As expected, it was a rather uneventful meeting at the Rosen Center in Orlando as Republican State Committee members from across the state gathered to elect the state party officials, as well as the Congressional District chairs. Though party leaders put on a public face of optimism with mostly recycled talking points, there was an underlying sense of dread about the prospects for Governor Scott’s reelection, despite a better than usual speech from the Governor.
Chairman Lenny Curry and Vice-Chair Blaise Ingoglia were elected without opposition, as were most of the other seats. One interesting quote from Lenny Curry: “Being a Republican does not require an unyielding orthodoxy and not thinking.”
Some Winners and Losers and Rising Stars
Kathy King, the Manatee County Chair, was reelected as the RPOF Secretary – beating Stafford Jones, the Alachua County Chair. Ms. King is not favored by all of the establishment of the RPOF Executive Board, and that’s probably why this challenge came up. There was also an open seat for Assistant Secretary, for which Clint Pate won against two opponents, succeeding after a runoff. These seats don’t have much real power, but can often be a springboard to greater roles — remember that Mr. Ingoglia’s first position on the Executive Board was as Assistant Treasurer.
In more important news, the RPOF Executive Board is getting a little bit of fresh air in some of its Congressional District Chairs. At long last, and thanks to the redistricting of the Congressional Districts, rising star Joe Gruters - Chairman of Sarasota County and one of the best county chairs in the state – was elected as a Congressional District Chair and will serve on the RPOF Executive Board. The RPOF Establishment would do well by listening to his insights. Christian Ziegler - The youthful State Committeeman from Sarasota – became an alternate CD Chair.
Leslie Dougher from Clay County was elected as the Chair of the County Chairs, replacing the aforementioned Kathy King, who held upwards of three titles simultaneously prior to this weekend. This position is really only important because it gives its holder a seat on the Executive Board. New Pinellas GOP Chair Michael Guju was elected as the Vice-Chair of the County Chairs, as well as a CD Chair Alternate. Pinellas State Committeewoman Nancy Riley was elected as a CD Chair. Former Pinellas GOP Chair JJ Beyrouti, as well as former Hillsborough GOP Chair Debbie Cox Roush, were selected as two of the Governor’s Appointees to the State Committee. We are guessing that Governor Scott is trying to shore up some support in the I-4 Corridor, and given a recent poll, Scott needs all the help he can get there.
Overall, it was largely more of the same – a lot of empty rhetoric. Though we hate to have a negative impression about the future of the party, we don’t believe the RPOF Party establishment will make much room for new ideas.
UPDATE: We’ll expand upon our “empty rhetoric” comment above.
As summarized in the Orlando Sentinel: “Scott and Curry urged a similar economic message that Mitt Romney embraced during his failed presidential run: that Republicans stand for freedom of opportunity and business. Ingoglia even suggested the party’s nickname — Grand Old Party — be recast as the Grand Opportunity Party. … “It is up to us in this room to not be tagged as the party of ‘no,’ but as the party of opportunity,” Curry said. … Orange County Republican Chairman Lew Oliver, however, said that message is not enough. Voters heard the “opportunity” message in 2012, he said — they just weren’t that interested.
It’s the “opportunity” rhetoric that we were referring to. Mr. Romney often utilized this line during the campaign, but it didn’t resonate with the voters. It’s just a recycled line from the Romney campaign.
We believe the RPOF often gets caught up in a lot of discussion of new ideas with very little implementation. We’ve been attending these meetings for years, and have seen new ideas presented but largely ignored…the favored consultants generally run the show, along with staff, and most people presenting new ideas usually give up. We don’t really have a problem with Mr. Ingoglia or Mr. Curry or anyone currently in power – it’s more of a structural problem. Having a meeting every quarter generally leads to new ideas being tabled or postponed, and thus taking a very long time to be implemented…if they are ever actually implemented. New members of the committee often get discouraged. There were a lot of new members on this year’s committee, so hopefully they will stay involved and active in improving the party.