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[UPDATE] Smith Appears to Have Votes to be Dem Chair

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida; AP
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida; AP

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Dec. 1, 2010 -

Several top Democrats said Wednesday that Rod Smith has the votes sewn up to be the beleaguered party’s next state chairman, though Smith said he wasn’t claiming victory.

With the announcement late Tuesday that he has the backing of Miami-Dade County’s state committeeman and committeewoman for chairman, Smith appears to have well over 50 percent of the votes of executive committee members committed to him, several Democrats said.

Members of the state executive committee from the counties with the most Democrats and the best performing ones have more votes than other committee members, and between them, Miam-Dade committeewoman Verna Lewis-Edington and committeeman Bret Berlin have 118 votes - most of any of the county-level executive committee members.

“I think that Rod Smith has this locked up,” Democratic Party state Vice Chairman Rhett Bullard told the News Service Wednesday.

A vote hasn’t been formally scheduled but party officials are looking at Jan. 8 for a possible vote.

Smith, a lawyer in Gainesville, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate, met Tuesday night with his rival for the post, Tallahassee city Commissioner Andrew Gillum, but said Wednesday that it is still a contest.

“You can’t be in politics and believe you have anything locked up,” Smith told the News Service. “I’m not presumptive at all. I’m not going to be presumptive. I’m working hard on reaching consensus with everybody.”

Gillum didn’t return a call for comment Wednesday, but Smith said their talks have been “very productive.

“All the other guys have a major role to play,” Smith said. “This is way more than one guy is going to be able to do. Hopefully, Andrew and I continue to talk” about how best to restore the party.

Smith was Alex Sink’s running mate in the governor’s race this year, and her close loss to Republican Rick Scott was one of the few nearly bright spots for a Democratic party that was otherwise trounced. The Cabinet is now about to be all Republican and the GOP picked up several legislative and congressional seats.

Last month, Karen Thurman, who has been chairwoman of the party the last six years, announced she was retiring – with some prominent Democrats quietly saying it was time for new leadership and others saying nobody could have saved the party this year from a national GOP wave.

Next week, Alachua Democratic party officials will be voting to elevate Smith to state committeeman, which he must be before being eligible to chair the state party. Alachua Democratic Committeeman Terry Fleming is stepping down to make room for Smith.

____________________________

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) --

Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum is dropping his effort to become the next Florida Democratic Party chairman.

Instead, Gillum will back former Sen. Rod Smith, who lost a
gubernatorial campaign in 2006 and was on the losing ticket this
year as Alex Sink's running mate.

Current Chair Karen Thurman announced last month she wouldn't
seek another term.

____________________________

Andrew Gillum Statement on the Future of the Florida Democratic Party:

TALLAHASSEE- Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum today released the following statement regarding the next Chair of the Florida Democratic Party:

"Rod Smith is committed to delivering the reforms that the Florida Democratic Party needs to win elections, which is why I am proud to offer him my support," said Gillum. "My candidacy was always about moving Florida forward, which required a serious dialogue about how we motivate our base, build our infrastructure, and recruit the next generation of Florida Democrats. We will make these reforms, and we will win elections."


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