Uygur Files Challenge Against Dems for Handing Florida Primary to Biden

Presidential candidate and TYT CEO Cenk Uyygur appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal on Nov. 26, 2023



Presidential candidate Cenk Uygur is formally challenging the decision not to let any challengers run against Pres. Joe Biden in the Florida Democratic primary next March.

Uygur’s new filing with the Florida Democratic Party follows news that the state party had voted to make Biden the party’s only candidate on the primary ballot, effectively eliminating the presidential primary according to state law.

Uygur, a progressive pundit who is also TYT’s CEO, is demanding that the party either include him on the ballot or split the delegates evenly between him and Biden.

On Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) responded to Uygur’s filing. The DNC said the state party has until Jan. 5 to rule on Uygur's challenge.

Although Uygur asserts a number of apparent irregularities in the party’s handling of the ballot, it’s unclear whether his challenge has the force of law or even of party rules to compel a party response. His campaign filed challenges with both the state party and the DNC challenging how the state party handed all its delegates to Biden without letting Florida Democrats vote in a primary.

The challenge, filed Tuesday, alleges that the state party violated its own delegate selection plan and DNC rules. As TYT reported last week, the vote on the presidential primary ballot candidates was not listed on the state party’s agenda.

Florida is one of multiple states that have excluded Biden’s three main Democratic rivals from primary ballots. The exclusions come at the same time Biden is running as a defender of democracy. Recent polling shows a majority of Democratic voters want an alternative to Biden.

The party’s undemocratic processes haven’t helped revive waning enthusiasm and trust in the party among younger voters and voters of color. Progressives have warned of possible diminished activism on Biden’s behalf, voters staying home, or even defections to the Republican nominee.

In a statement, Uygur called the Florida party actions “authoritarian” and “unconstitutional.” A long-time critic of the Democratic Party, Uygur said that the Florida party and the DNC are “terrified” of Biden losing.

Excluding primary challengers from the ballot, Uygur said, is risky for the party. A robust primary “lead[s] to putting forth the strongest candidate,” he said.

“We need the primary more than ever now to defeat Donald Trump,” said Uygur.

Uygur’s filing, formally called an implementation challenge, consists of two key complaints:

  • The state party failed to disclose key dates and processes in its delegate selection plan for candidates to get on the primary ballot, violating Democratic National Convention rules.

  • Florida's Democratic voters have been denied the right to participate in the selection of national convention delegates.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried has said the party used its “standard process” for selecting presidential primary candidates. Uygur’s filing calls Fried’s claim “manifestly implausible.”

The DNC acknowledged receipt of Uygur’s filing on Wednesday in a letter to Uygur’s campaign attorney shared with TYT. In the letter, DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee Co-Chairs Minyon Moore and James Roosevelt, Jr., said DNC rules give the Florida state party 21 days to decide on Uygur’s challenge. The co-chairs said they were extending the state party’s deadline to Jan. 5 because of the upcoming federal holidays.

If the Florida party rejects his challenge, Uygur will then have 10 days to appeal it to the DNC’s rules committee.

As TYT reported last week, even some members of the state party’s executive committee were taken off guard by the Oct. 29 vote during the state convention. According to members and the committee’s agenda sent out by FDP Secretary Casmore Shaw and obtained by TYT, there was no mention beforehand of an actual vote scheduled to determine which presidential candidates would appear on the primary ballot.

Members who spoke with TYT said some members skipped the executive committee meeting because they didn’t know about the vote. One member who did attend said he didn’t fully realize the impact of the vote until after it was over.

Uygur Campaign Manager Kara Eastman told TYT that the campaign, along with those of Phillips and author Marianne Williamson, was led to believe that they would have time to prepare and marshal support for the ballot vote and that the party wouldn’t name candidates for the ballot until Nov. 30

Eastman said that she initially spoke with Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd’s office on Nov. 17 about adding Uygur to the state’s primary ballot. Eastman also sent an email and submission form to the Florida Democratic Party on the same day, with no response.

She says that it wasn’t until she tracked down state party Executive Director Phillip Jerez on LinkedIn on Nov. 28 that she was able to get some answers.

According to Eastman, Jerez told her on Nov. 29 that Uygur’s campaign would’ve had to submit a letter to the state party before Oct. 29 to be considered for the primary ballot. She was also informed that the state party set the rules for its convention back in April, but failed to set a date for the actual convention at that time.

And when Eastman asked Jerez on the same day via email why there’s no mention of the Oct. 29 deadline in the party’s delegate selection plan, Jerez responded, “We did not have a state convention date when the plan was passed.” (The Florida Democratic Party has not responded to TYT’s questions and requests for comment.)

Eastman told TYT that she asked Jerez to produce documentation showing the Oct. 29 deadline. She said, “[H]e says, ‘Well, you wouldn't see that date anywhere because – when we set the rule about how this would all go down, we didn't have a date for our convention yet.’” Eastman said she pressed him on when they did document the date, telling TYT, “But again, when I said, ‘Well, where's that written?’ Like, okay, a candidate has to get a letter to us prior to the convention – [he] never responded.”

Uygur’s campaign wrote Jerez on Nov. 30 objecting to the party’s process that handed the primary to Biden.

In its filing, the Uygur campaign calls for the state party to submit a “revised or supplemental list” of presidential candidates, including him, to the Florida Division of Elections. If the state election board rejects a revised candidate list, the filing says that “Florida’s delegates should be divided between President Biden and Mr. Uygur, or the entire delegation should be determined to be uncommitted.”

Uygur has also been excluded from primary ballots in South Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire, according to Eastman.

Asked about potential next steps or the expected outcome of Uygur’s filing, Eastman responded via text, “We really do not know.”

Because the challenge has just been filed, it’s unclear what impact it will have or whether the state party has to comply with any of Uygur’s demands, but the campaign is considering legal action.

Phillips’ campaign has also discussed taking legal action. And a Florida lawyer reportedly filed suit last week against the state Democrats and Byrd, the Florida secretary of state, to have Phillips added to the March primary.

Williamson told TYT in a statement last week that her campaign is “assessing our legal options regarding the legality of what has occurred.”

Carolina Ampudia, president of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Broward County, told TYT via text that she’s never seen this kind of challenge on the state level. She said Uygur’s challenge should be tied to how the ballot decision “will hurt people, down-ballot candidates, and how undemocratic it is.”

The failure to notify Florida’s Democratic Executive Committee members of the presidential primary candidate vote is the latest flashpoint in an ongoing conflict within the national party. Progressives have accused establishment Democratic leaders of trying to squelch dissident voices on the state and national levels.

As TYT previously reported, DNC Chair Jaime Harrison allegedly said privately that his job as head of the party is to protect Biden.

Ampudia, along with progressive leaders in Miami-Dade and Duval counties, released a statement calling the ballot decision a “deviation from democratic norms.” They said it violates the principles of the party and “erodes public trust” in the electoral system.

Ampudia told TYT that if the decision can’t be undone, she doesn’t see herself participating in the party anymore “because you know, this is rigged.”

Editor's note: TYT CEO Cenk Uygur has recused himself from oversight of TYT's original reporting for the duration of his presidential campaign.

Candice Cole is TYT’s Washington correspondent. You can find her on Twitter @CandiceColeNews.