Challenge filed against Democrat's 'shell game' campaign for state party chair
The knives are out in Florida's unpredictable contest for state party chairman, where some of the candidates are going to extraordinary lengths to qualify for the post after being snubbed and/or outmaneuvered at their recent local party elections. After failing to be elected as state committeemen in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade Counties, state party vice chairman Alan Clendenin and former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, declared themselves residents of Bradford and Gadsden counties respectively, to win state committee positions in those counties and qualify for the state party election chairman's expected later this month.
Both that county-shopping isn't going over well everywhere. Bay County State Committeewoman Patricia Byrd has filed a complaint with the state Democratic party asking outgoing Chairwoman Allison Tant to nullify Clendenin's election in Bradford, where he is renting a mobile home. Presumably, someone will file a similar complaint against Bullard, if they haven't already.
From her Dec. 30 letter:
...Mr. Clendenin ran unsuccessfully for the state committeeman of Hillsborough County less than 30 days before running for the same post in Bradford County. How can he be a resident of both counties? Clearly he cannot, especially when Mr. Clendenin currently has two homestead exemptions on file for residences in Hillsborough and Manatee Counties (which in an of itself is illegal as you cannot have more than one homestead exemption in the State of Florida). I have attached copies of the referenced public records to this letter for your review and consideration.
It appears that Mr. Clendenin has disengenuously played a shell game with residences and homestead exemptions in total violation of state election laws and state homestead laws for the sole purpose of positioning himself to be eligible to run for the state party chairman. However, despite his best efforts, it is clear that he was not, and is not, a resident of Bradford County. Accordingly, I request that the election be voided and that Mr. Clendenin be stripped of his position as State Committeeman of Bradford County....
Clendenin told The Buzz that the homestead exemption for his house on Ana Maria Island in Manatee really belongs to his partner, while the home they share in Tampa is Clendenin's only homesteaded. They are not married, though tax records list Clendenin and partner John Pecchio as co-owners of both properties.
"Until today the five Democrats running to lead the Florida Democratic Party have taken the high road. Instead of making the case for why he should lead the party, one of the candidate’s supporters, has decided to go low. Making slanderous, false and baseless complaints in an attempt to rig the election. When they go low, we will go high," said Clendenin, saying Byrd backs Miami's Stephen Bittel for party chairman.
"The Democratic Party needs to unify and rebuild, and I am running to change and reform the party," Clendenin said. "This is what the conversation needs to be about. Inserting petty party politics into this is a disservice to the five million Florida Democrats we are seeking to represent."