A new month means a new chair for the Florida Democratic Party, which will elect a replacement for their former party head Stephen Bittel at a meeting in Orlando next weekend.
Four women are currently vying for the role of FDP party chair, a job which was freshly vacated by Bittel, who was accused by several Democratic party staffers and consultants of inappropriate sexual comments and for creating a "creepy" and “unprofessional” work environment.
It didn’t take long for potential replacements to jump in the race to replace Bittel, who had only held the job for less than a year.
Four women have said they are interested in the position, which oversees all of the state party’s operations.
Democratic Party activist Terrie Rizzo was the first to declare her interest in the chairwoman job last month. Rizzo is a fitness instructor from Boynton Beach and has served as chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic party since 2012.
“Florida Democrats must continue to move forward, build on the Democratic enthusiasm we’ve generated in cities and counties across the state, and now more than ever, we need an experienced and steady hand at the wheel,” Rizzo said. “I believe my work as Chair of the Palm Beach Democratic Party, as the elected Chair of all Florida Democratic County Chairs and as a current DNC representative from Florida have prepared me well to be that steady hand, and I will work with full dedication and commitment for that purpose.”
Rizzo is joined in the race by three other women from around the state who have also said they want in, though some of them have not officially declared their candidacies just yet.
Hillsborough County Democratic State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez is rumored to be seeking the position.
Gonzalez currently works at the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board and is allegedly receiving the backing of FDP First Vice Chair Judy Mount, who said she wanted to run for the job but dropped out after Sunshine State News uncovered her unusual cart-before-the-horse declaration she was interim party chair -- which she was not.
Stacey Patel from Brevard County has also said she’ll run for the seat next week. Brevard County recently sent the highest amount of delegates to the FDP’s conference in Orlando this year and won the “Golden Gavel” award for knocking on the most doors to get Florida Dems to the polls.
“The Democratic Party is our party. It’s the party of the people," Patel said. "I really believe we can win elections in Florida if we inspire our grass roots by giving them real power and purpose in our party.”
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida President Monica Russo is the fourth and final candidate -- so far-- to declare she’s interested in becoming the next FDP chair.
Russo cited a long history in Florida politics as part of the reason she wanted to lead the party in its next chapter.
“I have been working in the trenches in Florida for 30 years,” Russo wrote on her Facebook page. “A large part of my work has been to organize with workers and grassroots activists who believe in the potential of every Floridian...My vision and dream is to continue this work by building a Democratic Party where all of us can feel at home. We need a dynamic and doable plan for our movement that embraces the issues that make Floridians and our communities stronger.”
Russo has one problem, though -- technically, she can’t run for the position since she isn’t a party chair or a state committeewoman, but the FDP has frequently been lax with its entry rules and could potentially open up the race to any candidates wanting to run.
In order to win, a candidate needs to receive the majority of the 1,204 votes for chair. So far, Rizzo is leading the pack with nearly a quarter saying they’d commit their votes to her.