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Dade Democrats' chair: I didn't break rules by endorsing

Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Annette Taddeo-Goldstein sent an email endorsing Joe Geller in his race for State House District 100.

“It's my great pleasure to announce my endorsement of my friend and longtime public servant Joe Geller for State House, district 100,” states the April 15th email from Taddeo-Goldstein. “Over his long career in public service, Joe served as Mayor of North Bay Village and Chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, and now he is our general counsel — volunteering his time to make sure every vote is counted.” (Geller is also the brother of former state Sen. Steve Geller, an adviser to Charlie Crist’s campaign.)  

Taddeo-Goldstein sent the email after Alexander Lewy, a Hallandale Beach city commissioner, dropped out of the race to take a job at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. (Lewy didn’t return our calls last week about his new gig, so here is some background from the Sentinel.)

Lewy had raised about $86,000 and was seen as Geller’s main opponent, so now that he dropped out Geller -- who has raised about $104,000 and loaned his campaign $25,000 -- is the front runner.

Taddeo-Goldstein says Geller is now the only viable Democrat -- and the only one from Miami-Dade County for the seat that also stretches into Broward.

But Geller still faces two primary opponents: John Alvarez of Hallandale Beach who has raised about $9,000 and loaned his campaign about $9,000 and Benjamin Sorensen of Hollywood who has raised about $18,000 and loaned his campaign about $8,000. The seat in the left-leaning district is being vacated by term limited state Rep. Joe Gibbons.

Privately, some Democrats said Taddeo-Goldstein was breaking an unspoken party rule or tradition that often keeps Democratic party chairs from endorsing in primaries.

Asked about that unofficial rule, Taddeo-Goldstein said she did nothing wrong.

“It doesn’t break any rule,” she said. “We can endorse in primaries as individuals, and I was happy to do so.”

Taddeo-Goldstein said that the endorsement came from her individually -- not the Miami-Dade Democrats, which as a group hasn’t made an endorsement.

But since the email came from Taddeo-Goldstein, the chair of the party and has the Miami-Dade Democrats logo on it, couldn’t readers interpret that as an endorsement from the group?

“I understand they could read it that way if they don’t pay attention to the first sentence, but I was very clear in my first sentence I was the one endorsing,” she said.

The members of the county party group sign a loyalty oath that is intended to prevent members from endorsing Republicans, Taddeo-Goldstein said. The oath states: “I will not support the election of the opponent of any Democratic nominee, I will not oppose the election of any Democratic nominee, nor will I support any non-Democrat against a Democrat in any election other than in judicial races....”

The word “nominee” refers to the Democrat who emerges from the primary as the winner, so that doesn’t mean members can’t endorse in the primary, Taddeo-Goldstein argues.

Geller says there is nothing unusual about the party chair making an endorsement.

“I used to be the chair of the party. I did it all the time. .... I endorsed Bill Clinton in the primary -- there were five or six Democrats running.”