Florida defies Dems, moves up primary

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. — The Florida Democratic Party is sticking to its primary date — and it printed bumper stickers to prove it.

State party leaders formally announced Sunday their plans to move ahead with a Jan. 29 primary, despite the national leadership’s threatened sanctions.

The Democratic National Committee has said it will strip the Sunshine State of its 210 nominating convention delegates if it doesn’t abide by the party-set calendar, which forbids most states from holding primary contests before Feb. 5. The exceptions are Iowa on Jan. 14, Nevada on Jan. 19, New Hampshire on Jan. 22 and South Carolina on Jan. 29.

Michigan has also leapfrogged the national party’s order by scheduling a Jan. 15 primary.

Florida’s Democratic leaders say they want their key swing state to play a bigger role in choosing the party’s nominee.

“The 4 million Florida Democrats will be enfranchised,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in announcing the decision. “We will make sure Florida Democrats have a voice and that voice will be heard.”

The state party will proceed with its usual delegate selection process for the convention in 2008, Schultz said, “and we fully expect that delegation to be seated.”

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman said the state leadership looked at alternatives like a mail-in primary or a caucus.

“But at the end of the day, we came down on the side of having a fair and open election, along with making sure that we had a lot of representation in this state,” Thurman said.

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