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Florida Democratic Party suspends Franklin County chair

In a sign of the challenges facing Democrats in an ongoing shift among Franklin County voters to the Republican party, the chair of the county Democratic Party was suspended last week.

The suspension of Carol Barfield from her post as chair was one of three suspensions announced last week by Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party. The other two were from much larger South Florida counties, Robert Dempster from Miami-Dade and Mindy Koch from Palm Beach County.

“The actions taken today are part of an overall strategy to get our local parties back on track,” said Fried in a news release.

“Over the past year, the Florida Democratic Party has made repeated attempts to mitigate complaints received prior to my election as chair and support the leaders of Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Franklin Democratic Executive Committees,” she wrote. “One of my first actions as chair was the launch of an assessment team to evaluate issues, review plans and provide guidance to parties identified as noncompliant. 

“Due to ongoing and unresolved issues, and failure to comply with the rules that govern all local parties, the Florida Democratic Party has made the decision to suspend the chairs of the Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Franklin DECs and rebuild in 2024 — because the cost of inaction is too high,” Fried said. “Candidates and elected officials rely on their local Democratic parties to register voters, mobilize volunteers and engage donors to support their efforts — and they are impacted the most when they are not working effectively. 

“The success of Florida Democrats depends on the success of our local parties on the ground, and the majority of our DECs are working tirelessly to organize year-round across the state,” she said, in the release. “There is too much at stake to ignore the challenges before us and we need all of our local parties engaged in our mission to take back Florida. 

“Florida Democrats are serious about creating the infrastructure and party apparatus we need to take back our state, restore our rights and freedoms and re-elect Democrats all the way up the ticket,” Fried said. “The country is counting on us.”

While Fried’s suspension is effective immediately, removal is a three-step process, which began with a compliance notice issued in February and the March 4 suspension by the state chair.

The Central Committee, which comprises approximately 120 members and is composed of congressional district committee chairs, elected officials, caucus leaders and appointed members, must now decide whether to confirm the suspension by a two-thirds vote. The Central Committee will take up the vote to confirm the suspension or reinstate at its next meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.

A spokesman for the state party said rules say the county party’s first vice chair now becomes interim chair. If the chair is ultimately removed, the Franklin County Democratic Executive Committee would have 45 days to elect a chair. 

The spokesman said Barfield’s suspension did not involve any financial or ethical misconduct, but was entirely based on “a failure to comply with party obligations,” such as holding regular meetings and providing minutes, providing the state with a current member list and submitting regular financials.

The spokesman said the interim chairman appears to be Patrick Bailey, who is listed as first vice chair. But a Times’ email to Bailey indicated he has moved out of the county, so it remains unclear who will succeed Barfield on an interim basis.

“This is one region where we have a competitive swing State Senate seat,” said the spokesman, referring to the District 3 seat now held by Republican Corey Simon. “We need for them to be organizing right now.

“This is not a decision we made lightly but we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and be complacent in 2024,” they said. “We’re prioritizing our small counties like Franklin. We know everything is up for grabs.”

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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