Even though she was never officially eligible, Monica Russo has been running for the past few weeks to become the next party chair of the Florida Democratic Party — until Wednesday.

In a statement, Russo, the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida and executive vice president at 1199 SEIU in Miami, said she would not pursue what appeared to be a quixotic attempt to win the election as next party chair.

“As soon as I sought election, I learned that the Democratic Party’s rules and structures are closed and exclusive,” she says. “The rules do not make those who have fought alongside the Democratic Party feel welcome. This holds progress back, and changes are clearly needed.  Though I am not eligible to run for Chair, I still plan on continuing my push for these common-sense reforms.”

Russo is not a local party chair or state committeewoman, which continues to be the only way to become a candidate for FDP Chair. Though there has been talk about reforming that law, it won’t happen before Saturday, when state Democrats will convene in Orlando to elect a new chair.

To become eligible, Russo would have had to move out of Miami-Dade County, a maneuver previous party leaders have used but which Russo rejected. Or Democrats could have changed the rules during Saturday’s meeting, something that would have required a two-thirds vote and which would have been unlikely to succeed.

The race is now officially between three candidates: Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez, Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Terrie Rizzo and Brevard County Democratic Executive Chair Stacey Patel.

“We must open up the party so that all Democrats feel welcome and engaged,” Russo said in her statement. “Our power

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