Presidential primaries moved up, tax reform on the ballot

By Rachel Yaeger and Jennifer Gager |

Voters of all political parties will come out to voice their opinion on Florida’s tax reform bill when voting in the national primary elections in January 2008.

The tax reform bill is suspected to bring out many voters because it “hits the pocketbook,” said Stephan Kira, chairman of the Republican Party of St. Johns County.

In May, the Florida Legislature approved by a large majority an election reform bill, which included moving the state’s primary date to the last Tuesday in January.

Moving the primary date before Feb. 5 is against the charter of the national Republican and Democratic parties.

Florida Democrats and Republicans both agree Florida is the country’s biggest swing state. Kira says Florida Republican and Democratic parties are sticking with the Jan. 29 primary. “We’re joined at the hip on this one,” Kira said.

Both parties are losing delegates to the national convention. “The state triggered all this. There’s no denying it,” said Lonny Awerdick, chairman of the St. Johns County Democratic Executive Committee.

Because Democrats did not find another voting option by Sept. 29, the DNC stripped Florida of all its delegates to the national convention. Florida Democrats are fighting back. They have filed a lawsuit against the DNC and Florida state officials.

The lawsuit cites that “wholesale disenfranchisement” of voters is unconstitutional, according to an Oct. 16 Christian Science Monitor article.

Democratic presidential candidates have pledged not to campaign in Florida, but they are fund raising in the state. Kira said, “Democrats are going to use Florida as an ATM machine for themselves.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Broward County, told Newsweek in September, “The four states [with early primaries: New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina] should release the candidates from the pledge … It would be short-sighted if they insist on enforcing the pledge.”

The Republican National Committee’s battle with Florida’s primary is quieter, but still has consequences. Kira said the state party would lose half its delegates by holding the primary in January.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent believe that the State Democratic Party of Florida will be the winner. And once they win, the Republican Party will let the delegates go,” Kira said.

Members of both parties believe Florida deserves to have its primary earlier than most states.

“With all due respect to New Hampshire and Iowa, nowhere are you going to be on a national stage like Florida. You’re going to get questions about Israel, Latin America, immigration. It’s the old South, it’s Latin, it’s Midwestern, it’s rural and urban,” Marco Rubio, speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, said in the St. Petersburg Times on Oct. 7.

Florida is one of the country’s largest swing states because of its diverse population. “We are the cosmos of the rest of the states combined,” Kira said.

Republican and Democratic Party leaders agree that Florida decided the last two elections.

“We are legitimately the biggest swing state in the country. Yes, there are maps showing you can win the presidency without Florida, but why would you want to start that way,” Schultz said in a St. Petersburg Times Oct. 7 article.

Florida is the fourth largest state in the country with 17 million residents. Of these, 3.4 million are registered Democrats, Schultz said in the Sept. 24 issue of Newsweek. “We’re not Iowa or New Hampshire or a state where you can drive across in a matter of an hour,” she said.

Awerdick said, “Florida is playing an important role in the country.” Florida is not going to be, as Florida Rep. David Riveria said, “lost in the scrum of states voting Feb. 5.”

“We’ll be damned by for it by some, but I think we’re doing the right thing,” said Joe Garcia, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party, in an Associated Press article on Sept. 22.

No one anticipated Florida Democrats and Republicans agreeing on a single issue this upcoming election, let alone the election itself.

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