GOP Locals Tell Greer to Stay Neutral in Primaries
Leaders of Republican parties in eight Florida counties took on the state GOP establishment – with a Tampa-area leader on Friday accusing party boss Jim Greer of taking sides in primary contests.
Hillsborough County Chair Deborah Cox Roush cited a handful of recent intra-party flashpoints as threatening contributions to local parties and possibly spawning third-party contenders who could splinter Republican Party hopes in the 2010 elections. Officials from seven other counties endorsed the letter, made available to the News Service of Florida.
Roush said Greer’s thinly-veiled support for Gov. Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate primary contest with former House Speaker Marco Rubio has “consequences.”
“In our respective counties, many of our members are blaming the local leadership for the appearance of favoritism and endorsements of primary candidates,” Roush wrote Greer. “This is fundamentally severing the trust that exists between the local communities and the local leadership of our party, this being the foundation for turnout on Election Day and the ultimate goal of our party.”
Roush told the News Service, “this isn’t about Charlie or Marco.”
Still, some of those counties whose leaders signed onto Roush’s letter are among the nine counties which held informal, straw polls among Republican executive committee leaders that clearly favored Rubio over the governor – giving heft to the Miami candidate’s underdog campaign. Palm Beach County Chairman Sid Dinerstein was among the signees – only a month after the county REC sided with Rubio in a 90-17 vote of REC members.
Officials from Bay and Pasco counties also called for Greer to quit taking sides – only months after they also sided with Rubio in the Senate contest.
In his letter back to Roush and others, Greer acknowledged that he’s personally supporting Crist, “because he is a conservative who has fought for the people of Florida every day of his administration.” Greer also refused to separate himself from GOP consultant Rich Heffley, who acknowledged helping build an anti-Rubio website, www.truthaboutrubio.com, and who has received $250,000 from the state party this year for work on House and Senate campaigns.
Roush in her letter said Heffley’s link to the state party amounts to a violation of the GOP’s “rule 8,” which allows endorsements only when approved by a 60 percent majority of the state executive committee.
Greer called the demand to sever ties to Heffley “unreasonable.”
The letter comes at the end of a tumultuous week for Florida Republicans – which Greer hints at in his response. The party fired field director Tim Nungesser this week for posting a fake Twitter account aimed at discrediting Brevard County Republican Chairman Jason Steele, who had been put on probation by the state party for “disloyalty,” after criticizing Greer and other officials.
Greer caught more heat for posting on the state party Website the news that former Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed Attorney General Bill McCollum for governor – moments after state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, announced her candidacy for governor. Dockery, in turn, accused Greer of taking sides.
Meanwhile, Greer’s personal favorite, Crist, was ridiculed by observers from both parties for attempting to distance himself from having backed President Obama’s push for Congress to pass the $787 billion federal stimulus package earlier this year. Crist suggested he welcomed the billions of dollars that flowed to Florida, but would have structured the deal differently and opposes any further federal support.
Crist’s campaign also drew a Federal Elections Commission complaint from Tampa Republican activist Liz Wessel for what she claims is the campaign’s involvement in the Heffley, anti-Rubio website.
For his part, Greer promised no significant changes with the way the party operates, concluding, “While many in and out of our party seem to be committed to embarrassing our party and providing ammunition for the Democrats and the media to promote the idea that the Republican Party is on a path of self-destruction, I do not believe this is true.”