Democratic state senators have filed paperwork to create their own fundraising committee, splitting from the Florida Democratic Party in the middle of a political fight over who will lead the party.
The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee will take over raising money and coordinating campaigns for state Senate races, now run under the Senate Victory organization of the FDP.
"We've grown, and we raised a lot of money this cycle," said Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens. "We've created an infrastructure now, and a staff."
The new organization, first reported by Politico, will be an "affiliated party committee," which under state law can put up to $50,000 toward a legislative campaign. That's the same amount a party can give -- and much more than the $1,000 an individual lawmaker's political committee can contribute.
Braynon said other Democratic senators, including incoming Minority Leader Jeff Clemens, agreed with the split, which is similar to the one Republican senators made in 2015 with the Republican Party of Florida. In the Democrats' case, however, the existing FDP leadership supports the senators' move, Braynon said.
Senate Democrats pointedly named their group the "Legislative Campaign Committee" -- rather than "Senatorial Campaign Committee" -- which suggests they may try to get House Democrats to join them.
Fueling the division is the upcoming election to replace retiring FDP Chairwoman Allison Tant. With no other big candidates seeking the seat, the post is likely to fall to the next Miami-Dade County committeeman: outgoing state Sen. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay or major donor Stephen Bittel of Coconut Grove.
Bittel, the apparent frontrunner, was a key force behind the Florida Alliance, a secretive outside fundraising group that was at odds with Braynon and other party Democrats in some of this year's legislative races.
Braynon has made no secret of his support for Bullard over Bittel. But he insisted Democrats remain united in spite of senators' departure from the party structure.
"We're all still Democrats," Braynon said.