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Fla Dem dilemma, chapter XXXIV

Time is running short for Florida Democrats to make sure their votes count in the Jan. 29 presidential primary.

Party leaders from each county are slated to confer one last time on Sept. 29., the deadline set by the Democratic National Committee for complying with its ultimatum that only four smaller states vote before Feb. 5.

"My level of frustration seems to increase as the deadline nears," said Broward County Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ceasar.

State lawmakers disregarded the party calendar when they moved up Florida's primary from mid-March to Jan. 29 to give the state an earlier and more powerful voice. If Florida Democrats do not agree to organize a post-Feb. 5 vote, they cannot send delegates to the 2008 convention. What's more, nearly all of the candidates have pledged not to campaign in the state other than for fundraising.

A handful of party leaders who conferred by phone today favored bending to the DNC's will.

"A majority of us believe that we should try an alternative method that would allow candidates to campaign in Florida and allow Florida to be part of the process of selecting the next president of the United States," said Tallahassee attorney Allan Katz.

The main drawback to a party-organized election is that only activists are likely to participate in a process unfamiliar to voters accustomed to going to the polls on an Election Day blessed by the state.

"I think that will disenfranchise many of the voters in this state because they won't have a clue about what we're talking about," said State Rep. Joyce Cusack of DeLand.