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Rat Race to Replace Stephen Bittel as FDP Chair Begins

November 18, 2017 - 6:00am
Judy Mount, Stephen Bittel and Alan Clendenin
Judy Mount, Stephen Bittel and Alan Clendenin

It’s deja vu all over again as the Florida Democratic Party is once more looking for a new chairman.

Former FDP chair Stephen Bittel resigned Friday after a Politico Florida story detailed allegations of “creepy” behavior towards former Democratic party staffers and consultants.

It wasn’t even a day until Bittel called it quits, admitting his personal situation had become “distracting” to the core mission of electing Democrats.

“I am proud of what we have built as a Party and the wins we have had for Florida families, but I apologize for all who have felt uncomfortable during my tenure at the Democratic Party,” Bittel said in a statement. 

State Democrats haven’t wasted any time to throw their names in the ring to replace Bittel and on Friday, two names began floating around to become the next party chair. 

Vice chairwoman Judy Mount, who formerly headed the Jackson County Democratic Executive Committee, will serve as interim chair in the meantime, but Mount has also said she’s fully committed to running for the job full-time.

“The Florida Democratic Party is at a good place,” Mount said Friday. “It would be horrible to see someone come in and disrupt that.”

Mount isn’t the only one who wants to be FDP chair. Another familiar name -- Alan Clendenin -- has also said he’s interested in the position as well. 

This wouldn’t be Clendenin’s first run for the chair job. He ran against Bittel for the chairmanship in January and wanted the job so badly, in fact, that he moved to an entirely different county to make himself eligible for the position. 

Clendenin, a longtime Hillsborough County activist,  received the second-highest number of votes, taking 230 votes in the first ballot in January. 
His hopes seemed dead on arrival when he lost the race for Hillsborough County state committeeman in December, but he had an itch only the title "party chairman" could scratch, so he went above and beyond to make it happen.  
Though unconventional, Clendenin's path seemed clear. That was until the FDP rules committee said they didn't buy his sudden move story, and disqualified him from the race.
The ineligibility didn't stand for long. Days later, the state committee had allowed Clendenin back on the ballot, and the Dems were off on the chairman rat race. 
Mount and Clendenin are the only ones to say they’re in for the long haul so far, but the news is fresh, and it’s entirely possible more people could enter the race.
Most Democrats responding to Bittel’s resignation seemed glad he had called it quits, respecting a decision they believed was in the best interest of the state Democratic party, which is working feverishly to change the tides and win back seat by seat in 2018. 
Some party activists told Sunshine State News privately they were elated the “trash” had been taken out from the party. 
“He’s stepping aside for the good of the party,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson after Bittel resigned. “Sexual harassment is never acceptable.”
“Stephen Bittel did the right thing for the party, one that he’s worked so hard for in the past,” said former Democratic National Committee chairwoman U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a friend of Bittel’s. “But as a party and as a society, we must learn from this.”

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

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