Monica Russo, the head of the SEIU in Florida, isn’t backing down from her bid to take over as chief of the Florida Democratic Party, even though the party’s infrastructure seems stacked against her.
Russo isn’t a chair of a county DEC, and she isn’t a state committeewoman, the two things that would make a potential candidate eligible for the post, according to FDP general counsel Mark Herron.
But Russo is questioning whether the rules about the selection of a chair apply to the current situation, effectively a “special election” to replace former chairman Stephen Bittel, who abruptly quit the post last month after being accused by female aides and consultants of creating a hostile work environment. Party leaders will vote on his successor at a meeting in Orlando on Dec. 9.
Alma Gonzalez, Terrie Rizzo and Stacey Patel are also vying for the post.
Russo, and many other Democratic activists, say the rules should allow any Democrat to run for the party’s top post.
Here’s the full statement from Russo, issued late last evening:
As Democrats, we have an obligation to continue to be the party for openness and inclusion. Any loyal Democrat who has been in the trenches working as part of the Democratic coalition should have the opportunity to be considered for the role of state party Chair.
“The restrictive interpretation of the current rules caused 3 of 5 candidates to move or maneuver to be eligible in the last race, including a former Democratic Senator who for years had been a champion in Tallahassee. Their work as part of the Democratic coalition was not made because of where they lived, but rather their dedication to our movement.
“This interpretation of the rules is archaic. The by-laws are not meant to keep out the very people who have worked side by side, inside and outside the party.
“As I’ve learned, the restrictive eligibility requirements for Chair are specific to electing a chair at the reorganization meeting that happens once every four years, when the seat is up for election. This upcoming meeting of the state executive committee is not a reorganization meeting and as such a number of legal minds have opined that those requirements don’t apply to filling vacancies — suggesting that the eligibility is already opened. I am asking for clarity on this point and will be asking the Florida Democratic Party to offer an opinion.
“I’ve also received a number of calls from people all over the state -smaller and larger counties alike- who have suggested ways to help me become eligible under the most restrictive interpretation. While I do not desire to move and am not inclined to do so, I am considering every potential path to eligibility.”