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Florida's Democratic Party to hold primary contests in advance

Florida's Democratic Party is going to move ahead with a Jan. 29 primary, despite the national party's threatened punishment for doing so.

The Democratic National Committee has said it will strip Florida of its 210 nominating convention delegates if it defies party rules that forbid most states from holding primary contests before Feb. 5.

The exceptions are Iowa on Jan. 14, Nevada on Jan. 19, New Hampshire on Jan. 22 and South Carolina on Jan. 29.

But Florida's Democratic leadership wants their key swing state to play a bigger role in choosing the party's nominee. In past years, the presidential nomination has already been decided before many states held their primaries or caucuses to choose delegates to the major parties' national nominating conventions.

"There will be no other primary," state party chairwoman Karen Thurman wrote in an e-mail. "We make this election matter. Not the DNC, not the delegates, not the candidates, but Florida Democrats like you and me voting together. We make it count."

Thurman urged supporters to move past the emotional primary debate and focus on electing a Democratic president in 2008.

The state party scheduled a news conference Sunday afternoon to formally announce its decision.

The DNC had given the state party until Saturday to come up with an alternative delegate selection plan to stay within party rules, such as caucuses or a vote-by-mail primary.

Michigan also has leapfrogged the national party's order by scheduling a Jan. 15 primary.

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