Local delegates pleased with Fla. compromise


Published: Sunday, June 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 31, 2008 at 11:36 p.m.

The decision Saturday by a national Democratic committee to grant half votes to Florida's delegates to the national convention was a King Solomon-style decision, according to a University of Florida political science professor.

Alachua County Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut and Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan, both delegates to the Democratic National Convention, also saw wisdom in the decision.

Professor Daniel Smith said he was not surprised when Florida's Democrats were sanctioned, and he is not surprised that the sanction was lessened on Saturday.

"The Democratic National Committee had to be firm in sanctioning these rogue state's parties in Florida and Michigan for fear of opening the floodgates of earlier and earlier primaries," Smith said.

Smith said the national leaders also had to be flexible with the sanction, because otherwise the national television cameras would pan across the Democratic convention center to show the blank spaces where Florida and Michigan should have been represented.

"To come up with this King Solomonic decision makes some sense to be sure," Smith said Saturday night.

Chestnut and Hanrahan said they were glad Florida's delegation will have at least half a voice on the convention floor and now the party can focus on the upcoming convention and general election.

On Saturday, a national Democratic committee reached the deal to give Florida and Michigan delegates half votes. The two states were told earlier this year they would have no delegate votes at all as a penalty for moving up their primary elections by several weeks.

"This was a very good compromise because at least we will be seated at the convention," said Chestnut, an Obama supporter.

"I hope this ultimately leads to a fairer primary system with more respect for voters across the nation," said Hanrahan, a Clinton supporter.

Chestnut and Hanrahan said the earlier primary was forced on Democrats by Republican state legislators in a bill establishing paper ballot standards.

"It was a must-pass bill and that's politics," said Chestnut, a former state legislator.

"Of course we had to pass the paper ballot mandate and the Republicans knew that so they attached the earlier primary to it. When you get one of these must-pass bills, people hold their nose and vote for it."

Hanrahan said that having paper ballots "is a more fundamental issue over the long haul," but the primary issue should lead to a national discussion about how to make the primary system better.

"I'd like to see a rotating order of states in terms of who has the earlier primaries, to give voters equal say in the process," Hanrahan said.

"I've been working on campaigns since I was 12 and I have only seen the candidates at large events. It would not be that way if we had a fairer primary system."

Chestnut said the time to get started on national primary election changes is now.

"The Democratic Party needs to work now to develop strategies to work this out in the future," Chestnut said.

Karen Voyles can be reached at 352-359-5656 or kvoyles@gmail.com.

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