Florida Democratic Party Leader Weathers the Storm

by | Jun 21, 2017

Two African-American leaders in the state Legislature say they are disappointed with racial remarks made by the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, but stopped short of calling for the chairman’s resignation.

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens and future House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee of Miami met Tuesday with the Chairman Stephen Bittel after remarks the chairman made over the weekend in which he called black lawmakers “childish.”

Bittel also accused Braynon of acting like a “3-year-old.”

The chairman’s comments came Saturday night during a party fundraiser in South Florida. In an effort to move up the address from the keynote speaker, former Vice President Joe Biden, Bittel chose to cut a portion of the program that was supposed to feature Democratic legislators. It was a move that was criticized by Braynon and others.

Bittel, who apologized for his comments over the weekend, entered Tuesday’s meeting with Braynon and McGhee saying he was prepared to step down as chairman if the legislators asked him to do so. They did not.

The chairman did not talk with reporters following the meeting, but did issue a statement.

“Our meeting was productive and we are moving forward together to secure victory in 2018,” Bittel said. “Together we are focused on electing Democrats who will stand up for working families and bring change and economic progress to Florida.”

Neither lawmaker returned messages left at their South Florida legislative offices.

Following Tuesday’s meeting both Braynon and McGhee did speak with reporters.

“At the end of the day, it’s about respecting the entire big tent,” McGhee said.

Braynon told the Tampa Bay Times that it wasn’t his place to ask Bittel to resign, especially since he never supported him as chairman of the party the first time around.

“I would not vote for him again, just like I didn’t vote for him before.”




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