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Florida Weighs Options After Breaking Party Rules

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Now, Florida Governor Charlie Crist on his state's primary and the Democratic convention. Gov. Crist is a Republican. He and Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan yesterday urged that their delegations be seated - two big states that as of now would be absent from the Democratic convention and whose presence could make a real difference for the outcome.

Here's what Howard Dean, the Democratic National chairman, said here yesterday about the lead up to all this when Florida set an early primary date against Democratic Party rules.

Mr. HOWARD DEAN (Chairman, Democratic National Committee): When this was all happening and we are warning Florida not to do this and not to move out of their window and be unfair to the other states that had done the right thing, we suggested that we would even help them pay for it. They rejected, didn't want to talk to us, and so that's all water under the bridge.

SIEGEL: Well, Gov. Crist is on the line now from Tallahassee.

And Governor, are you now ready to talk with Howard Dean about a new primary date?

Governor CHARLIE CRIST (Republican, Florida): Well, I'm happy to talk to the people of Florida and they're concerned about it. And I did have a conversation with Gov. Jennifer Granholm yesterday, of Michigan, as well as Sen. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez of Florida, Democrat and Republican, respectively, and we're all on the same page - and that is that the people who've already voted in Florida, in the Sunshine State, and in Michigan, should have the opportunity to haves count.

That - you know, I'm a Republican here in Florida, and even though I'm talking about, really, the Democratic primary, let's face it, the Republican primary is over. John McCain is now the nominee. Now, I think it's important that as governor, that I understand - my constitutional duty is to be the governor for all the people of my state. I don't want half of our voters to in effect be disenfranchised.

SIEGEL: Governor, are you saying therefore that the point is to get the results of the primary that was held in late January acknowledged by the Democrats, or are you saying you'd have another primary or some new system to choose delegates?

Gov. CRIST: Sure. I'm saying the former. I'm saying that our preference here is to go ahead and seat the delegates who have been selected by virtue of the vote - a record turnout vote I should add, January 29th - and have those votes not be disenfranchised but rather be counted as they should be in a democracy.

SIEGEL: That's your preference. But since Democratic chairman Howard Dean has said, no way, you know what the rules were and that was in violation of it. Is there room to talk about some, what some are calling the redo the Mulligan primary, you know, take it over again?

Gov. CRIST: Well, there's always room to talk when you're talking about, you know, protecting and securing democracy. And I think that we're talking about choosing the next leader of the free world. So, what's important maybe is to see - to take the advice of Sen. Bill Nelson. He issued a statement today about the fact that if in fact you would have a redo election, that it would be paid for not by the taxpayers of Florida but rather by the Democratic National Committee. The estimates, as you may know, are anywhere from 18 to in excess of $20 million in order to redo an election here in Florida.

So I think that Sen. Nelson is on the right track if in fact the conclusion is you would have to have a second primary, but my preference is that the delegates who were selected would go ahead and be seated.

SIEGEL: As a matter of logistics and mechanics, if the Democrats picked up the tab for another primary, how long would it take? How soon could you have a primary in Florida?

Gov. CRIST: Well, I've heard some discussed that the possibility of doing so in June might not be a bad idea. Obviously that precedes any of the convention and certainly something we could work out. But, again, my preference, let's go ahead and seat the delegates that are already have been selected in Florida.

SIEGEL: But June would make it the very end of the primary season that would give Florida some pride with a place in this process, which is what it was seeking in the beginning.

Gov. CRIST: Well, I suppose that argument could be made, and so that probably is not an unreasonable time. We're in a legislative session now. That goes on until May. So, if the option were chosen to hold a second primary on the Democratic side, probably June would not be an unwise time to do so.

SIEGEL: Just to sum up, if the Democratic Party were somehow to pay for it and if it could be scheduled in June, as far as you're concerned, another primary in Florida would be okay with you, and you think you're going to get that passed in Tallahassee?

Gov. CRIST: Well, I think that would be possible. But, again, I've got to state my preferences to go ahead and seat the delegates who have been selected January 29th. But if, as you lay out, in the hypothetical, if the Democratic National Committee would pay for it, we could find a way, I believe, to get it done. I do believe that would be feasible.

SIEGEL: Gov. Crist, thanks a lot for talking with us.

Gov. CRIST: Thank you. Great to be with, Bob.

SIEGEL: It's Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, speaking with us from Tallahassee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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