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Dean Phillips criticizes Florida Democrats for his absence from primary ballot

By Arit John, CNN

(CNN) — Rep. Dean Phillips, the Minnesota Democrat running an upstart primary challenge against President Joe Biden, accused Florida Democrats of disenfranchising voters in the state after he and other challengers were excluded from a list of official candidates.

Florida Democrats voted during their state party convention in October to submit only Biden’s name to the secretary of state’s office ahead of a November 30 deadline. The committee did not vote on other names, according to a Florida Democratic Party spokesperson. Under state law, if a candidate is running in a primary unopposed, the contest won’t appear on the ballot.

“Americans would expect the absence of democracy in Tehran, not Tallahassee,” Phillips said in a statement. “The intentional disenfranchisement of voters runs counter to everything for which our Democratic Party and country stand.”

Florida Democrats say they followed the standard process for nominating candidates. The state executive committee voted to submit Biden’s name for the ballot during the state party convention, which was held from October 27 to 29, and no other names were put forward. The party spokesperson said they similarly voted on names to include on the 2020 primary ballot at the state party convention held in October 2019.

A DNC spokesperson said that its delegate selection team offered to provide resources to the Phillips campaign to help them navigate the ballot access process, but his team did not take them up on it.

Phillips called on Biden and others to “condemn and immediately address this blatant act of electoral corruption.” The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

His absence from the Florida ballot marks another hurdle for Phillips, who missed the deadline to appear on the ballot in Nevada and is focusing much of his campaign efforts on New Hampshire’s unsanctioned January 23 Democratic primary.

Marianne Williamson, who said she appeared on the Florida ballot when she ran in 2020, said in a statement to CNN that her exclusion from the 2024 ballot is “part of a larger concerted effort by the Democratic Party to clinch the nomination for Joe Biden without any opposition.”

“This action is terrible for the party and terrible for our democracy,” Williamson said.

Political parties generally have broad leeway to define how they choose their party nominees, and tend to be inclined to protect incumbents. The Democratic Party is not holding any primary debates, which has historically been the case when an incumbent is running. In February, the DNC’s membership unanimously approved a resolution to express its “full and complete support” for Biden’s reelection.

Steve Schale, a Florida-based Democratic strategist who worked for Barack Obama’s campaign and leads a super PAC supporting Biden, dismissed the Phillips campaign’s complaints.

“You don’t have a right to be on a party primary ballot just because you want to be,” he wrote on X. “We didn’t have a primary in 2012.”

The Phillips campaign has said it is considering legal remedies or pursuing their case with the DNC. Williamson said her team will “seek every legal recourse.”

“After all that has been done to erode confidence in the democratic process since 2020, does our Party really want the legitimacy of our nominee to be put in question by this corrupt, rigged process?” Jeff Weaver, a senior advisor to the Phillips campaign, said in a statement.

Weaver provided a copy of two letters he said the campaign sent to Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried on November 7 — some of several letters the campaign sent to state parties. It is not necessary to send a letter to the Florida Democratic Party to get on the ballot.

“Our campaign looks forward to earning the votes of Florida families,” Phillips wrote in the letter. “I expect to spend extensive time in your great state, listening and learning from voters in every community.”

The Florida Democrats’ spokesperson said the party first heard from the campaign on November 22, the day before Thanksgiving. The party and the campaign spoke on Tuesday, which was too late to gather the state executive committee. According to the state party’s bylaws, the party chair must give 10 days notice before convening the committee.

CNN’s Ali Main contributed to this story.

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