Politics & Government

Obscenity-laden e-mail shows Florida delegate fight lingers

Florida Democrats will gather Saturday night in Hollywood, Fla., looking for unity after one of the most fractious primary seasons ever.

But just two weeks after Democrats thought they mostly had put the debacle over Florida's delegates behind them, party faithful are bickering over who will get to attend the national convention in Denver in August.

The back-and-forth largely was behind the scenes, until party activist Jon Ausman sent a blast e-mail late Thursday featuring obscenity-laced excerpts of e-mails he'd received from Kirk Wagar, Barack Obama's finance chairman for Florida. Wagar's e-mails rip Ausman and the state's top Democrat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who had backed Hillary Clinton but supported Obama after he became the presumptive nominee.

The highlights of Wagar's e-mail: "You [Ausman] f---ed us. We are dealing with it. You need to accept the fact that you f---ed us."

And of Nelson: "I am getting very sick of Nelson making a bad situation worse."

Wagar promptly responded with an e-mail apologizing for the profanity but suggesting Ausman had used "out of context snippets" from "ongoing and sometimes heated arguments" the two had. He also said he had not maligned Nelson. He said Friday that he had "made a mistake" but hoped those who know him "know my passion is for the right thing and not self-interest."

At issue is the Obama campaign's desire to name some of its loyalists as delegates, replacing others who are committed to Obama but were picked by state party insiders.

Josh Earnest, spokesman for the campaign, said he expected any hard feelings to vanish before November, "that a minor dispute over hotel rooms in Denver pales in comparison to the significance of the issues in dispute at this election."

Obama's campaign plans to train some 400 volunteers this weekend in what it has said is one of the biggest mobilization efforts the state has seen; the Republican Party of Florida will be running a statewide voter registration drive this weekend, targeting, among others, Hispanics in South Florida.

The Democratic delegate spat comes as the party seeks to heal wounds that emerged between the Obama and Clinton camps over seating of the state's delegation. Two weeks ago, the Democratic National Committee agreed to seat the entire delegation — with a half-vote for each — at the convention. Clinton, who won the Florida primary, had pushed to seat all the delegates with a full vote each.

The state party announced that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a fervent Clinton supporter who quickly endorsed Obama, would headline the party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner Saturday at the Westin Diplomat Hotel to "help bring our party together once and for all."

State Rep. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat and Obama supporter, said he expects the dispute will be but a "blip."

"We're a highly charged party transitioning from a contentious primary to a general election," Gelber said. "This is a blip that will be forgotten moments after it's written about."

Nelson brushed off the dispute, a spokesman said, calling it "much ado about nothing."