Florida Democrats Poised to Lock out Biden’s Challengers in State Primary

Florida Democrats Poised to Lock out Biden’s Challengers in State Primary
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.)(R) holds a rally outside of the N.H. Statehouse after handing over his declaration of candidacy form for President to the New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan in Concord, N.H., on Oct. 27, 2023. (Gaelen Morse/Getty Images)
Ryan Morgan

The Florida Democratic Party appears poised to limit the number of candidates in its 2024 presidential primary contest to just President Joe Biden, effectively handing him a victory in the state contest and narrowing his primary challengers’ chances to win their party’s presidential nomination.

President Biden currently faces primary challenges from Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and self-help author Marianne Williamson. Until recently, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had also challenged President Biden for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination but decided to launch a new presidential campaign as an independent candidate.

Under state law, each respective political party is in charge of deciding and submitting its own list of presidential candidates to the Florida secretary of state, to be placed on the presidential preference primary ballot. Parties must finalize and submit these candidate lists by Nov. 30 in the year preceding a presidential election. State laws further state that if a party only submits one presidential candidate’s name, a party primary contest is not held.

A Florida Democratic Party spokesperson told CNN that the party decided on its candidate list—to include only President Biden—during their state party convention in October. They submitted their candidate list on Nov. 1. Ms. Williamson had been actively campaigning for months prior to that decision. Mr. Phillips had launched his primary campaign on Oct. 26, shortly before the Florida Democratic Party convention.

The Florida Democratic Party’s delegate selection process states that the party will “approve a list of recognized Democratic presidential candidates” but does not spell out a procedure or deadline for candidates to request to be placed on the primary ballot.

The state party’s handling of the primary process prompted backlash from the Williamson and Phillips campaigns on Thursday, as they realized they had been cut off from a chance to win any of the 250 party delegates in the state.

“Americans would expect the absence of democracy in Tehran, not Tallahassee,” Mr. Phillips said in a post on the X social media platform on Thursday. “The Florida Democratic Party’s intentional disenfranchisement of voters runs counter to everything for which our Democratic Party and country stand. Our mission as Democrats is to defeat authoritarians, not become them.”
In her own comments on social media, Ms. Williamson similarly accused the Florida Democratic Party of acting like an “authoritarian state.”

“The FDP did all this at the last minute, changing rules to fit their will, making it extremely difficult for other campaigns to even know what to do. It goes without saying that if you can’t get on the ballot in a state as big as Florida, your chances to proceed are deeply impacted,” Ms. Williamson added.

Both campaigns told CNN they’re exploring legal remedies to address their exclusion from the primary contest. The Phillips campaign also told Politico that it could challenge this primary snub all the way to the 2024 Democratic National Convention, and contest the credentials of “each and every” Florida Democratic Party delegate at the convention.

NTD News made multiple attempts to contact the Florida Democratic Party and state party chair Nikki Fried for comment, but received no response by press time.

Steve Schale, a Florida-based Democratic political strategist, pushed back on the complaints about the primary ballot access process this cycle.

“This is so dumb. You don’t have a right to be on a party primary ballot just because you want to be,” Mr. Schale wrote in an X post on Thursday evening. “We didn’t have a primary in 2012. Pretty sure we didn’t in 1996. Take your 3% and your grievance elsewhere.”

President Biden currently leads his primary challengers by about 60 points across the RealClearPolitics polling average. The latest average from the polling aggregator shows President Biden carrying about 69.7 percent of Democratic voters polled, while Ms. Williamson has averaged about 9 percent, and Mr. Phillips has averaged about 3.5 percent.