Progressive Democrats Call For An End To Unfair Party-Politics

Tampa, FL - The Progressive Democrats of Florida are standing up to the state and Democratic National Party, and they have scored at least a partial victory in giving grassroots challengers a level playing field in primary elections.

3/23/2016 -- The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida called on Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee to level the campaign playing field for her own challenger, Tim Canova in the #FL23 Congressional District in South Florida by giving him access to the party's VAN campaign database. 

"This morning, Florida Democratic Party Exec. Dir. Scott Arceneaux called Tim Canova and let him know that an exception to the VAN access policy would be made in his case. We're glad to see that Canova will be given access to the voter file, but our broader concern about fairness and a level playing field for Democratic candidates still stands," said Susan Smith, chair of the Progressive Caucus.

"Inconsistent and non-transparent VAN access policies have been an ongoing issue in the Democratic Party. Please refer to the STEP Report (page 18) that the Caucus released last October for our proposals on these policies."

Last week, Canova told supporters that the FDP was refusing to sell him access to the VAN, which is used for robo-calling, door-knocking and email blasts. Party leaders told him that they do not allow any candidate, who is challenging an incumbent to have access to the party's software.

It's a matter of party policy, but it is not a party rule, a group of Democratic challengers learned in February 2016 when they were denied VAN access by the Missouri Democratic Party. The challengers in Missouri are also Ferguson movement leaders: Congressional candidate Maria Chappelle-Nadal, state representative candidate Bruce Franks and U.S. Senate hopeful Cori Bush. For two weeks the party's Exec. Dir. Crystal Brinkley was too busy to meet with them, but they finally got a chance to sit down with her and they managed to gain access to the network. => Read More

"We should not discourage candidates from running against incumbents any more than we should discourage those incumbents from explaining to voters why they deserve another term in office," Smith said, in a press release issued along with the open letter to the DNC.

By the way, all of the challengers support and endorse Bernie Sanders for President.
They have become known as "Sanders Democrats." 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                           CONTACT:                    
March 24, 2016                                                                  Susan Smith, 813-390-3616 
The full text of the open letter is below:

March 24, 2016

The Honorable Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

Democratic National Committee

430 South Capitol Street SW
Washington, DC 2003

Dear Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz:

I am writing on behalf of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, an official charter of the Florida Democratic Party, with concerns expressed to us by your primary opponent, Tim Canova, that he is not being treated fairly by our state party. Our caucus has not endorsed any candidate in your race, but we do have an interest in ensuring that the public perception is that all of the Party's candidates have been treated fairly. We're sure you will agree.

Last week, Mr. Canova informed us that he was denied access to the shared Democratic voter file controlled and maintained by the DNC and the Florida Democratic Party. It is my understanding that Mr. Canova is more than willing to pay the standard fee paid by other candidates for the use of that voter file, the VAN.

As you know, the VAN is a necessary tool for any Democrat running one of today's data-driven campaigns. The Party has been encouraging all candidates to use the VAN for some years now to avoid fragmentation of campaign data across a number of platforms. The VAN not only aggregates information that may be publicly available, but hard to find, it also provides a way to manage the data generated by campaigns as they make contact with voters. Because each campaign feeds data into the VAN, each candidate who uses it helps to make it stronger for our party and for future candidates.

Simply put, the Florida Democratic Party's decision to restrict access to the VAN hurts not only Mr. Canova, but it robs the Party itself of the benefit of any data his campaign would input to enrich the statewide voter file and is likely to lead to a breakdown of discipline on VAN use by our Democratic candidates and increased fragmentation of data.

We view this issue as larger than just the voter file, however. Due to issues arising out of the Presidential Preference Primary, the Democratic Party has already been subjected to accusations of being undemocratic because of the so-called super delegates. I'm sure you will agree, additional negative attention, which might reinforce that theme, should be avoided if possible.

When the official organs of the Democratic Party give the appearance of preventing free and open primary contests, it sends a dangerously discouraging message to grassroots Democrats, on whom the Party depends for volunteer support, and to qualified Democrats who might consider running for office. It benefits the party to expand the Democratic talent pool in Florida, by not excluding or disadvantaging qualified candidates. We should not discourage candidates from running against incumbents any more than we should discourage those incumbents from explaining to voters why they deserve another term in office.

I am writing to you today because I know that you care about fostering an open and transparent Democratic Party that allows talented leaders to percolate up through the ranks. Assuming you do prevail over Mr. Canova in this primary, I am sure that you would not want that victory tainted by this misguided attempt by the Florida Democratic Party to put their thumb on the scale of the democratic process on your behalf. I believe that if you ask the Florida Democratic Party to allow Mr. Canova access to the voter file, they will do so.

Thank you for your time, attention and consideration of this request.

Susan Smith, Chair
Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida
 cc:       Scott Arceneaux
            Allison Tant      

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