Fresh off his step-three victory last week among Miami Democrats, Stephen Bittel has formally launched his candidacy to become chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.
Bittel announced his candidacy Tuesday, though he’s been securing endorsements and backing for weeks for the vacancy created by the departure of FDP Chairwoman Allison Tant.
The Democrats will select their new leader Jan. 14.
Bittel has been among several prominent Democratic activists around the state trying just to qualify for the opportunity to run for the party leadership. In his case, he qualified last week when he defeated former Sen. Dwight Bullard for the state committeeman post in the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. Both were positioning to run from there for the state chairmanship. And that Miami position became available only because the guy who had just won that post, Bret Berlin, stepped aside to make it available for Bittel or Bullard as the stepping stone to Tallahassee.
Another candidate, Alan Clendenin, moved to Bradford County to get the state committeeman post there after losing election to get the job in Hillsborough County early this month. Duval County State Committeewoman Lisa King and Osceola County Democratic Party Chair Leah Carius also are in the running.
Bittel is laying claim to the progressive wing and has lined up numerous endorsements including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Democratic National Committee chairman candidate U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Michigan, and two of the most powerful Democratic-supporting unions, the Florida Education Association, and the Florida Service Employees International Union.
“The Florida Democratic Party needs a new direction, a change in strategy, and a clear message,” Bittel stated in a news release. “I am a different kind of candidate who brings a fresh outsiders view and a new approach.
“Democrats are the party of working families and we need to expand beyond Tallahassee and get on the road to engage working Floridians from Pensacola to Key West,” he added. “As chair, I will work with leaders from every Florida county to build a bench of Democratic candidates with fresh voices and together we will assemble a permanent progressive infrastructure that Florida Democrats need in order to be successful in the upcoming elections. We must invest in a 67-county grassroots approach focused on our Democratic clubs and executive committees, with offices and organizers throughout the state.