ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) — The Florida Democratic Party is trying to build energy for the presidential election Saturday even though neither of its top candidates has secured enough delegates for the nomination — but at least the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters were getting along.
Democrats backing each of the candidates sat side-by-side with no drama, pleasantly chatting about issues and the election while the party chose its final delegates to the national convention in Philadelphia. While the nomination process has been increasingly caustic as many Sanders supporters elsewhere have railed against the Democratic Party establishment and complained the system is rigged, all was calm at the state party event.
Supporters on both sides expressed hope that when a nominee is picked, the party will be united behind the choice.
“It really hurts me that there’s been so much division in the party right now, because at the end of the day, I think we do share the same values and we need to celebrate that,” said Sanders supporter Dawn Royston, 37, of Gainesville. “Everybody’s been really calm and respectful to one another. We’re all getting to know each other, trying to find common ground.”
It also helps that they have a common enemy: likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“I know that we are going to stand united to defeat the bigoted billionaire, the bully that is Donald Trump,” said state party Chairwoman Allison Tant as the delegate selection process began. “We all share this concern that he is in fact the most dangerous nominee for president we have ever faced and it is up to each and every one of us to stand up and fight back.”
Tant, Sen. Bill Nelson, Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro were scheduled to address about 450 party activists at a dinner later Saturday. The event was scheduled a month before the party’s largest annual fundraiser, which typically draws twice as many people.
“I was hoping for more enthusiasm,” said Mitch Ceasar, the former Broward County Democratic Party chair. “There is excitement, but I would hope at this point it builds.”
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