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Democratic Party Booth at the Martin County Fair

3/9/05 Race to Replace Florida Democratic Party Chief

By Brian E. Crowley, Palm Beach Post Political Editor, Wednesday, March 09, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - With Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox expected to become the third Democratic candidate for governor next week, the scramble is on to replace him. Former U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman of Dunnellon, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jimmy Morales and former Leon County Democratic Chairman Jon Ausman are in the running to head the state's Democrats. Thurman has the backing of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who has been actively involved in trying to recruit Maddox's replacement. Sources said Nelson called Morales Monday night to let him know he supported Thurman. Morales, who lost a race to become Miami-Dade mayor last year, would not comment about the call. Supporters of Maddox say he is backing Morales. Maddox says publicly that he has no preference. Everyone involved is telling party regulars that they want to avoid dividing the party. Nelson is particularly concerned about party unity because he is up for reelection next year and Republicans have targeted his seat. "I'm very interested in the job. I want to bring our state back into the blue states and out of the red," said Morales, referring to Florida having gone for President Bush and Sen. Mel Martinez, both Republicans, in 2004. Some Democrats have been pushing Maddox to give up the chairman's job because they believe he is using the post to advance his own political career. Maddox steadfastly denies it. He says the party is in far better shape since he took over two years ago. And he says he made it clear to everyone that he would step down as soon as he knew whether he was going to be a candidate. Maddox privately told people that he would not run if Betty Castor got into the race. Castor, who lost a tough race for the U.S. Senate, said last week she will not run for governor. Maddox, who turns 37 this weekend, was an unsuccessful candidate for attorney general in 2002. Democrats U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and state Sen. Rod Smith have announced they will run.


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