Coconut Grove real estate developer and major political donor Stephen Bittel rolled out a list of new endorsements of bid for Florida Democratic Party chair on Monday, including South Florida congressional members Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, and Alcee Hastings .
Also backing Bittel is Janet Cruz, the House Minority Leader from Tampa, which also is the (once and former) home of Alan Clendenin, who is running again for the leadership post after losing a close race in 2013 to outgoing chair Allison Tant.
Clendenin lost his bid for state committeeman in Hillsborough County last month, losing by 12 votes to Russ Patterson. Although much was made about a bylaw interpretation by party chair Ione Townsend that precluded local elected officials from voting in the race, those votes would not have put Clendenin over the top in his own county. He ultimately moved to Bradford County and was elected as a state committeeman there, making him eligible to run for the chair position (a similar fate that occurred with Dwight Bullard, who, after losing to Bittel last month in Miami Dade County, moved to Gadsden County to become a committeeman and keep himself viable).
When Clendenin ran for party chair in 2013, there were some local Democrats who were not in his corner. Some of those sentiments were expressed in the aftermath of last month’s Hillsborough DEC vote.
On Tuesday night, Cruz issued this statement to FloridaPolitics.com.
“Alan Clendenin has been a dear friend of mine for many years. I supported Alan for his first bid for Party Chair and there is no doubt that there is a great need for his voice within the Party.
However, if we are going to be successful in 2018 & beyond, we need a Chair with a proven record of delivering victories for Democrats up and down the ballot. Stephen Bittel is a dedicated, progressive warrior with the business and grassroots organizing experience necessary to execute a 67-county strategy that energizes Florida Democrats as we head into a crucial midterm election cycle.
I believe Stephen has the vision and the ability to raise the resources we will need to ensure Senator Bill Nelson is reelected, that we elect a Democratic Governor for the first time in 20 years, and that we continue to grow our legislative caucuses in the State House and State Senate. For the future of Florida’s working families, we need Stephen Bittel as the next Chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, Bittel and Bullard both released a list of endorsements on Monday.
“In the past month, I’ve traveled from Destin to Dade, listening to the ideas of Democratic leaders in more than 40 Counties across the State,” Bittel said in a statement.“If we are to win statewide, we need to make sure that every voice is heard. Today, we announce the endorsement of two dozen caucus chairs, Counties and voters who represent all the best Florida has to offer. I’m proud to have their support, because together we will build a Democratic Party that will win for Florida’s families.”
Rounding out the field is Duval County’s Lisa King and Osceola Democratic party chair Leah Carius.
The election takes place this Saturday in Orlando.