With its top leaders gone, Florida Democratic Party’s focus turns to chair election


In one day, the Florida Democratic Party lost its two top leaders.

Chair Stephen Bittel and Sally Boynton Brown, the state’s party president, submitted their resignation letters on Monday and the party accepted.

“We are looking forward to getting back to the important work of turning Florida blue,” Johnna Cervone, the party’s spokesperson, said in a statement.

Boynton Brown, who was hired by Bittel in April, announced she would step down a day after she defended Bittel following reports that he created a hostile environment for women in the workplace. After Boynton Brown came to his defense, two former staffers accused her of “enabling” his unwelcomed, systematic sexual comments while she was in office.

Rumors that Boynton Brown would not leave also began to circulate on Tuesday when a petition — with no binding power — emerged.

The goal of the petition, spearheaded by Grace Carrington of Broward County, Jim Gangitano of Volusia County and Cynthia Chestnut of Alachua County, was to get Boynton Brown to stay, but it went nowhere. By the end of the day, the state party sent out a press release saying both resignations had been received and accepted — effective immediately.

Amid the turmoil, some members are still concerned that Bittel is too involved in the election process of his successor since he intends to keep his Miami-Dade state committeeman post.

Juan Cuba, the chairman of the Miami-Dade Democrats, said he has been asked to cast the former state leader’s 62 votes, the most of any other member, except for Miami-Dade State Committeewoman Francesca Menes, who also has 62 votes. Cuba also said he is asking members to vote their preference for state chair electronically, and that he will follow suit based on what the majority of the membership wants.

Menes expressed concern about the outgoing chair having a say in when the election for the next chair would be held. That meeting was scheduled for Dec. 9 on the day Bittel announced he would resign — four days before he was officially out as chair.

“I feel in no way shape or form, can the outgoing chair be responsible for calling a state party meeting, where there could be a special election to elect his successor,” Menes said in an open letter.

“For this course of action to take place would mean that we as a party will once again choose which rules we abide by and don’t abide by.”

The countdown to the election has already prompted candidates to pop up. Palm Beach County Democratic Chair Terrie Rizzo has announced her bid for the seat and Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez is in. And it is rumored that Monica Russo is also mulling a run.

Ana Ceballos

Ana covers politics and policy Before joining the News Service of Florida she wrote for the Naples Daily News and was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.


  • Christopher M. Kennard

    November 22, 2017 at 7:41 am

    What happened to those candidates to manage the Florida Democratic Party who strongly supported the only Presidential candidate we had, Bernie Sanders, who was honest, maintained his personal, professional and political integrity for over 35 years in elected public office on the national scene and remains who we can trust to lead America and quell the forces ripping our nation apart. Bernie Sanders is the most respected national politician we currently have to face off the dark forces of division and dishonesty now rife through both “establishment wings” of the two major political parties, Democratic Party and Republican Party alike.

    I trust those who sent in letters to retain the recently departed representatives of the Florida Democratic Party had the permission of each counties Democratic Party’s members, given that these just ousted folks are directly tied to the politically corrosive big money boys, the corporate backed establishment wing Billy and Hillary Clinton clan who work closely with their more powerful counterparts, the Bush Dynasty of the Republic Party’s establishment wing.

    Any wonder why the Florida Democratic Party has so few good honest candidates and elected public officials? Look who just left managing the Democratic Party and those who reigned prior to their well-heeled take over in the last year after Debbie WS was ousted.

    When the Democratic Party gets it’s act together is when voters like myself will consider changing back to vote for candidates running on the Democratic ticket in 2018 and 2020.

    I left the party because I do not support this corrupt nest of politicos who are merely the paid southern extension of the cabal of mega-wealthy industry and corporate owners who in Florida have long supported “Big Sugar” polluting the Everglades area; the private education “charter school” industry ruining public education as well as the corrupt private prison firms, with more people than ever before being arrested and convicted as felons, resulting in one out of ten Floridians no longer allowed to vote for the rest of their lives, often for use of cannabis . . . an other profit making “arm” of the big boys who keep cannabis and hemp crops illegal for their own immoral financial gain.

    Let me know when Bernie Sanders gives a golden seal of honesty and integrity to the Florida Democratic Party — it is this state in particular, with two other states who gave our country away to Trump and his kind — and it has been going on here in Florida for over the last 30 years. Time for a productive, positive change!

    Then we can have honest candidates representing the Democratic voters of Florida once again, after all of these years of loss and disunity. Many other so-called “progressive” voters like me are still waiting.

    • JCS

      November 22, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Bernie Sanders is NOT a democrat!

  • julio rodriguez

    November 22, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Ms. Ceballos, you forgot to mention Stacey Patel. 🙂

  • Giancarlo Espinosa

    November 22, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks Julio!!
    Hello, I am just spreading the news that grassroots leadership superstar and Brevard County DEC Chair Stacey Patel has announced today and there has been an amazing social media Frenzy in support of her from all around the state. I can show you some information from Facebook and lead you to a group where you can get information as well of her progress. You can see it yourself if you search for the Facebook group called ” this is #ourparty. stacey for fdp.” Thanks!

    Giancarlo from Key West

Comments are closed.


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