNC.’ They would be voting . . . and yet the results of those votes would not translate into delegates at the Convention – how could that be?

I replied with an email similar to my post here, hoping that once she and her husband understood how this dreadful mess developed . . . and that it was not something the DNC caused or could fix (if you disagree, please click that link) . . . they’d look at the big picture and rejoin our effort.

(The big picture: boy, would it ever be good for the country and the planet if Dems won back the White House, widened our lead in Congress, and reversed the rightward slide in the Judiciary.)

Yesterday, Betty, an Obama supporter, emailed with a new – and equally valid – concern. You’d better the hell not let Florida and Michigan delegates count NOW. (‘Florida’s result was a joke,’ she wrote, ‘a ‘beauty contest,’ based primarily on name recognition. And in Michigan Hillary managed to wink at the DNC ruling by being the only Democratic candidate to leave her name on the ballot, giving her a hugely unfair advantage. Consequently, if this issue isn’t resolved in a way that is fair to Obama, it will make me seriously consider staying home in November, something I’ve not done in 45 years of being old enough to vote!’)

My (unofficial!) reply:

Betty, I totally hear you, and am so grateful to have had the chance to respond earlier and now to this.

What you are saying is: the game must be fair. There need to be rules everybody knows and plays by.

So, just as the rules called for Florida and Michigan not to jump the gun — with penalties if they did — so, now, there is already in place a complicated but long-since established set of rules for “what happens next.”

These rules were made long before anyone had an idea what states might or might not jump the gun or what candidates might or might not be disadvantaged if they did.

It naturally pained us deeply that so many wonderful Democrats, including so many wonderful major donors, like you, got angry with us for enforcing the rules – it cost us your financial support, which we badly need. But how can you change the rules in the middle of the game? Even if there had been some legal way to do it (i.e., with enough time to call the requisite meetings as required by our by-laws, etc.), it would have seemed so grossly unfair to all the states that *also* wanted to go first but had abided by the rules . . . or else it would have led to chaos, with even more states jumping the gun.

So now, I agree with you, it’s crucial we not try to mess with the rules, even if there were some legal way to do it.

As I understand it, the DNC’s Rules & By-Laws Committee controls the delegate-selection process up until two months before the election. Anything is possible, but I would be amazed if, after taking so much heat for enforcing their rules — and with the DNC having fought and won a lawsuit affirming its right to make these rules – the Committee suddenly chose retroactively to change their own rules.

(The one exception easy to imagine would be if it turned out we had by then one undisputed presumptive nominee, at which point for the sake of unity and party healing, etc., that nominee might ask the Committee to relent, and there would be good reason for the Committee to say yes.)

At the two-month mark, like a plane behind handed off from one air traffic controller to the one at the airport of final destination, the responsibility for who gets seated at the Convention (if there is a dispute) gets handed off to the Convention Credentials Committee.

The DNC gets to appoint, and has appointed, 25 “standing members” to that committee – being careful not to skew it toward backers of any one candidate.

But the full committee will have 186 members (can you imagine?), determined – all according to rules long since set down – based on some kind of formula not in my head that basically has to do with who won which delegates. (If this becomes important, you can be sure I and everyone else will familiarize themselves with the specifics.)

At that point, one or the other candidate might indeed come to “control” the Credentials Committee – all based on the rules of the game – at which point he or she very likely would want to seat, or not seat, disputed delegates based on what worked to his or her advantage.

So that’s my understanding of how it all works — but the main thing to say is that a huge amount of time, under the guidance of people like Jim Roosevelt, has, over the years, gone into HAVING rules of the game . . . never set with the intent to favor one specific candidate over another.

And the other main thing to say is that, from my point of view, it is so crucial that we win back the WH, widen our lead in Congress, and reverse the wrongward slide of the Judiciary, that those of us who can should do all the law allows to support the DNC, which is working, even as we speak, to do all it can afford to do — our resources are limited when people don’t give! — to organize the nation’s 203,000 precincts to turn out progressive voters in November; work with 7,000 local polling officials (now, not on election day) to try to assure a fair distribution of polling machines (and avoid butterfly ballot snafus); and all the other things (like opposition research) that will improve our chances up and down the ballot on November 4.

Barack raised $32 million last month. The DNC raised $5 million.

If the only thing that mattered were who won the primary, then it would make sense to spend $500 million on the primary campaign, with terrific Democrats competing against each other, while having the Party run on fumes. (The DNC’s cash, last I looked, was less than the cash in my personal retirement account.)

But if our goal is put one of our two superb primary candidates in the WH as opposed to, say a McCain/Huckabee Administration — with all that implies in terms of lifetime judicial appointments — then I don’t get why we wouldn’t *rush* to support the DNC’s efforts, and help it build a war chest to match, or surpass, that of the RNC.

One more wrinkle – some are talking of arranging March caucuses in Florida and Michigan as an imperfect but well-intentioned way to give the candidates a chance to campaign in those states, and the citizens of those states a chance to express their preference and have their delegates seated at the Convention. The downside is that this would be very expensive and – even then – not likely offer the citizenry nearly as many polling places as they would have had in a state-run election. But whether such ‘do-over’ primaries are held is up to the states, not the DNC.

And while we’re on Florida, here’s yet one more wrinkle that could affect voter turnout November 4, and thus possibly even swing Florida one way or the other:

POLITICS IS PERSONAL – A REPUBLICAN PERSPECTIVE

You may know the “Marriage Protection” fight has officially made its way to Florida, with a vague and disingenuous amendment that will be on the presidential ballot in November.

Before we even talk about how dangerous and divisive this amendment is, let me introduce myself and then the Campaign I am leading to defeat this amendment.

I’m Jon Kislak and at first glace anyone would think I may appear a most unusual choice to lead a campaign like Florida Red and Blue. People on the campaign like to say I’m the “red” part of Florida Red and Blue. I’m a Republican. More than that, I’m an active Republican – I was Finance Chairman for the (now) Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and President George H.W. Bush appointed me to serve as Under Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture.

When people learn about my strong Republican credentials, they may assume I’m in this fight because I’m gay. That’s not why I’m in this fight and, for the record, I am not gay. Which is not the same as saying I don’t have a deeply personal reason to be engaged in this fight.

So why is a straight Republican leading a campaign to keep a “gay marriage” ban out of our State Constitution? In fact — funny story — the first question I got from a reporter last summer when we took Florida Red and Blue public was, “What’s a good Republican like you doing in a place like this?”

Aside from this being the right fight for my state and my party from a political and policy perspective, I am in this fight for my grandson, Ezra. Ezra was born 2 years ago to my daughter Rebecca, and adopted by Joanna, Rebecca’s partner of many years. They live in Rhode Island. Since Florida is the only state in the union to have a law expressly banning gays and lesbians from adopting, my daughter and her family are concerned every time they visit. And they certainly wouldn’t live here.

Personally, I don’t care how anyone feels about “gay marriage.” It’s just not right that our laws, public policy and social climate in Florida are so un-welcoming as to keep a Grandfather like me from seeing his grandson. Providence is a long way from Miami. I’m sure I’m not the only South Florida grandfather in this situation.

So, in a nutshell, that’s why I’m with Florida Red and Blue as a donor, supporter and leader.

And I am proud to be just one leader. We have an unprecedented and amazing Board of Directors which includes legendary Democratic finance man Bob Farmer (who has been national Treasurer of four Presidential campaigns, including Bill Clinton and John Kerry), the former national President of NOW Patricia Ireland, former Chairman of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce Peter Rhoulac and Jorge Mursuli, the national Vice President of People for the American Way.

With this group leading Florida Red and Blue, we’re becoming more and more prepared every day. We’ve already raised more than $2 million to fight this amendment. We have more than 150 elected, religious and social leaders signed-on to oppose the amendment and we’ve already invested more than $175,000 in polling and research that will tell us how to manage this campaign and communicate to voters.

Now that it’s official that the amendment will be put before voters (we expect it to be Florida Amendment 2), the real work begins.

We have to be successful in the nine months ahead of us because there’s much more at stake than the investments of our donors. Real lives will be impacted by our successes and failures.

The amendment here in Florida is not just bad – it’s very bad. The actual language is:

“Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

You can see, this language goes way beyond just banning same-sex unions. The “substantial equivalent” language is untested and undefined and has the potential to be used to ban existing rights, benefits and protections for millions of Floridians.

In Florida, amendments now must receive 60% voter approval to pass. So the November vote is an outstanding opportunity to defeat this amendment.

Sending this amendment into to the electoral dust-bin would not only be great for Florida, it would send a great signal to the rest of the nation that a southern state – one with rich diversity – saw past the misleading appeals to reactive politics. Wining here would send the unmistakable message that Arizona was not a fluke — these amendments are not slam-dunks anymore.

We’d love for Florida to become the proverbial “line in the sand,” where those who push these ballot measures come to understand that future efforts will be met by well funded, organized, bi-partisan opposition. And most importantly, opponents who can and will win.

It’s my hope that I’ll be able to keep each of you up to speed on Florida Red and Blue and the progress we’re making. Of course, you can always visit our campaign website at FloridaRedandBlue.com.

Thank you for taking the time to read my email [this email went out to a large listserve of which I am a member – A.T.] and be engaged in this crucial struggle here in Florida and everywhere . . .

Jon Kislak
Campaign Chairman
Florida Red and Blue
Miami

 

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