I am in a unique position to report on the development of the post-Bush Republican Party in Northwest Florida, one of the most conservative parts of the nation. There is a strong military presence here. McCain won here, with over 56,600 votes to Obama’s 23,600, despite no real monetary support($5,000) from RPOF (Republican Party of Florida) and McCain national providing much support. We were a Level 1 county in 2004 and “demoted” to a Level 2 in 2008, yet we exceed our own expectations for turnout and nearly met RPOF’s unrealistic expectations. (It turns out the RNC is responsible for that designation.)
Former Chairman Ted Haney, State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, GOP SCW Melissa Hagan and volunteer coordinators Teresa Eaton, Vickie Doolittle and Glenn Leirer really stepped up when the party needed them to. There was not strong support for McCain until Gov. Palin was named as the VP candidate. In the primary January 29 Mitt Romney won Bay County by a slim margin, and in the elections December 1st we elected a pretty conservative Executive Committee board.
Our new Chairman and former Vice-Chairman John Salak ran for county commissioner this summer in the GOP primary pledging to not raise taxes whatsoever and cited Barry Goldwater in his speeches. Dennis Dillenschneider was elected Vice-Chairman and will bring a lot to the table with his technological expertise. Janice Grant was re-elected Treasurer, and I was elected Secretary. The fact that I was elected as a former Ron Paul supporter exemplifies a willingness to work together with different elements of the party that is not visible in other parts of Florida and the nation.
There have been attempts to exclude Ron Paul supporters from Republican Executive Committees in Orange County and St. John’s County. The fight in Orange County was especially divisive, with Chairman Lew Oliver winning re-election with ONE vote.
There is a divide between the conservatives on the board and our FL Governor Crist and his support of controversial RPOF Chairman Jim Greer. There were members here that supported Gallagher for Governor. There is the matter as well of the Governor paying out $5 million in damages to the family of a young man who died in custody at a boot camp in Panama City before the case was decided in court. That was not popular locally and when the Governor made an appearance with Sen. McCain August 1st, he was booed.
I personally did not vote for Gallagher in the 2006 primary and was not involved at all in his campaign. I interviewed RPOF candidate Eric Miller, posted here below, and sent questions to the current Chairman, but Mr. Greer did not answer my questions. It would have been helpful to our State Committee members for him to at least respond, but his failure to acknowledge us whatsoever is discouraging.
I’m a pragmatic person by nature, and despite what your personal stereotype of the typical inflexible Ron Paul supporter may be, I am willing to work will all elements of the GOP to promote party unity. That means working with moderates like Gov. Crist and Chairman Greer. I’d like to arrange a meeting for our leadership to discuss these issues directly with them or with their staff. I understand that Florida is a diverse state. I understand that the Governor must win in more liberal South Florida, and I understand that politics is truly the art of the possible. We are not going to agree about every issue, and with no national leadership some splintering among Republicans is inevitable in the wake of our defeat at the Federal level.
There is an issue that is crucial in my opinion. We were allocated no money in our Congressional District by RPOF to assist our Congressional candidate in defeating a corrupt yet powerful incumbent Democrat, Rep. Allen Boyd, who allocated 1.2 million dollars in subsidies to his own farm. (Full disclosure: I was the Communications Director for his opponent.)
For us to move forward these issues must be addressed and not allowed to fester.
We here in Bay County deserve the respect of our State Chairman and Governor. I truly wish Gov. Crist well in his upcoming marriage, and to win in 2010 we need to work as a team. There will be an open Senate seat as well as the Governor’s re-election. Many of us were unhappy with the choice of McCain, yet we put out personal feelings aside to work as hard as possible for him. It’s called being a team player.
We have our own beliefs about how our state and nation should be governed, and we want a voice within our own party, and as the duly elected representatives of all Bay County Republicans, we deserve one.