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Not to Praise but to Bury

"As a child, I wanted to be Superman," Mitch Ceasar wrote in a column last February. "But without a cape and alas special powers," he admits, he settled for Broward County Democratic chair.

Ceasar also wanted to be a comedian, as he told NBC 6's morning news show in 2007. But lacking a sense of humor, Ceasar's standup act earned him a lifetime ban from the program. He settled for party chair and lobbyist.

This last, it seems, was one job he could handle — especially since he was the party chair.

But now, Ceasar may be losing his grip on the job he seems to have taken for granted. Under Ceasar, established Broward Democratic organizers looked flat-footed compared to the Barack Obama campaign volunteers who stormed the state in late summer. And those same local Dems looked feckless again on Election Day, failing to win the Broward sheriff's race and losing an expensive bid to unseat Republican state Sen. Jeff Atwater.

Now the Obama campaign refrain for "change" is aimed at the county's Democratic ranks. Former congressman and state Sen. Peter Deutsch decided last week to challenge Ceasar for county chair.

"Mitch's job is that he's a lobbyist," Deutsch says. "By definition, you have dual loyalties." Deutsch wants more "transparency" for cash contributions to the party, he says, plus a culture of "inclusion" that he finds lacking in Ceasar's Democrats. "There's been an attitude in the past that the smaller, more centralized it is, the better it is — because it's better for Mitch." The party's grassroots have been neglected.

Deutsch and his supporters contend that Ceasar showed only tepid support for Linda Bird, the real-estate agent who emerged as the party's best hope to knock off Atwater after the campaign of Walter "Skip" Campbell collapsed. Party sources say Ceasar held a grudge against Bird because he believed she was engineering his ouster.

Ceasar did not return calls for comment.

"As far as I'm concerned, that episode is enough to disqualify him as the Democratic chair," says Deutsch, who would appoint Bird as a state and national committeewoman if he wins.

It's all up to about 900 members of the Democratic Executive Committee, who will cast ballots for party chairman on December 7 at Millennium Middle School.

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Edmund Newton

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