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Florida Democratic Party president resigns

@PatriciaMazzei

The crisis at the top of the Florida Democratic Party continued Monday with the resignation of Sally Boynton Brown, the party's president and chief administrator.

Her exit followed last week's decision by chairman Stephen Bittel to quit after he was accused of creating an unprofessional work environment for women.

"It has been a privilege to serve the Florida Democratic Party and I wish you continued success turning Florida Blue," Boynton Brown wrote Bittel and Vice Chairwoman Judy Mount in her resignation letter, which was effective immediately.

On Sunday, Boynton Brown angered some Democrats by publishing a post on Medium in which she appeared to defend Bittel. Boynton Brown wrote she never saw Bittel demean women, as six women told Politico Florida last week, and said she was "heartbroken" that staff didn't come to her directly with their complaints about him.

"It is unfortunate that not everyone who has worked with Chairman Bittel has had the same experience I have," she wrote. "In my experience, Chairman Bittel has been refreshingly open to feedback, given by myself and others, about his conversational style and modified his approach when he learned that others found it off-putting." 

She also suggested new internal policies to prevent sexual harassment in the future, including hiring a personnel director and interviewing current and former staff about whether they've been harassed.

Bittel, who was elected chairman in January, hired Boynton Brown in April from the Idaho Democratic Party.

Mount will be interim chair once Bittel formally resigns as of 11:59 p.m. Monday, according to the party. It is unclear whether he will also be resigning his position as Miami-Dade state committeeman. If he doesn't, Bittel would have the single largest voice in the state in electing his successor, given Miami-Dade's outsize clout under the party's formula.

Mount, a longtime activist and former head of the Jackson County Democratic Executive Committee, had told supporters Friday that she intended to seek the chairmanship permanently.

But in a sign of ongoing internal party turmoil, Mount announced Monday that she will not run.

"I have always supported the Florida Democratic Party, its candidates and the causes so important to all of us true blue Democrats. I will continue to do so, just not as the next elected Chair," Mount said in a statement released by the party. "I said on Friday the focus was not on me. That's true. The focus is on advancing the causes and candidates of the Florida Democratic Party, moving forward and winning in 2018."

Also on Monday, Terrie Rizzo of the Palm Beach Democratic Party said in a Facebook post that she would seek Bittel's seat. Activist Alan Clendenin of Hillsborough County has said he'll run, and other state Democrats are considering candidacies as well.

A vote has been scheduled for Dec. 9 in Orlando.

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