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Palm Harbor movement to seat Florida's Democratic delegates gains momentum

The grassroots movement launched in Palm Harbor to petition the Democratic National Committee to seat Florida's delegates appears to be going strong.

Dubbed Florida Demands Representation, the network of volunteers is holding rallies and petition drives in eight cities today, including one at the Gladden Park ballfield in St. Petersburg.

"These rallies are part of the plan to spread the message," said Jim Hannagan, a marketing consultant from Ozona who started the movement last month with volunteers in Palm Harbor.

Hannagan, 45, is a Democrat who said he rushed home from Massachusetts on Jan. 29 so he could cast a vote for Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary.

The DNC stripped Florida and Michigan of their delegates because the states scheduled primaries earlier than the party rules allowed.

So in March Hannagan started a movement to gather 1.5-million petitions asking the DNC to seat Florida's delegates at its convention in Denver this summer.

Networking through Web sites, blogs and e-mails, Hannagan said volunteers are now in place in 27 counties. They have gathered more than 93,000 petitions.

Hannagan said the volunteers are gathering petitions at a rate of about 10,000 a week.

The movement is now coordinated through the Web site

floridademandsrepresentation.org.

"They are taking away our rights," said Margo Dixon, 57, a volunteer who is organizing a rally at the Walt Disney Amphitheater in Orlando. "If they take away this right, what else will they take away next?"

Volunteers will host other rallies in Tallahassee, Ocala, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Their main function will be to get people to sign the petitions. There will also be entertainment.

Some current or former public officials who support Hannagan's drive will speak at some events.

One speaker in West Palm Beach will be Mayor Lois Frankel, a former Democratic leader in the Florida House of Representatives.

"I consider myself in the community a political leader," Frankel said. "I'm going to go because I think I represent literally thousands and thousands of people who voted and feel frustrated that their votes are not being counted."

Former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman will attend the St. Petersburg rally.

An early supporter of former President Bill Clinton, Freedman is supporting Hillary Clinton. But she said she is supporting the petition drive because she wants all votes to be counted.

"Even if I had been supporting John Edwards I would still feel the same way," she said. "You just can't have people go to polls and not have their votes count."

Another speaker in St. Petersburg will be Anita de Palma, a Democratic candidate from Clearwater running for the 9th Congressional District seat now held by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor. De Palma also is a past state president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.

And Florida Demands Representation is joining LULAC which Tuesday is taking two buses from Westfield Countryside in Clearwater to Washington, D.C., to protest at DNC headquarters.

Others joining LULAC are students from the University of Central Florida, the Florida Voters League, the Florida Leadership Coalition and various civil rights leaders.

Seven other buses will take off from Tampa, Orlando, Hernando County, Jacksonville, Miami and Palm Beach for a Wednesday protest in Washington.

Meanwhile, Florida Demands Representation is planning bigger rallies and petition drives in various Florida cities May 31.

The local one will be at Lowry Park in Tampa. Hannagan hopes to draw as many as 5,000 people to sign the petitions.

"What we are trying to do is capitalize on the infrastructure that we developed in March," Hannagan said.

Jose Cardenas can be reached at jcardenas@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4224.



>>if you go

St. Petersburg rally

What: Count Our Votes rally and petition drive.

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.

Where: Gladden Park ballfield, 3901 30th Ave. N, St. Petersburg.

Why: Florida Demands Representation is gathering petitions asking the Democratic National Committee to seat Florida's delegates at the party's convention this summer.

Palm Harbor movement to seat Florida's Democratic delegates gains momentum 04/25/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 28, 2008 1:56pm]
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