Former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, progressive candidate for chair of the Democratic Party of Florida, has won the endorsement of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, an organization representing 1.6 million black Democrats in the Sunshine State.
Henry Crespo Sr., president of DBCF, told Bullard he "will be casting his weighted vote" for him, according to a memo Bullard received Sunday. See the memo in the attachment below.
The decision apparently wasn't a slam dunk. In a phone conversation Sunday afternoon, Crespo described the meeting as "a very spirited conversation, to say the least." He told Sunshine State News, "We met with the candidates for about two and a half hours and then deliberated for an hour and a half ... In the end, what made the difference was Dwight's clear understanding of the need for grass roots organizing."
Crespo said DBCF's First Vice President Lydia Hudson summed it up best. He read from the minutes. "'It was an insightful and spirited discussion,'" Hudson commented. "'We had some very talented candidates with distinct talents. I wish we could have rolled them all into one leader.'"
Leslie Wimes, who has supported Bullard throughout his run, passed on a copy of the memo to SSN. Wimes is president of the Palm Beach County-based Democratic African American Woman's Caucus.
Bullard is one of five candidates running in the contentious election to succeed Allison Tant. Tant opted not to run after the party's second losing election cycle. Besides school teacher and former legislator Bullard, chair candidates are Stephen Bittel from Coconut Grove, a major party fundraiser and developer; Leah Carius, chair of the Osceola County Democrats; Alan Clendenin, a retired air traffic controller, long active with the party; and Lisa King, a state committeewoman from Jacksonville. The DBCF screened all five candidates Saturday afternoon at the Rosen Hotel in Orlando.
Bullard’s journey to this point in the chair race has taken him from two Miami-Dade DEC defeats -- engineered, party observers say, by leadership looking to get Bullard out and bring Bittel in -- to qualifying nearly two weeks ago in Gadsden County.
Neither Bullard nor Bittel returned SSN's phone calls or texts Sunday afternoon.
Said Wimes, "No Democrat can win statewide election without the vote of the African-American voting bloc, which has been loyal to the Democratic Party like no other demographic. Dwight Bullard has consistently been on the right side of the issues that Democrats have held dear," she said, "so this endorsement makes sense. If Democrats want to win in 2018, Dwight Bullard is the man to go with."
The Democratic chair election has grown increasingly combative. The News Service of Florida revealed Friday that 12 counties will not participate in the Democratic chair race. All are lightly populated and conservative: Calhoun, Dixie, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hardee, Lafayette, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Union. The problem is, none of them has a Democratic Executive Committee.
"This is absurd," Democrat Shirlee Host of Broward County told SSN Sunday. "No wonder all the big populous counties own the power in the party. We need a chair who will bring the small counties into the fold."
The Democratic chair election is set for next weekend.