EDITOR’S NOTE: On Tuesday night, Latino Rebels received the following letter about the current election for Florida Democratic Party chair from the Executive Committee of the Miami-Dade Democratic Progressive Caucus. For more context about this election, you can read a good TampaBay.com summary here. There is also more opposition to Stephen Bittel here. Here is the full letter we received (more about the story behind this letter here):
As the dust settles after the election and the reality of Donald Trump’s presidency sets in, there has been much talk amongst progressives of reorganizing the Democratic Party to reflect our vision and that of Senator Bernie Sanders. Organizers and activists here in Miami-Dade decided to organize around this and whipped votes in the local Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) elections, mainly for Francesca Menes and Erika Grohoski Peralta, who are people from our community with a proven track record of public service and commitment to the issues, and I’m happy to say that they won.
Yet we are seeing a political scandal unfold before our eyes in the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. After all the hard work that organizers and community members put in during the election, their voices are being suppressed by backroom deals seeking to put a billionaire fundraiser as chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
Let us explain.
Former Executive Director and current Chair Juan Cuba initially declared a run for the State Committeeman position against lobbyist Bret Berlin. On the day of the deadline to switch races, Cuba announced that he would instead be running for the position of Chair. This is significant because if Cuba won, this would block Former State Senator Dwight Bullard from running for Vice Chair, since both Chair and Vice Chair must be gender opposite according to the bylaws.
This move allowed Cuba to run Dotie Joseph for Vice Chair and because no significant opposition would be organized after Bullard was taken out, she was sure to win. This led Bret Berlin to run for the now open State Committeeman race, a position which holds significant sway on the election of Florida Democratic Party (FDP) Chair. Bullard attempted to be nominated on the floor to challenge this, but Berlin had organized and prevailed with a large number of votes.
The reason behind what seems like the dullest episode of House of Cards ever is billionaire funder Stephen Bittel. He is one of the forces behind the Florida Alliance, a secretive Democratic group comprised of big-money donors, and it seems he has grown tired of watching from the sidelines.
In order to run for FDP chair, one has to be an Executive Committee member of a county DEC, and in order to qualify for that, one must be a precinct captain. At the end of a very long night of the DEC elections, Bret Berlin called for a motion to swear in all new members of the DEC as precinct captains without elections, even though there was no quorum. The next day, on the list of new precinct captains, was the name of Stephen Bittel though he was never seen in the room.
The point of swearing in Bittel as a precinct captain is that if one of the members of the board drops out, then the DEC would be forced to run a special election to fill the vacancy. This would leave Bittel free to run which, they supposed, would not be difficult for a billionaire with deep party connections to win.
We know you probably think that we’ve been watching too many Game of Thrones reruns and that we are looking to spice up what is otherwise a really boring bureaucratic process of party reorganization. Except everything we were warning people was going to happen, indeed happened.
Bret Berlin has stepped down as State Committeeman and has been appointed as Vice Chair of Strategy by Chair Juan Cuba, even after committing publicly to not stepping down and serving his four year term. He has done so because he claims that he wants to give the opportunity to elect an FDP chair from South Florida.
We don’t buy it.
Bret Berlin has betrayed the public trust by backing down from his commitment of serving a full term.
Juan Cuba has been question for his involvement in this affair. He called for a special election to be held within 10 days, with a few days deadline away to register new voters. This is in conflict to the bylaws which say that the Executive Committee must give the members at least 14 days notice for a special meeting. This deadline seems to contradict his rhetoric of bringing in new people to the party.
Progressives should get behind Dwight Bullard and his bid for State Committeman as he is a progressive champion with a proven track record of fighting for our families. We can’t stay on the sidelines as this conspiracy unfolds to elect a billionaire donor as head of the FDP.
Through will or ignorance, the players on this issue will be selling out the party, our state, our country and the people.
Let’s fight and make the Democrats the party of the people once again, from the bottom up.
Executive Committee of the Miami-Dade Democratic Progressive Caucus
P.S. We will have a meeting soon to reorganize the progressive caucus and have new elections on leadership. During a community meeting a few weeks ago, we decided to reactivate the caucus and held elections. Due to Bret Berlin’s involvement in this process, we feel best to call a proper meeting and hold new elections in order to make our caucus as democratic and inclusive as possible.