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Florida Democrats to gather this weekend in Orlando

First, do no harm.

Physicians are expected to adhere to the Hippocratic oath; it’s also a piece of advice Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel should (perhaps) take to heart this weekend as the party gathers for its annual state conference at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando.

It will be the first mass gathering of state Democrats since June’s Leadership Blue debacle in Hollywood, where complaints from black state lawmakers about being snubbed on stage led Bittel to call them “childish” and accuse them of “playing the race card.”

Bittel apologized in the aftermath and promised to be more sensitive to racial issues.

The mood in Orlando will no doubt be buoyant, considering Annette Taddeo’s victory in the Senate District 40 special election — bringing the number of Democrats in the 40-member Senate to 16. Her win is raising hopes that 2018 could be a big year for the Party, with the top prize of the governor’s mansion, which has eluded Democrats for nearly two decades.

The Pprty has also invested heavily in St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s re-election contest next month. Expect that race to be mentioned as well.

And while all eyes Saturday night will be on gubernatorial hopefuls Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King when they convene for their third candidate forum of the year, two men who will not be there won’t be far away in some Democrat’s minds.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is expected to announce his entry into the race next week, while John Morgan‘s tease about the race to continue into early next year.

To date, fundraising for the three announced candidates has been less than robust, with combined September totals from Graham, Gillium and King ($529,000) which was less than half the $1.1 million raised by Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Congressman Keith Ellison, the DNC’s deputy chair, will headline a Saturday morning breakfast; former Housing and Urban Secretary Julian Castro (along with Sen. Bill Nelson) will be the Saturday lunchtime speaker.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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