Judy Mount says she is the interim chair of the Florida Democratic Party, but party bylaws say otherwise — and it appears the FDP will actually be without a chair until they meet to select a replacement for Stephen Bittel in December.
FDP Chair Stephen Bittel announced he would be stepping down as head of the state party on Friday after six former Democratic staffers and consultants told Politico Florida he displayed “creepy” and “demeaning” behavior which led to an uncomfortable work environment.
“When my personal situation becomes distracting to our core mission of electing Democrats and making Florida better, it is time for me to step aside,” Bittel said in a statement.
Bittel said he would work with party leadership to select a date to find his successor, setting Dec. 9 as the day party members will meet to replace Bittel.
So who leads the party in the meantime?
News outlets and Judy Mount began announcing she would be taking the reins of the party before a new chair is selected.
The fine print: party bylaws require the First Vice Chair to call a meeting of the Central Committee within 30 days to elect an interim chair to serve as head of the FDP until a new chair is decided.
But the first vice chair — who would be Mount — can only call that meeting to choose an interim chair in the event of a vacancy.
In this case, there isn’t one, because Bittel hasn’t officially resigned — and he’s already set the date to find his successor, all while still being chair.
Essentially, the party is skipping the Central Committee meeting, which would leave them without a chair (or even an interim chair) for about two weeks until the next executive meeting.
That means Mount cannot possibly be interim chair, a temporary filler for the party head who typically does not run for the seat once their short term is up.
Mount, on the contrary, said she intended to file her paperwork and run for the seat next month.
“I think the Democratic Party is at a good place,” Mount said Friday. “It would be horrible to see someone come and disrupt that.”
Sunshine State News contacted Mount for clarification on her alleged “interim chair” position, but she told SSN she was busy and swiftly hung up.
Sources also told SSN Mount has already begun to pull rank among the party faithful, even calling up the Democratic National Committee and telling them she’s the one in charge of the party.
Mount isn’t the only one with her eyes on the seat, though, and the race is still only beginning.
Longtime Hillsborough County Democratic activist Alan Clendenin also said Friday he is interested in running, and this wouldn’t be Clendenin’s first bid for the chair job.
He ran against Bittel for the chairmanship in January and wanted to become chair so badly, in fact, that he moved to a different county to make himself eligible for the position.
The bad news: Clendenin recently moved from his trailer in Bradford County back to Tampa, making him ineligible for the job. There’s no word whether he will move once again to make a run for the job.
Stacy Patel, who serves as chair of the Brevard Democratic Party, is also running for the chair position.
Bittel formally resigns Monday.