Bill Nelson campaigning for Stephen Bittel
UPDATE--Bill Nelson just made official what most people already knew: "I have known Stephen Bittel for over 30 years and believe he will be an extraordinary Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Stephen has been a dedicated advocate for the principles of the Democratic Party for many years and is a leader who has the smarts and heart to unite the party in addition to implementing plans that will help rebuild the party from the ground up. While there are several qualified candidates in this race, I am convinced that Stephen is the right person to chair the Florida Democratic Party, he has my full support and I ask that you join me in this effort.”
Messy,heated campaigns for chairman of of the Florida Democratic Party are as common and predictable as love bugs smooshed on your windshield in May and September. But as long as most living Floridians have been alive the ultimate winner winds up being the man or woman preferred by the party establishment --- which usually means U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and, more recently, also U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In Florida it's as predictable as Bill and Grace Nelson waving campaign signs in traffic in the days before election day.
This year, Nelson and DWS are backing Democratic mega donor Stephen Bittel of Miami, and we hear Nelson has been making some persuasive phone calls lately to help put in place a party chairman he fully trusts as he heads into a tough reelection cycle. That helps explain why the more than 20 officers, and club and caucus presidents of the Hillsborough Democratic Executive Committee are now backing Bittel. So is Florida House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa, a longtime friend of Bittel rival Alan Clendenin.
“The Hillsborough DEC Executive Steering Committee is proud to support Stephen Bittel for Florida Democratic Party Chair. Bittel brings a lifetime of support for progressive causes and helping elect Democrats in Florida and around the country,” said Hillsborough DEC Chair Ione Townsend in a statement.
Bittel's first large county endorsement has to sting Florida Democratic Party Vice Chairman Alan Clendenin of Tampa, who failed to win reelection as a Hillsborough state committeeman and is running for state chairman claiming Bradford County as his residence.
Other candidates for chairman include former Miami-Dade state Sen. Dwight Bullard, Lisa King of Duval County, and Leah Carius of Osceola.