TALLAHASSEE — Two Florida Democrats are suing to block Bernie Sanders from running as a Democrat in the state’s March 17 presidential primary.
In the lawsuit filed Monday in circuit court in Leon County, the plaintiffs ask that Sanders be disqualified from the Democratic primary because he’s a declared independent.
The Florida Democratic Party labeled the complaint “ridiculous,” and the Sanders campaign called it “spurious.”
The complaint also seeks to prevent state election officials from counting any votes Sanders has already received. More than 244,000 Democrats have already voted by mail in Florida.
Karen Gievers, a former circuit court judge representing Frank Bach and George Brown, both Tallahassee Democrats, said Sanders should not be allowed on the Democratic ballot.
Sanders caucuses with Democrats in the Senate but lists himself as an independent and has raised money in his Senate campaign account as an independent, according to the lawsuit.
“Florida is a closed primary state, yet here we have someone who is an independent on the Democratic ballot,” said Gievers. “You can’t be an independent and be a member of the party.”
Gievers, when asked, described both Bach and Brown as military veterans and registered Democrats. In response to a follow-up question, she said Bach is her husband.
Juan Penalosa, the executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, called the lawsuit “ridiculous.”
“The Florida Democratic Party executive committee voted unanimously to place Senator Sanders on the Florida ballot,” Penalosa said. “Votes cast for the senator are valid and must be counted.”
Gievers said she looked forward to hearing from Democratic Party attorneys, but also noted, “It‘s hard to think that voter suppression or dilution would be described as ridiculous by a party official.”
Kolby Lee, a regional press secretary for Sanders, also was dismissive of the lawsuit.
“We’re aware of the spurious complaint and it will not affect us. Bernie will be on the ballot in Florida,” Lee said.
Florida law gives political parties leeway to decide which candidates can appear on a party’s primary ballot, and the Florida Democratic Party last year chose to include major candidates with national attention and national reach.
Sixteen candidates will be listed on the party’s primary ballot, even though several have withdrawn from the race.
Author: Gary Fineout
Source: Politico: 2 Florida Democrats sue to keep Sanders off primary ballot