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Politics

FEA Face-Slaps Bullard, Endorses Megadonor Bittel

December 19, 2016 - 1:00pm
Stephen Bittel
Stephen Bittel

Florida’s largest teachers’ union is throwing its weight behind Miami superdonor Stephen Bittel over former state Sen. Dwight Bullard in the race for Florida Democratic Party chair.

On Monday, the Florida Education Association added its name to the growing list of names supporting his bid for Miami-Dade Democratic Party State Committeeman, a springboard position to take the reins of the struggling FDP.

In the endorsement, the FEA called Bittel a “strong advocate” for Florida’s teachers and education professionals. 

"A product of the Miami-Dade Public Schools, his commitment to protecting and improving our public school system is well-established,” said the FEA. “Stephen Bittel’s progressive values are displayed in his actions and with every campaign and issue he champions. We believe that Stephen has the best combination of experience and leadership to help rebuild the Florida Democratic Party.”

The FEA sent a rallying cry to its 140,000 members, asking them to join in their support for Bittel. 

Bittel, whose wife is a teacher, vowed to make the party inclusive and representative of “all Florida Democrats” on Monday.

“We’ve received the support of South Florida progressives because they understand what’s at stake and they want a Democratic Party leader who isn’t afraid to shake things up to ensure more voices are heard and more Florida Democrats win elections,” said the candidate for Miami Dade Democratic State Committeeman.  

Bittel is set to face off against former state Sen. Dwight Bullard for the committeeman job. The winner of their race is expected to run for Florida Democratic Party chair. 

The endorsement surely comes as a blow to Bullard, a teacher, who has worked closely with the FEA throughout the years. The state teachers’ union dumped $825,000 into his campaign against Republican Frank Artiles in SD 40 last month. 

Sunshine State News attempted to contact Bullard regarding the FEA endorsement, but he had not responded to media requests at the time of this article’s release.

Bittel also announced the endorsement of the Florida Service Employees International Union Monday. SEIU members interviewed both candidates for the endorsement, but said Bittel’s “compelling vision” to transform the Democratic Party is part of what won the group over.

Critics of Bittel’s said that “compelling vision” was nothing more than a front for what they say has truly driven unions to back Bittel: cold, hard cash.

“They’re looking at money so when they start putting money over people, that’s when you’re going to get endorsements,” said Democratic African American Women’s Caucus president Leslie Wimes. “That indicates...the pressure that his money seems to put on people.”

Grassroots activists have complained about Bittel’s maneuvering to climb the ladder to the FDP chair throne, criticizing the idea of bringing a Daddy Warbucks-style leader to head the party. 

Some say Bittel has allegedly been making calls and threatening organizations and state lawmakers, saying he will withhold money from their organizations if they don’t hop onboard with his newfound FDP aspirations.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has remained quiet about who he supports for Democratic Party chair, but Bittel and Nelson have had contact about the job.

Wimes told Sunshine State News the endorsements represented a total disconnect from unions to the wishes of the people -- and said Nelson is the puppet master pulling the strings behind the scenes.

“Union bosses have disconnected from the actual people for a while now,” she said. “They do what they want to do, and what they want to do is say “how high?” when Bill Nelson tells them to jump.”

That, she warned, could spell trouble for Nelson when he seeks reelection in two years. A Republican competitor hasn't emerged just yet, but it's widely speculated Gov. Rick Scott will make a run for the job.

“It’ll be Bill Nelson packing his bags when the people speak in 2018,” she said.  

 

 
 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

 

READ MORE FROM SUNSHINE STATE NEWS

Comments

"Endorsement by the "Teachers' Union"?... In "Trump's World", THAT 'endorsement' should rightly be "the kiss of death". If you have children "in the system" (and have EVER listened to National Teachers Union President, Randi Weingarten [former NY City teachers union president] whine & rant despite a decades long failed education system in THAT city under "her watch",... You would shun Bittel, and vote for Bullard...for the sake of your kids.. and Florida. Florida's "FEA Teachers' Union is ONE OF THE WORST, and most USELESS in the country protecting incompetence and "burned out" tenured teachers who actually can't stand children. The Florida failed Democrat Party "machine" must also be "flushed" of the usual "hangers-on" while "opportunity calls" !

Wimes got this one right. Union bosses HAVE lost touch. Over the last 2 years several endorsed candidates that their members soundly rejected- on multiple levelsources of government and both in the primary election and general election. Democrats need a leader who has proven that he walks the walk regarding issues that voters care about as well as someone who can organize and raise money. "Daddy Warbucks" has not proven himself the way that Bullard has.

Whines is right - we should all support Bullard just because he is black. Or maybe we should support a candidate regardless of his skin tone. Maybe we should support a candidate who is actually qualified to do the job, e.g., raise money for candidates.

Do you sleep with your hood on or off?

Nobody seems to care about the millions of dollars given to corporations, that turn around and pay their executives millions for their ability to raid the public coffers. Nobody seems to care about all the contracts that the state gives out to law firms defending their "conservative" agendas against the people of Florida. But let a man just a little darker than this page receive a million and it's a scandal. I can't find any minority firms or contractors that have received such a lucrative contract with the state......?

Pretty funny how Leslie Times uses the word "disconnected" regarding union bosses but isn't she too, disconnected from the majority of ALL people? GO TRUMP!!

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