Stephen Bittel, the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, is ready to resign from his post over comments he made to members of the legislative black caucus, leaders told Politico.
The dispute occurred at a fundraising event with former vice president Joe Biden speaking, in which Bittel ordered the program to be sped up so he could get home for his 40th wedding anniversary.
House and Senate members had expected to be recognized onstage at the gala, but Bittel dismissed concerns and noted how much money the event had raised, according to accounts reported in Politico.
Bittel said some members of the legislative black caucus "were acting like three-year-olds and childish," Senate Democratic leader Oscar Braynon told Politico.
The chairman then accused them of "playing the race card" in the dispute, then spent two days apologizing, according to Politico.
"Stephen is a true believer in the party and if the party needs his head, he'll give it. If Oscar or Kionne want him gone, he's gone," referring to Braynon and Kionne McGhee, the future House Democratic leader, both African-Americans.
The chairman has set up a Tuesday meeting with Braynon and McGhee, with McGhee expressing concern over the effect such division might have on the 2018 midterm elections. "When someone asks to meet, out of respect, I'll meet. The question we have now is what is he going to do to make sure that 2018 is not jeopardized," McGhee said in Politico's report.
A Democrat who witnessed the dispute partially defended Bittel. "Bittle isn't a racist. But he's a rich white man who doesn't know that the things that come out of his mouth can be really offensive," the Democrat told Politico.
Most Democratic lawmakers, not only African-Americans, were upset about Bittle wanting to speed up the program, according to The Miami Herald.
McGhee told The Herald the incident was a "teachable moment" for Bittel.
"We laid down the law to him about how we felt. We litigated this. Now the question at this point is what does Bittel do to unify this party?" McGhee said in Politico.
One Democrat said in Politico's report that Bittel wants to make amends and would quit the chairmanship if he were asked. "He's not used to this… the whole time he thought the party was just run by idiots and all it would take is his leadership. Now look at where we are."
Politico's report noted that it is possible that neither Braynon nor McGhee could seek Bittel's resignation at the meeting, as many Democrats believe he is the best leader for the Florida Democrats because of his fundraising ability.
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