Court date set for DNC lawsuit

05/23/08 Mitch E. Perry
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A day after a new lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee was filed for its refusal to recognize Florida’s delegates, a court date was set for the first legal action taken against the national party.

Tampa political consultant Vic DiMaio sued shortly after the DNC announced last August it would penalize the state Democratic Party for moving the Florida primary date. The suit was originally dismissed by a Tampa court, but was heard by a U.S. appellate court in March. Today DiMaio’s attorney, Michael Steinberg, announced DiMaio will go to court next week in Tampa federal district court.

The court date does come just days before the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee convenes to deal with the matter of Florida’s – and Michigan’s Congressional delegation.

This week Barack Obama said he was open to accepting a compromise of counting half the delegates, but the Hillary Clinton camp and other advocates for Florida say they want all of the votes to count.

DiMaio’s attorney, Michael Steinberg, who is now chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, says he’s hopeful that the party can come together regarding the delegate issue. But, he says he will pursue his lawsuit anyway.

The legal strategy employed by Steinberg and DiMaio has taken a different tack since they originally filed suit.

Last October, U.S. District Judge Richard Lazarra tossed DiMaio’s original suit, saying it failed to show that he had incurred any wrong that the court could remedy. Lazarra ruled that political parties can set their own rules on selecting presidential nominees.

But Steinberg says that in reviewing the lawsuit filed by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Congressman Alcee Hastings, which has also been thrown out, he realized that the DNC acknowledges that race was a factor in selecting South Carolina and Nevada to be allowed to move their primary dates up.

Part of the reason the DNC did that was to have the initial contests more racially inclusive, what with the black and Latino representation that came from those two states.

Steinberg says that race cannot be the determinant factor in making such a decision; he says it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.

The DNC said in 2006 Nevada and South Carolina were chosen not only because of racial diversity, but also because of geographic diversity, including a Southern and Western state into the early voting categories.

Steinberg said he believed that the DNC acknowledged that geography was of secondary importance , compared with race.

Next week the DNC will decide what to do with Florida and Michigan’s delegates. Michigan is considered a different case than Florida. In that state, Obama and several other candidates chose to take their names off the ballot.

Hillary Clinton did not, and won easily. But when asked by New Hampshire Public Radio why she wasn’t going to take her name off the ballot, she said that everybody knew the vote in Michigan would not count. But that was before she knew she would need those votes.

Throughout the 10 months since DiMaio originally filed suit, he has insisted that he hasn’t had a dog in the hunt, so to speak. But recently, he appeared on a local television talk show where he argued that Clinton would be a stronger candidate in the fall against John McCain.

DiMaio goes before Judge Richard Lazarra at 9:30 a.m. next Wednesday in federal court in Tampa.

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