Steinberg’s lawsuit was first reported by the Florida Phoenix.
Phillips, a wealthy congressman from Minnesota, launched his long-shot bid for the presidency in late October. Around the same time, the Florida Democratic Party held its annual convention in Orlando where the state executive committee voted unanimously to submit only Biden’s name to Florida election officials — a move that effectively canceled the Democratic primary.
The move, which got little notice until right ahead of the Nov. 30 deadline for parties to turn in primary candidates, enraged Phillips and his campaign. Phillips himself called it “intentional disenfranchisement” and said “Americans would expect the absence of democracy in Tehran, not Tallahassee.”
The lawsuit does not include Phillips as a party — and a spokesperson for his campaign said that it was filed independently without their knowledge. The Phillips campaign has previously discussed filing challenges, including with the Democratic National Committee, over being left off the ballot.
A spokesperson with the Florida Democratic Party said the party is aware of the litigation, but in a statement outlined the process used by Democrats, which they said was “not uncommon” and similar to what they did for President Barack Obama in 2011. The statement said that no one at the state convention submitted Phillips’ name for nomination.
“The Florida Democratic Party stands by the decision made by the state executive committee and does not intend to circumvent long-established protocols and procedures for candidates who did not receive nominations,” stated the party.
Florida law leaves it up to the political parties to decide who makes the presidential primary ballot but gives them until Nov. 30 to notify the state. Republicans required candidate to submit paperwork and pay a fee that varied in price depending on whether candidates spoke at a statewide GOP gathering in early November.
Florida Democrats acted way ahead of this year’s deadline, sending a notice on Nov. 1 to the state that had Biden as the only primary candidate. Phillips had entered the race a few days earlier, and self-help guru Marianne Williamson had been campaigning for months by then.
The delegate selection plan used by Florida Democrats does not spell out an exact deadline for candidates to ask to be placed on the primary ballot. An initial version of that plan from early April said the party would prepare and approve a list of “recognized” candidates. A revised version, submitted to the state on Nov. 1, was changed to say the list would be approved at the state party convention. That convention began Oct. 27, the day Phillips launched his campaign, and ended Oct. 29, which is when the state party approved Biden as the only candidate.
In his lawsuit Steinberg, who said he intended to vote in the Democratic Party, called the actions of the party “arbitrary and capricious” and that it violated due process and equal protection rights. He also called the process used by Democrats as “unduly vague.”
“The defendants cannot dispute that Congressman Dean Phillips is a nationally recognized candidate for president and has been since he announced his candidacy in October, 2023,” states an injunction motion filed by Steinberg. “He has appeared on numerous television news programs and his candidacy has been discussed by multiple media sources including television, print, and social media. The Florida Democratic Party cannot dispute the Democratic party credentials of Congressman Dean Phillips. His platform is consistent with the platform of the Democratic Party…”
Steinberg has asked Judge Allen Winsor, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, to expedite consideration of his lawsuit.