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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

As House leadership vote looms, will every vote count? No



The 44-member House Democratic Caucus will decide on Feb. 20 who will be its leader for the 2014-2016 cycle: Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, or Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville. For four months, Rouson and Jones have been locked in a competitive fight for the minority leader's post, but even the timing of the vote has now turned controversial.

House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, called a "mandatory" meeting and secret-ballot vote for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 and notified every Democrat and aide in an e-mail. But Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, said the notice was vague and he couldn't attend, and he asked Thurston to change the time. All other Democrats who were there said they could attend, so Thurston rejected Slosberg's request at a Wednesday night caucus meeting. 

"I don't think that's the way to do business," Slosberg told Thurston.

Slosberg, a Rouson supporter, asked if he could vote by proxy. No, Thurston said. Can he vote absentee? No, he was told, the rules don't allow for that. The irony was lost on no one: The same Democratic Party that so loudly complained about disenfranchisement in the 2012 election doesn't have a mechanism to ensure that all of its legislators can vote in one of its elections.

On Feb. 20, legislators are holding a slew of evening fund-raisers in the bars and trade association offices near the Capitol (including Thurston himself, who is eyeing a Broward Senate seat in 2014). That prompted Rouson to raise a question of timing: "Some members may be imbibing libations," Rouson said. 

"Point well taken," Thurston replied. But he said the vote would go on as scheduled. Both Rouson and Jones claim to have enough support to win, and victory will require at least 23 votes from the caucus.

Slosberg, who won't be there, warned: "Every vote counts."

[Last modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013 8:46pm]


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