Original post | 10:27 a.m.
Updated | 2:28 p.m.
In a rebuke to Broward’s favorite daughter candidate for governor, Nan Rich of Weston, the leadership of the Broward Democratic Party overwhelmingly defeated a move to push for a pre-primary debate between Rich and Charlie Crist.
Maggie Davidson, the state Democratic committeewoman for Broward County and a Rich supporter, wanted the party’s management committee to agree to a motion asking the state party to push for at least one Crist-Rich debate before voting starts for the August primary.
“I thought it was almost a no brainer,” she said Wednesday.
The management committee is made up of about 20 party’s officers, representatives of key democratic caucuses such as women, blacks and young Democrats, and area leaders from different regions of the county.
Mitch Ceasar, the party chairman, confirmed the result of Tuesday night’s meeting, but said he wouldn’t discuss the vote total or how individual members voted. “I can’t give you that because we discussed among ourselves that it not be disclosed,” he said.
Davidson said she was the only one of the party officers who supported the move. On Saturday, Ceasar, vice chairwoman Cynthia Busch and state committeeman Ken Evans attended the opening of Crist’s South Florida office in Plantation. Ceasar and Evans said party leaders’ attendance at the event didn’t signify support.
But Davidson said the combination of the debate decision and the attendance at the office opening – which is near the county Democratic Party headquarters – makes it clear that the party’s leadership is supporting Crist. “That’s my impression. I wasn’t totally convinced until last nigh. After last night I am. It saddens me.”
“I can’t see that I can really trust someone who was a Republican and did lots of things to hurt Floridians when he was in office as governor,” Davidson said. “I can’t trust him. I don’t see how they can. And it just seems to me that they are falling in line and getting in line, because they’ve blocked the money to Nan Rich and her support. And now he’s got it all, and I still don’t have an explanation from anybody as to why.
“I’ve been around for a while and I don’t know why I’m still sometimes surprised. Maybe too idealistic. I’m not as practical as the rest of them, willing to jump. Charlie says ‘jump’ and they say ‘how high.’”
Ceasar said the consensus of the management committee was that if the Broward Democratic Party supported Davidson’s debate call, it would be seen as taking an action to support Rich. “It would look like we were supporting someone in the primary, which we’re not supposed to do.”
That’s because Rich has consistently demanded debates – a call she repeated Tuesday. Crist has consistently said he won’t debate Rich because he’s focused on Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Davidson disagreed. “They say it would make it divisive. But it’s already divisive. The whole election’s already divisive.”
“A lot of people want to have a debate between the two of them. It’s not a matter of necessarily supporting Nan or Charlie. It’s a matter of principle and a democratic process to let the people of Florida know where each candidate stands. And I think that’s really important given Charlie Crist’s background and the fact that he was a Republican governor.”
He went on to run for and lose a race for U.S. Senate as an independent/no party candidate in 2010. He later became a Democrat and is seeking the nomination of his new party to run for his old job.
Rich is far behind Crist in money and polls, and front runners typically eschew debates in such situations. But Davidson noted there were Democratic primary debates in 2002 and 2006.
Rich said she doesn’t see the Broward party’s decision as a blow to her. Instead, she said, it’s a blow to the voters.
“I don’t’ really see this as a blow to my debate push [or] to me personally. This is not about me, this is not about Charlie. This is about voters,” she said.
She said she’d continue pushing for debates, and said she gets support for that position when she speaks. Democratic party organizations in Duval and Hillsboro counties have passed the resolution that was defeated in Broward.
“We’ve had debates as long as I can remember,” she said. “It is important that the two candidates get to present their records and their visions for the future and get to do it in the debate format. Not having primary debates deals a blow to the voters, not to any specific candidates.
“The bottom line is I do believe that’s the best way to educate voters, rather than who has the most money to put ads on TV,” she said.
Here’s the resolution overwhelmingly defeated Tuesday night by the Broward Democratic Party’s management committee:
WHEREAS, there are two major Democratic candidates now filed for the 2014 election for Governor of the state of Florida, and
WHEREAS, there are currently no debates between the candidates scheduled prior to the Primary Election which will be held on August 26, 2014, and
WHEREAS, Broward County has the most registered Democrats in the state of Florida, and
WHEREAS, the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee believes that the voters should make an informed choice between the candidates and that a debate would assist the voters in making that choice, be it
THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT, the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee urges the Florida Democratic Party to call for a Gubernatorial Democratic Primary debate to be held prior to the start of voting for the Primary Election, and for such a debate to be broadcast on statewide television.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun