Dean says early primary will cost state party

Published April 26, 2007

WASHINGTON - Not only will Florida be punished if it moves up its presidential primary before Feb. 5, but any Democratic candidate who steps foot in the state will be too, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said Wednesday.

Dean acknowledged that Florida is the state most likely to jump ahead of states like California and New York, which are moving up to the Feb. 5 primary, but it, and any other state, will do so at a cost.

"If they do, our rules are so strict that not only will those states not collect any delegates, but anybody that campaigns in that state will be ineligible for any delegates from that state," Dean told members of the Mortgage Bankers Association. "We will reapportion their delegates to all the other candidates if they show up in a state that jumps ahead of Feb. 5."

The Republican National Committee has threatened to take similar actions if the primary is moved before Feb. 5.

Dean said he supported a Jan. 19 caucus in Nevada and a Jan. 29 primary in South Carolina because it adds more diversity to the process.

"What that did was give geographic and ethnic diversity," Dean said, saying Iowa and New Hampshire were too white. "We had two states, one of which is 96 percent white and the other which is 98 percent white, making the decision."

Florida lawmakers make a similar argument. The state has a mix of cultures, ethnicity and race; urban and rural areas; and Southerners and transplants from the North that make it look much like the country as a whole. That, and its size, should give it more say in deciding the presidency, lawmakers say.

Florida's House and Senate have not settled on specifics, but it appears they could agree on a Jan. 29 primary. The state party leaders also have favored the idea, saying losing delegates is less important than having more influence in the nation's leadership.