Palm Beach County Dems endorse Clendenin, put more pressure on wavering committeemanby George Bennett | January 10th, 2013
Palm Beach County’s Democratic Executive Committee endorsed Alan Clendenin for state party chairman tonight – putting the local party at odds with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sen. Bill Nelson and the county’s congressional delegation.
The county DEC’s endorsement of Clendenin over Allison Tant isn’t binding, but it heaps more pressure on wavering State Committeeman John Ramos, who signed an endorsement of Clendenin on Monday but announced today that he would support Tant.
After tonight’s DEC vote, Ramos said he was torn over how he should vote in the Jan. 26 election for state chairman in Lake Mary.
Ramos and State Committeewoman Bunny Steinman are the only people who will actually cast ballots on behalf of the county in the chairman’s race.
“I would say he’s morally bound (to vote for Clendenin), maybe not legally,” Palm Beach County Democratic Party parliamentarian Ira Raab said after tonight’s vote.
Ramos, who had left the meeting before the vote to endorse Clendenin, was told of the DEC’s action by a reporter and initially sounded unsure of how he’ll respond.
“I’m going to have to seek advice,” Ramos said. “As state committeeman, that’s my job to represent the party. That’s a quandary for me.”
Under the Florida Democratic Party’s weighted voting system, there are 1,140 statewide votes for chairman and Palm Beach County has 82 of them. Ramos and Steinman, a Clendenin supporter, control 41 votes apiece.
To maximize South Florida’s clout in the chairman selection, representatives of the Democratic parties in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have agreed to put their 318 votes together for one candidate. At a meeting Monday, the South Florida Democratic leaders decided to support Clendenin, who is a Hillsborough County Democratic committeeman. Ramos, Steinman and their counterparts in Broward and Miami-Dade signed an endorsement form on Monday that was distributed by Clendenin’s campaign Wednesday night.
But Ramos said he wasn’t comfortable with signing the document Monday. On Wednesday, after meeting with Wasserman Schultz in Broward County, Ramos said he decided to support Tant. Ramos said the national party leader did not pressure him.
Tant, recently elected as the Democratic committeewoman for Leon County, raised money for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns and for Nelson’s 2012 reelection. In addition to endorsements from Wasserman Schultz and Nelson, she announced support Wednesday from most of the state’s other Democratic members of Congress.
Elected officials control about 12 percent of the votes in the chairman’s race. The bulk of the votes are controlled by committeemen and committeewomen from the state’s 67 counties. Many of those voters have worked with Clendenin.