Florida Dems speaker lineup: Biden, Nelson, BLM — who’s missing?

The Florida Democratic Party holds its annual fundraising dinner in the district of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but she’s not on the list of speakers.

The Florida Democratic Party has released its speaker lineup for Saturday’s Leadership Blue fundraising dinner in Hollywood.

As previously announced, former Vice President Joe Biden will headline the event at the Diplomat Beach Resort, which the party says has already raised $850,000.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will speak at the Florida Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner on Saturday in Hollywood.

Sen. Bill Nelson — the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Florida and a prime GOP target next year — will also speak. Three announced Democratic candidates for governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King — will appear in a panel discussion. There will also be a “Resistence Panel” moderated by Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson.

More than two dozen names appear on the list of speakers and panelists released Wednesday by the state party.

Not among them: Hometown U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman whose House district includes the Diplomat Beach Resort.

Many in the party’s progressive wing accused Wasserman Schultz of favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential nominating contest before Wasserman Schultz stepped down as chairwoman at last summer’s Democratic National Convention. Clinton recently complained that the DNC under Wasserman Schultz’s leadership “was bankrupt. It was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong.”

Leslie Wimes of Boynton Beach, the president of the Democratic African-American Women’s Caucus, wrote in a Sunshine State News column  on Tuesday that the “toxic” Wasserman Schultz was scheduled to speak at Saturday’s event and that “putting the most divisive figure in recent Florida Democratic political history on stage at its biggest fundraising event will be a big mistake.”

Tim Canova, who challenged Wasserman Schultz in a 2016 primary and announced Thursday he’s challenging her again in 2018, told his Facebook followers that “FDP leadership” proposed having Wasserman Schultz speak at the gala but backed down.

Wasserman Schultz’s office didn’t return calls requesting comment. Her spokesman David Damron told The Miami Herald Tuesday that Wasserman Schultz wasn’t speaking at the event.

The party wouldn’t comment on the Wimes or Canova claims except to say that the roster released Wednesday is the only official list of speakers.

Here’s the full list released by the party:

Our Voice, Our Issues Panel, 11:00-12:30 pm

Moderator: Representative Cynthia Stafford

Panelists: State Senator Oscar Braynon

                 State Represenative Carlos Guillermo Smith

                 Anna Eskamani, Planned Parenthood 

                 Tom Conboy, South Florida Engineering and Consulting LLC 

      Mary Green, President of the Brevard Democratic Disability Caucus

                 Ghazala Salam, American Muslim Democratic Caucus  


The Resistance Panel, 1:00-2:30 pm

Moderator: DeRay McKesson, Black Lives Matter; Pod Save the People, This is the Movement 

Panelists: Dominik Whitehead, AFSCME and Lead Organizer on Betsy Devos HBCU protests

                 Ida Eskamani, Organize Florida

                 Charo Valero, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health 

                 Maria Rodriguez, Florida Immigrant Coalition

                 Carrie Feit, Women’s March of Florida 

                 Karla Hernandez Mats, United Teachers of Dade 


Gubernatorial Panel, hosted by the Progressive Caucus of Florida, 3:00-4:30 pm

Moderator: Keith Fitzgerald, former State Representative

Panelists: Mayor Andrew Gillum

                 Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham

                 Chris King

Leadership Blue Gala, 7:00-9:00 pm

Speakers: Former Vice President Joe Biden

                 U.S. Senator Bill Nelson

                 DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake

                 State Senator Oscar Braynon

                 State Senator Jeff Clemens

 State Representative Janet Cruz 

                 State Representative Kionne McGhee

                 State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith

                 Mayor Wayne Messam

                 Commissioner David Arreola​

                 Ana Eskamani                 

                 Ida Eskamani​

                 FDP Chair Stephen Bittel

                 FDP President Sally Boynton Brown

Author: George Bennett

George Bennett has been a Palm Beach Post reporter since 1992. He grew up in Bethesda, Md. and is a graduate of The George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @gbennettpost

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